AMORY – The old armory’s biggest claim to fame perhaps was being the venue for a Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley concert in 1955 in which a young Elvis Presley was said to have heard the song “Blue Suede Shoes” sung for the first time by Carl Perkins.
While this concert is still talked about from time to time, the old armory was built to hold 600 to 1,000 National Guard soldiers. But they moved to a new armory several years ago. The front of the vacated armory housed the justice court until 1999 when it left for new office space. In recent years the building has been used as a polling place for elections.
In 2002, the building situated in the city’s designated Historic District was named a Mississippi Landmark.
The old armory, a fortress of a building constructed on 9th Street South in 1937 as a Works Progress Administration project, is showing its age.
But efforts by city officials will begin the process of bringing the building back to usefulness now that the city has been awarded a Mississippi Community Heritage Preservation grant for reroofing the building.
According to Amory Mayor Howard Boozer, a team was assembled to come up with a grant proposal for the building. The grant request was for $132,775 and the city was awarded the full amount requested. The city must match the grant with $33,193, bringing the project’s total cost to $165,968.
Mayor Howard Boozer called this project the first step in an effort to completely restore the building so it can serve as a civic center in the future.
“It’s step one of the vision of creating a center of activity for the community,” he said. Churches, schools and other organizations have shown interest in using the facility but because the roof was leaking so badly, it prohibited much use of it and was causing deterioration of the interior spaces.
“This project will stabilize the structure so we can go inside and do work there,” he said. “It’s a giant leap forward.”
Once the new roof is in place, there are plans to replace windows, refurbish restrooms, repair plaster damage, refinish floors and refurbish the stage and seating in the auditorium.
Several local groups of citizens have expressed interest in the past year to help with restoration efforts at the old armory. In recent years it has served as a place for fund-raising rummage sales, senior proms and school science fairs.
The city has also applied for a Small Municipalities grant for the building to replace the central heating and air system.
Boozer said he is looking forward to seeing the building restored. “It’s a wonderful building with so much potential.”
The board of aldermen will begin advertising for bids for the roofing project later this month.
Chris Wilson/Monroe Journal