In 1915, the Eighth Regiment Armory was the first armory building to be erected for a regiment commanded entirely by African Americans. The three-story brick building, designed by Illinois state architect James B. Dibelka, included a clear-span drill hall, meeting rooms, dining facilities and reception parlors. The detailing of the brown pressed brick and Bedford limestone facade give an appearance of strength and monumentality.
Organized as a volunteer regiment drawn from the black community during the Spanish-American War in 1898, the Fighting Eighth was established as an infantry section of the Illinois National Guard. The Eighth Regiment was especially noted for its service record during World War I. The Fighting Eighth gained special note as the last regiment to drive German forces from the Aisne-Marne region before the Armistice on November 11, 1918.
The Fighting Eighth and its successors eventually incorporated into several specialized military divisions and built new armory headquarters in 1931. The original Eighth Regiment Armory underwent a $18.5 million renovation by the Public Building Commission of Chicago after standing vacant since the 1950s. In 1999 the Chicago Military Academy-Bronzeville opened its doors as the nation's first public college-prep military school.
The Eighth Regiment Armory is located at 3533 S. Giles St. Click here to view historic photos of the Armory. It is now the Chicago Military Academy-Bronzeville, and is not open to the public.
Chicago's Black Metropolis, which the Eighth Regiment Armory is part of, is the subject of an online-lesson plan produced by Teaching with Historic Places, a National Register program that offers classroom-ready lesson plans on properties listed in the National Register. To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places home page.
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