Do Not Migrate

This poster is part of Preserving U.S. Military Heritage: WWII to the Cold War, Fredericksburg, Texas, June 4-6, 2019.

by Robin Whitehurst

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The Urbana Illinois National Guard Readiness Center, built in 1938 and determined to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places by the State historic preservation office, was originally designed to house a Calvary unit, one of the first of its kind in Illinois. The Urbana Armory was designed by architect S. Milton Eichberg and was home to the 106th Cavalry. The Art Deco cast-in-place concrete armory hosted 83,000 SF of space and the design became a prototype for many other armories in the state. However, the armory needed to reflect the current functionality, safety, and sustainability requirements of the Illinois National Guard (ING) while maintaining the character defining elements of the historic armory.

The ING weighed the cost of renovating the facility or building a new one altogether. Rehabilitating the concrete structure would involve balancing the requirements of Anti-Terrorism / Force Protection standards, current Department of Defense requirements and building codes while also meeting the Secretary of the Interior Standards for Historic Rehabilitation.

Robin and the Bailey Edward team accepted the challenge and designed an innovative three-story, 12,000 SF seismically isolated interior addition at one end of the original riding arena. This new structure was fully integrated within the building and looks as if it was originally intended to be there, housing offices, vaults, locker rooms and break rooms. The third floor contains the mechanical equipment for the building.

Many of the original steel sash windows from 1938 were still in place, however it was impossible to restore the windows while still meeting blast resistance requirements. Instead, custom aluminum windows were installed to match the original and a paint study was conducted to ensure the original color was used.

On the exterior, GPR scans and cores were taken to understand the wall’s strength and reinforcement capabilities. Laminated fiberglass reinforcing mesh on the interior face of the cast-in-place concrete helped preserve the art modern exterior details along with concrete patching and repairs. Moreover, with 12-inch cast-in-place concrete walls and no insulation, increasing thermal performance was a high priority. Using WUFI modeling of vapor flows, it was determined a spray foam insulation could be used in the interior walls to dramatically improve the efficiency of the building.

By reusing over 95% of the existing building shell and structure the ING saved 50% of the construction cost than that of a new structure. Further savings were found be reaching LEED Gold certification, surpassing the ING’s sustainability requirement and recognized by the National Guard Bureau with a Cultural environment Security Award.

This successful example of an ING armory restoration and renovation received an Award of Merit from the Association of Licensed Architects and the Heritage Award from the Preservation and Conservation Association of Champaign County. Furthermore, the restoration of the Urbana Armory paved the way for similar restorations of historic armories in Illinois.


Robin Whitehurst is a Principal at Bailey Edward and partner since 1992. As Historic Preservation Specialist with over 30 years of experience, Robin seamlessly integrates contemporary needs and historic preservation to restore, re-energize and better serve their communities. Robin has worked on 35 National Register of Historic Places, Districts, and Landmarks, balancing the restrictions of their significant historic status while giving new life to the building. Robin is eager to share his expertise and is active in the preservation community through speaking engagements, scholarly articles, and presentations.

National Center for Preservation Technology and Training
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