History

The Peoria Armory - Waitng to Die

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Massive and powerful in structure and design, the Peoria Armory at 523 N. Adams St. is a building waiting to die.
In 2004, Judge John Barra ruled in favor of a demolition order for the building. Estimates were that it would take $1.2 million dollars to repair the rotted open roof and $500,000 to safely secure the sagging balcony and ravaged caved-in floor areas. Firefighters estimate the basement has at least two feet of water in it at all times.

To demolish the building would cost around $300,000 and no one has put forward the money yet to accomplish the task.

The Armory is a building with some of the richest history in the city, yet now is abandoned, neglected and devoid of all civic pride it once held.

Constructed in 1925 by the Military and Naval Department of Illinois, the Armory was the Civic Center of its era. It was the home to Bradley Basketball from 1925 until 1950 when the Bradley Fieldhouse was built. Bradley fans packed the 4,600 seats.

In 1939, State Sen. Tom Madden proposed a bold building plan to enlarge the Armory to 10,000 seats, but World War II intervened and plans were dropped.

The Armory held hundreds of conventions, political rallies, circuses and boxing matches. Big Bands shook the rafters. Eddie Cantor brought his national radio show there for a time. Eleanor Roosevelt rallied Peoria to prepare for World War II there. President Lyndon Johnson's most triumphant reception in Peoria happened there in 1964.

The Armory's demise began in 1978 when plans were prepared to build a new armory on Route 116 near the airport. Various plans emerged through the years to utilize the building, most notably from the Peoria Park District in the 1990s when they proposed building a new health complex on the site of Taft Homes and arching over Adams Street to connect to the massive Armory for multiple basketball courts and other gym components.

Like many landmark buildings that once graced our city, the Armory is just left to the historians to keep its legacy alive.

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