The SF Armory


From The Armory as it appeared in the 1920's

In keeping with the post on the Golden Gate Bridge, I am posting about the SF Armory in light of the fact that I applied for a job as a tour guide. The Armory cannot and does not escape your attention as you walk down Mission or Valencia Streets. It is huge! It is a fortress out of a fairy tale. It looks dark and forbidding. You can only guess at the dark goings-on within those walls.  It was built in 1914, just before the outbreak of the First World War, as a home for the National Guard. Not only was this a place to keep the massive naval guns, horses, and other ordinance, it had a splendid drill court where the men could practice close-order drill. But times changed and the needs for the armory changed with it. It became a place for the guard to relax, use the swimming pool. This huge, well equipped facility was an excellent recruiting tool for the Guard. In the thirties and forties it was used for dances and prize fights. It was even regarded as the Madison Square Garden of the West. However, after the Second World War and Korean conflicts, the National Guard saw a need for a modern armory, with more parking and a more suitable design for modern needs. However, plans to tear down the structure were fiercely resisted by the local people of the Mission. They succeeded in having the Armory granted landmark status in 1978. Although George Lucas used the drill court for some scenes in the first Star Wars movie, plans to convert the armory into a film studio fell through.  It seemed that no one could think of a good use for the massive structure, and in 1980 it was declared surplus property by San Francisco, and put up for sale. However various ideas over the years fell through. The cost of seismic refitting, and other renovations needed to bring the building up to code was too formidable for prospective buyers. At one point, someone considered using the building to house servers for the internet. There is a vision of Big Brother for you, computer servers buzzing away within a dark forbidding fortress. But that didn’t happen. Instead the building remained unused until 2007 when Armory Studios, LLC purchased the armory. It became the film studio, and office space for, where the work is literally cutting edge. This website offers very high quality, high definition, video of some the most extreme sadomasochistic sexual fantasies you can find on the net. Needless to say, this has been the source of controversy. The armory was picketed by those who opposed this use, and didn’t want a porno film studio in their neighborhood. However, unlike the Power Exchange, which had operated at a location not far away from the armory for many years, this was not a sex club with patrons hanging about the entrance late at night. This was a professional studio and not a magnet for crime of any sort. Unless of course you consider the creation of pornography a crime in itself. Which I don’t. The Armory has had a colorful, eventful history. Personally, I would love to see it used for public events as well as a studio. I suspect could find a way to do this if it so desired.

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