Pick and Sledge

Curious Stories from the American West

100 Years Ago Today: Iconic Golden Armory Hosts Military Ball

Colorado Transcript, March 27, 1919
Colorado National Guard Armory in Golden, c.1920
Denver Public Library, Western History Department

The Armory in Golden, Colorado was built for the Colorado National Guard in 1913 for Company A of Engineers. It was constructed with 6,600 tons of cobblestones harvested from nearby Clear Creek. This much rock required the service of 3,300 wagon loads that were hauled to the building site on the corner of 13th and Arapahoe.

Fun fact: Clear Creek was once known as Cannonball Creek because of the abundance of cannonball-sized stones. Perhaps the old nickname was the inspiration for construction material. The building was originally supposed to be built out of brick, which the Golden area was known for producing, but brick was too expensive, so they went with a cheaper locally-sourced material.

Image result for golden armory building
The Armory today

The most iconic feature of the Armory is its turret top, which is 65 feet high and makes the building look like a castle. The turret was used as an observation center in order to make maps of the area. Other interesting characteristics of the building, as laid out by the excellent website, The Masonry of Denver, include larger cobblestones and thicker walls at the base of the building compared to the top, large cut stones above the windows, and a cast stone keystone above the archways.

The Armory originally held barracks, a mess hall, a drill hall, and an auditorium where the Military Ball from today’s article was held. The Colorado National Guard stored their weapons here as well, hence the name Armory. During the influenza epidemic in 1918, the Red Cross took over the drill hall, using it as a makeshift hospital. The first Post Office in Golden was housed on the first floor, where Cafe 13 is today.

The Armory building was restored in 1974, and it was added to National Register of Historic Places in 1978. It is known today as the “largest cobblestone building in the United States” according to Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

Armory cornerstone

The following is a guide to the abbreviations in the Armory cornerstone, pictured above. The M.W. before Grand Lodge stands for Most Worshipful, with the term worshipful meaning “worthy of respect.” A.F. & A.M. stands for Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. A.D. stands for Anno Domini and A.L. stands for Anno Lucis aka “in the Year of Light.”

Anno Lucis is a Masonic dating system, which is equivalent to the Gregorian year plus 4000. This is similar to the Anno Mundi dating system in the Hebrew calendar, but Anno Lucis rounds out the creation date to essentially 4000 B.C.

So if this particular cornerstone had more real estate it would read:




The Armory once housed a tax services storefront

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