Were tanks once parked on Pachamamas’ roof?

Artist's interpretation

When Chad Lawhorn wrote last month about plans to repurpose the Pachamamas building at Eighth and New Hampshire, it generated some buzz.

Readers had strong feelings about Pachamamas. Readers also had strong feelings about Doug Compton, who purchased the site. And readers had strong feelings about tanks. on. roofs.

You see, Chad included this note:

But don’t look for the building to get torn down. Instead, look for four additional stories to be built atop the existing structure. The building used to be an armory and was built to a heavy-duty standard. My understanding is the building was constructed to allow a helicopter to land on the roof, and Compton said he has photos of tanks parked on the roof. (Don’t look at me, I wasn’t driving.)

Artist's interpretation

This was a great hook for social media. But like everything on Twitter, it was fast forgotten.

That is, until Tuesday, when we posted renderings of the new building. No mention of roof tanks, sadly, but people remembered! So I dived into our archives.

Sure enough, 800 New Hampshire was once a Kansas National Guard Armory. Or rather, the building had a second floor. And it was an armory.

From July 25, 1930:

“Announcement of the leasing of a new armory for the two local Kansas National Guard companies was made today by officers of the two units. Starting as soon as the L. L. Riling building, which is now under construction at Eighth and New Hampshire streets, is completed, the two companies will occupy the second floor of the new building. …

“The second floor of the building will measure 117 by 110 feet of which an area measuring 101 by 84 feet will be used for a drill floor. The remainder of the space will be occupied by offices, locker rooms, storage rooms and other quarters.

“For the past five years the units have occupied the Armory at 740 Vermont street. The lease on this building expires soon. The new quarters will provide much more room than the old armory. The new building will be well lighted and well ventilated. …

“The new armory will have a cement floor and the walls will be of natural brick finish. Partitions will be of wood. The drill space will be clear there being no supports or posts of any kind in the way. The roof will be supported by curved beams.

“Officers plan to install a target range in the new building. A ramp running in from the west side of the building will make it possible for trucks to drive onto the drill floor. This feature will be of special convenience just before and after the annual encampment at Fort Riley when much equipment must be taken to the camp and then returned to the various supply rooms.”

So that answers that. But why is the Pachamamas building (site of Midwest Graphics before that) only one level? What happened to the second story?


From Dec. 6, 1938:

“Amidst the explosion of 100,000 rounds of 22 and 30 caliber ammunition, firemen waged a stiff battle early today with a blaze which destroyed the National Guard Armory occupying the second floor of the building at 800 New Hampshire street.

“The M. F. Hudson Motor company which occupies the lower floor of the building suffered only water and smoke damage. L. L. Riling, owner of the building, estimated that his damage might reach $15,000. His loss was approximately half covered by insurance. Officers of National Guard companies using the armory estimated the loss to the U.S. Army at $100,000.

“The origin of the fire was unknown today. Company M held its weekly drill in the armory earlier last night. The fire department received the alarm at 2:03 o’clock this morning and when the firemen arrived on the scene the blaze was nearly out of control.”

The fire was a big mess, and it’s even mentioned that “Three members of the K.U. football team saw duty in the alarm.”

“A large crowd gathered to watch the blaze but the onlookers gave the building a wide leeway because of the exploding cartridges.

“Jesse Jackson, 331 Indiana street, said that relatives living closer to the scene called him at about 3 o’clock and at that time the boom of exploding cartridges could be heard plainly at his home.”

Thoughts immediately turned to replacing or repairing the armory.

“Destruction of the armory caused a revival of consideration of plans for the construction of an armory building to house the local National Guard units. The military affairs committee of the Chamber of Commerce had previously dropped the plans because the building at Eighth and New Hampshire streets had been constructed by Lee Riling under arrangements to use the second floor as an armory.

“Plans for a separate armory building will now be considered in connection with the problem of home for the military companies.”

And as the days passed, it became more and more apparent that the second floor was a total loss.

From Dec. 7, 1938:

“L. L. Riling, owner of the building said today that he had started collecting figures to determine the cost of replacing the building. In the meantime, workmen were clearing away the debris of the fire and breaking down the walls of the second story to determine how much of the walls can be left standing in the rebuilding process.”

From Dec. 8, 1938:

“No attempt will be made this winter to rebuild the National Guard armory, L. L. Riling, owner of the building which formerly housed the armory, said today.

“Riling said that the reconstruction of the second story of the building at 800 New Hampshire street would be postponed at least until spring and even then he might decide to repair the building to provide only one floor.

“The owner of the building, which was damaged by fire Monday night, said the approach of winter weather had prompted his decision to place a temporary roof over the first floor to protect the M. F. Hudson Motor company, which occupies the lower level of the building.”

In the spring of 1939, the city held a special election in April and voters approved $75,000 in bonds to construct a new armory and community building at 115 W. 11th St.

That building is still around today, but it’s only known by one of those names: Community Building.

No word if tanks ever parked on its roof.

(Big thanks to Brittany Keegan and the staff at Watkins Museum of History for pointing me in the right direction)