Photo credit: Susanne Moore , 07/1980

Property Name: Bel Air Armory
Date Listed: 9/25/1985
Inventory No.: HA-1429
Location: Lee & North Main (MD 924) Streets, Bel Air, Harford County

Description: Closely resembling a castle or the U.S. Corps of Engineers insignia, the Bel Air Armory, like others built at the same time around the state, is unmistakably an armory. The complex consists of the armory, which faces west on Main Street, and its truck park and garages on the rear of the lot. Constructed in 1915 of Port Deposit granite, the building consists of the main block, five bays by three, two stories over a raised basement, and the field house to the east (rear) of the main block. The front elevation is strongly divided into five bays by the two projecting hexagonal towers which rise to three stories and are topped by crenelated battlements finished in stone coping. A stone watertable sharply delineates the first story from the raised basement in both the main block and the towers which provides horizontal movement in the façade. This horizontal movement is reinforced by the corbeled table under the crenelated battlements which top the main block. This level in the towers is a repetition of the stone water course supported by brackets. The block's fenestration shows a balance between horizontal and vertical thrust. The long, narrow windows are rather deeply set in with the tower windows being narrower than those of the main block in the first and second stories. The tower windows in the third story are mere slits. All the windows but the composite window in the second story of the center bay have stone sills and flat arches which halt the upward emphasis of the windows. The triple window in the middle bay in the second story has a segmental stone arch. This window is echoed in the projecting stone marquee flanking the letters MNG, for Maryland National Guard. Two additional flag poles rise from the battlements along the inside of the towers. The battlements, corbel strip, and water course continue around the building on the north and south elevations.

Significance: The Bel Air Maryland Armory is primarily significant for its association with the reorganization and expansion of the National Guard system in the 20th century. It derives additional significance from its role as a social center for its community, a function it has served continuously since its construction date. Architecturally, the building embodies the distinctive characteristics of its type, including a T-shaped plan with a two-story front "head house" section and a one-story perpendicular "drill hall" extending to the rear; its façade is detailed to recall Medieval fortifications, with towers flanking the central entrance, crenellated parapets, and strip buttresses.




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