When I heard that the old National Guard Armory was for sale, I thought what an opportunity. When I was a kid, all the big events where held there. Sometimes we had 3,000 people in there. Built in 1941, it was huge and still standing. My friend Skip, told me not to buy it but do what I hate. Help form a non-profit committee, and let the community put it together. Skip was a lot smarter than me. If I would have bought it, I would have gone broke.
But what a diamond in the rough. My real estate wizard, Terry, thought it was going to be priced at $800,000. He and I figured it would cost $4,000,000 to build today. I thought it had all the right things wrong with it and the Maritime Museum wanted only $300,000 for this plain but historic building.
So away we went. Some great guys formed the “Friends of the Astoria Armory” and started to create a buzz in the town. Funny thing was, everyone on the board, except myself, was not from Astoria. These non-local people just saw an amazing opportunity. The majority of the town just thought it was too big, too old, too outdated, too run-down, and too expensive to be viable.
So, we didn’t listen and started having clean up parties and open houses.
Here were some of the locals’ memories:
“I remember elephants at the circus”
“I remember Deep Purple and Buffalo Springfield performing here”
“how about the Harlem Globetrotters?”
“how about donkey basketball?”
“I marched and drilled here in the National Guard”
“car shows, home shows, all the festivals, skate night”
Today, 4 years later, the Astoria Armory is being renovated with new sound systems, lighting, seating, new bathrooms, new exits, and everything else that will take it back to its original grandeur.
Who would have thought that after 40 years of lying dormant, that this building, with a small group of people with a vision could pull this off with limited funds but enormous energy and spirit.