The Marshall Street Armory was designed to look imposing. After all, the two-story, red-brick, Tudor Revival at 300 Marshall St. in Lansing, was built to store military-grade weaponry and train men how to use it in combat. But that tough-looking façade is just that — a façade.
On the inside, it was envisioned as a sanctuary for people, not just weapons. And following its construction in 1924 as the headquarters for the 119th Field Artillery Unit for the Michigan National Guard, it grew to become a place for people from all walks of life to forge connections. Generations of reservists and full-time military personnel called the Armory home.
The Armory also served as a foundation for the Lansing community, especially during times of peace. Weddings, circuses, boxing matches, and local antique radio swap meets were all held within its sturdy walls.
Gillespie Group founder and CEO, Pat Gillespie, fell in love with armory while growing up in the eastside neighborhood.
“I used to ride my bike by that place all the time, playing on the WWII artillery outside,” Gillespie said. “I got to play basketball in the drill hall. The Armory always captivated me.”
In 2005, the 119th Unit moved about 30 miles south and the building was soon shuttered — but not for long. Gillespie Group undertook its first historic preservation project, a $5.2 million endeavor to transform the former military storehouse and training facility into an innovative base for Michigan organizations making a difference.
“I wanted this to continue to be a space full of life, movement and forward momentum,” Gillespie said. “It’s a building with a lot of history. We want to keep that history going."
“The structural integrity of this building as well as the opportunity to reuse it while keeping so much of the history and story alive was what caught our attention,” Gillespie said about the building. “To take on this project, we would be able to reinforce what needed to be reinforced and build it out in a way that its story and history could be enjoyed for the next hundred years and beyond.”
Many of the original features of the former artillery unit were able to make the cut into today’s rendition.
- Most visibly, the original crossed-cannon insignia and carved stone eagle still welcome visitors above the entrance.
- The original wooden gymnasium was restored and given a fresh coat of wax, lending the offices on that floor an air of nostalgic elegance.
- Look up and you’ll see the original arched steel beams supporting the historic wood-plank ceiling. In the 1960s, those beams were hidden above a tin drop ceiling, which was pulled down during the renovation.
- On the ground floor, a munitions locker with a wire cage door has been transformed into Gillespie Group’s accounting department.
- Massive stable doors – complete with 2-foot-wide steel hinges – have been painted bright red and creatively reincorporated as conference room doors.
- And the noncommissioned officers’ club now accommodates three conference rooms.
But the team didn’t just want to live in the past – many modern and sustainable features were included to ensure that the Armory would be well equipped for the next century. A reflective white roof was added, substantially increasing the structure’s solar reflective index and reducing its urban heat island effect. Lighting in most offices is motion activated, and all bathroom fixtures meet the highest efficiency standards.
All that work didn’t escape the attention of historic preservation groups. Shortly after completion, the Armory received the Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation. It was also honored by Preservation Lansing, a historic resource advocacy group dedicated to keeping historic buildings in Lansing from being demolished.
Service Throughout the Years
From our armed forces to our community gatherings, the Armory was a hub for service throughout the 20th century. Now, it’s the venue for a different kind of service, hosting more than seven different nonprofit organization headquarters and offices.
“The Armory is a perfect home base for all our statewide operations,” Phil Knight, Executive Director of the Food Bank Council, said. “The idea was that we could share space and resources with other nonprofits in the building, and it would be a kind of think-tank for how this work could be done across the nonprofit sector. And from what I see, the experiment is absolutely working.”
Along with the Food Bank Council, the Armory’s current tenants include
- Capital Regional Community Foundation
- Michigan Health Endowment Fund
- Opportunity Resource Fund
- Michigan Nonprofit Association
- United Way of Southern Michigan
- Gillespie Group
“Life and energy is still filtering through this building,” Gillespie said. “It’s always been a hub in Lansing for forward movement, and we know our tenants will continue to push our community in the right direction.”
Tour the Armory
The Armory is not only a historical landmark, but a great space for nonprofits and organizations that want to add energy to their work environment. Gillespie Group is happy to show interested parties around the building, and showcase its ample parking, excellent accessibility, and unique features that make an office space into a true home for innovation.
Interested in learning more? Reach out to our Business Development Team below, or by calling 517.333.4123.