The Daily Iowegian
---- — The following information was supplied to the Daily Iowegian by the Iowa National Guard. It is part of their historical record detailing the Iowa National Guard and armory involvement in Centerville.
The Iowa National Guard lists previous armory locations (plausible locations) as 523 W. Jackson, North 12th and Van Buren Street. While it is unsure which location burned, one of the above addresses was later used by Richardson Dry Goods Company, of St. Joseph, Mo. as a shirt and overall factory.
The Centerville Armory, Opera House and Drake Avenue Theatre (southeast corner of Drake and Maple) was
built in 1898. This non-extant armory had capacity for 1,400 people and would also be used as a community opera house. The building has seating for up to 1,000, a 26’x30’ stage and eight dressing rooms. This building served as an opera house and later a movie theater. It burned down in 1930.
The Jackson Street armory was the first armory in Centerville built solely for National Guard use. It was constructed by a local stock company beginning in the fall of 1912. Although the building has been converted into apartments, the building still displays the center stone plaque reading “ARMORY.”
The North 10th Street and West Franklin armory was built to house G Co, 168th Infantry. It was built as part of the federally funded program to build Motor Vehicle Storage Buildings after World War II. The initial storage building and drill floor were completed in 1950 and the administrative office and training room additions were added/completed in 1953.
The armory at 22800 Dewey Road was originally built for C Co, 224th Engineer Battalion. In 2005, it was home to the 2133rd Transportation Company, but was re-designated A Co, 224th Engineer Battalion in 2008. It is one of six armories designed by Iowa National Guard architect Richard Bernabe.
The Iowa National Guard offers this timeline documenting guard units and armories in Centerville.
1878: E Co, 2nd Regiment was formed in Centerville. Its original armory (location unknown), uniforms
and weapons burned in 1889.
1895: E Co, 2nd Regiment was assembled in mid-February and put on alert by the county sheriff to respond to strikes and riots that had been threatening the Rathbun mining camp seven miles north of Centerville. The alert was the result of the Star Coal Company threatening to hold Appanoose County responsible for damages.
1898: An announcement came that an armory would be built in Centerville for the 3rd Regiment Band and E Co, 2nd Regiment.
March 22, 1898: The first armory/opera house was dedicated and a grand opening held. E Co, 2nd Regiment was called up for service in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War and likely left from this building to muster in Des Moines.
1903: E Co, 54th Iowa Infantry and the band took part in the funeral of Francis Marion Drake (banker, railroad builder, Civil War Veteran and former Iowa governor).
1912: New armory for 7th Separate Company, 168th Infantry (later D Co, 168th Infantry) began in the fall of this year.
1916: D Co, 168 Infantry left for Mexican Border Service and World War I from the Jackson Street armory. Following service in WWI the unit was re-designated Co G, 168th Infantry. For more information, review the WWI history of the 168th Infantry and the 42nd “Rainbow” Division.
1926: A fire at a nearby lumber yard damages the Drake Avenue Theatre (old armory) and the Jackson Street armory. Both were repaired.
1941: The unit leaves from the Jackson Street armory for service in World War II. For more information, review the WWII history of the 34th “Red Bull” Infantry Division.
1949: Construction begins on a new armory in Centerville ending a 37 year legacy at the Jackson Street armory.
1950: Armory at North 10th and West Franklin was completed.
1953: Two administrative additions were completed at the new armory site.
1962: A Continental Airlines jet blew apart over southern Iowa, near Centerville, on May 23, 1962. All 45 persons aboard were killed. About 60 Guardsmen searched for bodies and wreckage and kept unauthorized persons from the scene. They assisted federal and local authorities until relieved by regular Army personnel from Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
1991: The unit, now C Co, 224th Engineer Battalion, mobilizes for Desert Storm/Desert Shield from the armory on 10th and West Franklin.
1992: The armory at North 10th and West Franklin is replaced with a brand new armory at 22800 Dewey Road (the current location of the Centerville Armory).
2003: 2133rd Trans Co was activated for service in Iraq and left from the Dewey Road armory.
2008: A Co, 224th Engineers were activated for relief functions in support the severe Iowa Floods in June and July, and then again in support of Hurricane Gustav in August.