311, Washington Avenue, Towson, Baltimore County
The Towson Academy is a two-story brick structure with full basement, faced with a smooth light-colored, marble-like stone veneer. Almost completely devoid of ornamentation, the armory presents a severe appearance on its front (Washington Avenue) façade, which faces west. The first floor and basement form a section of seven 2/6 casement windows at first floor level. The southern half of the 14-bay drill hall is visible above the first floor section, its bays punctuated by 2/6 casement windows. The roof over the drill hall is a low-pitched gable. The center block is a simple screen, containing a shallow entry hall in front of the drill hall. Four narrow 2/3 casement windows at first and second floor levels of the center block flank a high arch over wide double doors. The interior wall of the arch is plastered and painted. Four cement steps lead to a cement slab porch before the doorway. Four short pillars of the same stone as the façade veneer flank the steps, each topped with a trumpet-shaped ornament of black metal. Iron railings connect the pillars and surround the porch. The front yard contains a flagpole and is pleasantly landscaped with shrubs and grass. The building is symmetrical and identical on both sides of the center block. The north (Chesapeake Avenue) façade features four windows (2/6 casement) in one-story sections which flank the two-story entrance to the drill hall. The entry projects substantially from the side sections with double doors recessed slightly and surmounted by a large fanlight. A brief flight of cement steps with walls faced with veneer matching the façade lead to the street. At the extreme northeast corner is a driving ramp at ground level leading into a wide garage door. The south façade, facing onto an alley, has 11 2/6 casement windows on the first floor. The drill hall wall above presents a blank face. The rear of the building has been altered considerably with two-story additions faced with an unmatched stone veneer.
The Towson Academy 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 the community, a function it has served continuously since its construction date. Architecturally, the building emboddies 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 and strip buttresses. The Towson Academy, together with the police station opposite (across Washington Avenue) and the courthouse diagonally opposite on the northwest corner of Washington and Chesapeake Avenues, contribute to the diminished nucleus of older buildings in the center of downtown Towson. The structure’s simple sturdy lines blend successfully with the rich mix of building styles in the immediate vicinity. Severe shortage of vehicle storage areas on the armory site and problems of congestion in the Towson area in general have no doubt played some part in the facility’s diminished usefulness as an armory. While still in some minimal use by the National Guard, the building is mainly utilized by community groups for meetings, and the drill hall is heavily used by young adults for dancing classes.