The National Register of Historic Places is the Nation’s official list of historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America’s historic and archaeological resources. Since its inception in 1966, the National Park Service has listed more than 93,000 properties in the National Register, representing 1.8 million contributing resources including buildings, sites, districts, structures, and objects that are significant in national, state, or local history. Almost every county in the United States has at least one place listed in the National Register. The register is maintained by the National Park Service in the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The State Register is Wisconsin’s official list of state properties determined to be significant to Wisconsin’s heritage. Approximately 2,400 properties are listed in the State Register. The State Historic Preservation Office at the Wisconsin Historical Society administers both the National Register and State Register programs in Wisconsin.
The Sheboygan Municipal Auditorium and Armory was listed in the State Register of Historic Places on August 17, 2018 and in the National Register of Historic Places by the Secretary of the Interior on January 31, 2019. The building was found to be locally significant under Criterion C for Architecture as a fine example of the Art Moderne style, popular during the 1930s and 1940s for civic buildings. The building was also found to be locally significant under Criterion A for the history of Recreation and Entertainment as a cultural center and auditorium venue. With the purpose of providing a space for the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 32nd Division, the building also took on the role of the primary venue for a variety of events in Sheboygan including meetings, rallies, concerts, fairs, and spectator sporting events. The building was also home to an early professional basketball team, the Sheboygan Red Skins. One of sixteen inaugural teams of the National Basketball Association (NBA), Sheboygan holds the record for the NBA’s smallest market, and the Armory holds the record for the NBA’s smallest arena.
Charles Broughton, the editor of the Sheboygan Press and owner of a local radio station, along with P.H. Davis and Edwin Imig, incorporated the Sheboygan Red Skins basketball team in 1938. Broughton is credited with contacting the Roosevelt administration and using his prominent political position to vigorously encourage the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to support the Sheboygan Auditorium and Armory project. A prominent Sheboyganite during the first half of the twentieth century, the street along the east side of the Armory is named after him.
With the promise of WPA funding in hand, the Sheboygan Common Council approved plans to build an Auditorium and Armory as an amenity for the community on August 19th, 1940. Then Mayor Herman Runge and Mark Muth, the WPA project administrator for Wisconsin, oversaw the initiation of the project. Total costs for the building were projected at $204,000, with $154,000 coming from the WPA. A site for the building was selected by city leaders in September 1940. The massive 52,000 square-foot reinforced concrete structure, designed by local architect Edgar Stubenrauch, featured a bow-string truss roof and seating for 3,974 people at maximum capacity, considerably more than other venues in Sheboygan at the time. Construction began in the spring of 1941 and the grand opening was held on May 22, 1942. The Armory was completed late in the life of the WPA and was the last WPA project in Sheboygan County. There were approximately 116,000 WPA funded projects in the United States and over 1,200 in Wisconsin alone. Among these are other notable Sheboygan buildings such as the Farnsworth Junior High School completed in 1931, the Sheboygan County Courthouse completed in 1934, and the Sheboygan Post Office in 1937.
The National and State Register listings were part of the Armory Community Project’s ongoing efforts to save the Armory. Listing in the National Register is the first step towards eligibility for National Park Service-administered federal preservation tax credit program that has leveraged more than $45 billion in private investment and National Park Service grant programs like Save America’s Treasures,Preserve America, and others. The nomination paperwork was prepared by local architecture and historic preservation consulting firm, Legacy Architecture, Inc.