Fort Homer W. Hesterly Armory

Tampa Bay's Sentinel to History

From Theodore Roosevelt to Community Family Center, the "Armory" has been an iconic focal point of the Tampa Community Since its inception.

Tampa Florida’s military history is a deep and rich tapestry woven with elements from many conflicts spanning the entirety of our country’s history both internationally and domestically. The year was 1898 and the Spanish American War was under way with Theodore Roosevelt and his rough riders gathering in Tampa and eventually sailing to Cuba to enter the conflict. The encampment site would later become the location selected for the construction of the Fort Homer W. Hesterly Armory, so named for the former commander of the 1 16th Field Artillery Battalion which would be assigned to this post under Lt. Colonel Hesterly. Funded through the Works Progress Administration under Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938, this new facility would be constructed using the “Art Deco” style so prominent during the 1920’s and 1930’s. Though this facility was primarily used as the location for both the Florida National Guard and Army Reserve units the Armory itself became the site for many important events outside of the military that would appeal to the Tampa community as a whole. Of the many events hosted at the Armory were speeches given by the Reverend Martin Luther King JR., President John F. Kennedy, as well as performances by the then young budding star of Elvis Presley. To many locals such as this author the Armory was also the site of wrestling matches which would be the starting point of many nationally recognizable stars such as Terry Funk and Dusty Rhodes which would sell out the venue holding 5000 fans.
The Armory was also used in conjunction with military recruitment in the capacity of implementing the Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery exam for all the branches of the military. This exam, still given today, is the benchmark for accepting men and women into the armed services and used in determining possible career paths within those branches. Despite the Armory’s popularity for event hosting, its primary mission was always as a military facility and by 2005 had become obsolete in this capacity. By 2005 the facility was left vacant with none of the many plans for revitalization of the facility or site coming to fruition. However, in 2012 the Armory was leased by the Bryan Glazer family for 99 years to be converted into a mixed use community center catering to both the visual arts and family fitness. In 2013 the Armory was placed on the list of the National Registrar for Historic Places and by 2016 was completed as the new Bryan Glazer family Jewish Community Center and open to the public.

Images

 Fort Homer W. Hesterly Armory

Fort Homer W. Hesterly Armory

Vacant Armory | Source: By TampAGS - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.phpzcurid=19088334 | Creator: http://www.tampapix.com/homerhesterlyarmory.htm View File Details Page

President John F. Kennedy

President John F. Kennedy

President Kennedy Speaking At the "Armory". | Source: https://www.tbo.com/events/project-seeks-memories-of-kennedys-visit-to-tampa-b82486446z1 | Creator: Tribune File Photo View File Details Page

J.C.C. Announcement.

J.C.C. Announcement.

Sign signifying the future development of the Fort Homer W. Hesterly Armory into the Jewish Community Center. | Source: https://www.tbo.com/south-tampa/tampa-jewish-community-center-to-open-event-center-at-armory-530478 | Creator: Joseph Brown III/ Staff View File Details Page

Dr. Martin Luther King

Dr. Martin Luther King

Martin Luther speaking at Fort Homer W. Hesterly Armory. | Source: http://wusfnews.wusf.usf.edu/post/kings-speech-remembering-martin-luther-king-jrs-1961-stop-tampa | Creator: Florida Sentinel Bulletin Courtesy of Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative View File Details Page

Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley at Fort Homer W. Hesterly Armory. | Source: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/308848486923916504/ | Creator: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/308848486923916504/Sly Mino View File Details Page

Wrestling Remembered at the "Armory"

Wrestling Remembered at the "Armory"

Remembrance "wall" | Source: https://www.abcactionnews.com/news/region-tampa/-wrestling-at-the-armory-wall-in-tampa-honors-wrestling-legends | Creator: Ric Russo View File Details Page

Access Information:

Private Property, Events Venue for hire, Family Fitness Center.

Street Address:

548 N Howard Ave, Tampa, FL 33606 [map]

Cite this Page:

Patrick Edge, “Fort Homer W. Hesterly Armory,” Tampa Historical, accessed July 21, 2019, http://tampahistorical.org/items/show/97.

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