Built in 1922, the State Armory in Craig was one of many new armories built to house national guard units across the state. The Craig building, based on a design by John James Huddart, served for many decades as a place for military training and community events. It now houses the Museum of Northwest Colorado, which restored the building in the early 1990s.
Armory and Community Center
The State Armory building in Craig had its origins in the National Defense Act of 1920, which reorganized the US Army and divided it into three branches: army, national guard, and reserves. The federal government would pay for equipment, salaries, and supplies for each state’s national guard units, and the states would raise the troops and build and maintain the armories.
In early 1921 Colorado passed a law providing for the construction of armories in communities that agreed to organize and maintain national guard units. Craig submitted its petition in early March, established Company A, 157th Infantry of the Colorado National Guard in late March, and received federal recognition at the end of April. Construction of the armory building began that fall and was completed in June 1922.
Colorado built a total of nineteen armories across the state. At least a dozen of them, including the armory in Craig, were based on a design by the architect John James Huddart. Huddart’s plan for the armories called for two-story brick structures in a Mediterranean style. The Craig armory may have been the first built from Huddart’s plan, which was drawn up in July and August 1921, just a few months before the state broke ground on the Craig building.
The Craig armory provided more than just space for military training. It also served as an important community hub. Craig was eager to have a state-funded building where it might also hold other events. The town’s population had quickly doubled after the arrival of the railroad in 1913, but as of the early 1920s it still had no public building that could function as an adequate community center. After the armory was completed in 1922, it began to host most large public gatherings and events, such as dances, basketball games, boxing matches, plays, and musicals. These activities were often free to national guard members as a way of encouraging and maintaining enlistments. In addition, the local school district held its indoor sports events and graduations at the armory from 1922 to 1936, when an auditorium was built at the high school.
Museum of Northwest Colorado
After the national guard moved to a new building in 1974, the state deeded the armory to Moffat County in 1977. The deed came with the stipulation that the building continue to be used for community activities. During the next decade, the armory housed Colorado Northwestern Community College classes as well as roller skating and Horizons for the Handicapped events. In 1990 the Moffat County commissioners decided to make the building the home of the Museum of Northwest Colorado, formerly known as the Moffat County Museum.
The museum moved into the armory building in 1991. Throughout the early 1990s the museum completely renovated and restored the building, using more than $150,000 in grants from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, the Colorado Historical Society, and the Gates Foundation. The museum continues to use the building to stage exhibits and house its collections, which document the history of both Craig and Moffat County.