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Duluth Armory gets $250,000 grant to fix floor

The Minnesota Historical Society announced it will provide a $250,000 grant to help repair the damaged drill hall floor of the Duluth Armory on London Road.

The Duluth Armory was the site of performances by Duluth musicians that will air at 9 p.m. Sundays on Duluth CW, starting March 4. File / News Tribune
The Duluth Armory is seen in November 2012. (News Tribune file photo)

The Minnesota Historical Society announced it will provide a $250,000 grant to help repair the damaged drill hall floor of the Duluth Armory on London Road.

That grant, along with $50,000 in local matching funds, is expected to cover most of the cost of fixing the floor, which was damaged back when the hall was used as a public works garage and heavy equipment was parked there. LHB, a Duluth firm, is conducting a structural evaluation and will design a plan to shore up the floor.

Mark Poirier, executive director of the Armory Arts and Music Center, the group that's trying to restore and revive the facility, identified the poor condition of the floor as the largest issue that led to the building being condemned for demolition several years ago.

With the floor fixed, Poirier expressed confidence that Armory supporters can raise the necessary money to address other, more minor structural deficiencies also identified in the order for condemnation.

Meanwhile, he said long-running discussions continue with Boisclair Corp., a Minneapolis-based firm that has expressed interest in developing housing on the site of the neighboring annex building and renovating the more historic Armory building. Their vision calls for the Armory to become a mixed-use commercial center that could be home to retail shops, artist studios, office space and possibly a restaurant.

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Plans also call for exhibits celebrating the history of the building as a military facility, community gathering place and as host to many notable performing artists, including Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson, aka "the Big Bopper," who all died in an Iowa plane crash three days after their Duluth performance, part of the Winter Dance Party tour. A young Bob Dylan was part of the Armory crowd that memorable night in January 1959.

The Armory was built in 1915, just before the U.S. entered World War I. Besides serving as a military facility and community center through the years, the Armory also provided relief for people displaced by the Cloquet-Moose Lake fires of 1918, the deadliest natural disaster in state history.

Related Topics: MUSIC
Peter Passi covers city government for the Duluth News Tribune. He joined the paper in April 2000, initially as a business reporter but has worked a number of beats through the years.
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