Monday, May 18, 2009

From armory to activities

That fortress-like building over on East Gurley? It was built as a quasi-fortress, being the National Guard Armory from its completion in November 1939 until the guard deeded it over to the City of Prescott in 1980. Today, it is officially the Grace Sparkes Activity Center, presided over by the Department of Parks & Recreation which also has its HQ in the structure. (FYI: the image below is enlarged from the historic photo on the plaque below.)

Ground was broken for the armory in March, 1936; the date tags the structure as a major local project from our country's last big stimulus program, the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Cost, $185 thou -- a far cry from the billions and trillions being thrown around with such abandon in Washington today. Too, I find myself wondering just how many unemployed citizens we could find who could undertake this kind of stone work these days?

The Activity Center is not a one-plaque but a two-plaque building. The second plaque honors Grace M. Sparkes, who was Secretary of the Prescott Chamber of Commerce from 1911 to 1945, during which time she was apparently a tireless (and successful) campaigner for projects that ranged from the Hassayampa Inn to the Armory, the hospital at Ft.Whipple to the Smoki Museum. Wearing another hat, Sparkes also directed WPA projects for Yavapai County during the Great Depression.
Sructurally, the Center is reinforced concrete. The feel of massive stone was achieved with a stone facing. The plaque calls the facing ashlar granite, though seeing those layers suggests some sort of sandstone. However, I'm fortunate to own a copy of A Prescott Area Geologic Field Guide for Earth Science Week 1999, which explains that:

The grayish exterior walls with a faint purplish cast are of volcanic origin -- rhyolitic tuff -- stratified much like some sedimentary rocks. The tuff here is moderately welded and makes a durable building stone. [snip] The tuff was quarried a few miles north and west of Prescott beneath a basalt flow near the top of two hills south of Willow Creek (1,305,000N; 331,800E). The layer used as building stone is just ten feet thick.

The window lintels are of Coconino sandstone. The Field Guide points out: after one examines the textures of these two rocks under a 10x hand lens, there will seldom be mistaken identification again. Note the rounded sandstone grains as compared with the angular fragments in the tuff.

Finally, bringing us up-to-date -- a hurried smoke stashed in a hole in the rhyolitic tuff. BTW, I consulted The Google for a definition or description of ashlar granite, to no avail, though it's apparently a major building material around the world.


Avus said...

You mean to say you found a subject Google had no answer to?

azlaydey said...

A very interesting view of a building that we all often pass.

Anonymous said...

That is one sturdy building.

Granny J said...

avus -- kGoogle had plenty to say about ashlar granite, such as this building and that cathedral was built of it. But no discussion as to whether it was a comparatively recent volcanic tuff or of much older igneous origin.

lady -- I wonder how many local people have actually been in the building.

steve -- yes, even though it isn't made of those stones through and through, but instead good modern reinforced concrete.

The Frame and I said...

I love the old buildings around Prescott - this is one of my favorites. I was inside it many years ago. Just as impressive inside as outside!

Granny J said...

frame -- what I like is all that stone work, not just the armory building but also the embankments & the Smoki, as well.

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

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