Heslar Naval Armory - Riverside High School
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Heslar Naval Armory

Riverside High School is now located in its permanent home at the former Heslar Naval Armory. After nearly 80 years of service as a training center for sailors and soldiers, the former Armory has a new mission to prepare Indianapolis’ youth to become engaged citizens and the city’s future leaders.

Armory History

  • The Heslar Naval Armory was built in in 1938 as a Works Process Administration (WPA) project as a naval reservist training center.
  • The building, which was decommissioned in late 2015, played an important role in the preservation of freedom and democracy. It was an important intelligence-gathering post during World War II and housed top military leaders while they planned important European and Pacific campaigns.
  • The Art Moderne structure contains numerous historically-important features. These features include 12′ x 15′ WPA-era paintings in the gymnasium that depict naval scenes from the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Spanish-American War, and World War I, original nautical-themed globe light fixtures, and a terrazzo bar in the officers lounge.
  • The building also contains quite possibly the only room in Indianapolis that could be flooded for productive purposes! Navy personnel could use the “wet trainer” to flood the chamber to simulate a disaster at sea under controlled conditions: a ship with holes in pipes and hull. Trainees would then try to stop the flooding. It could also be used to simulate a fire on ship and reservists would have to follow emergency protocol to evacuate the room.
  • Changes and renovations were made to the Armory building at several points in its history, in order to allow the building to adapt to the evolving needs of the Navy and Marines and continue to serve as a relevant site for military recruiting and training. Additional security was added after September 11, but the building was ill-suited for the new protocol, which led to Armory Board move reservist drilling elements to newly-constructed training centers on Fort Benjamin Harrison.

Schedule a tour of the renovated Armory

Transformation of the Armory

  • The building was officially vacated in 2015 and was surplused by the Armory Board in October 2015. Looking for an opportunity to expand its proven model, the leadership of award-winning Herron High School, now Indianapolis Classical Schools, convinced the City of Indianapolis on its behalf. Indiana Landmarks agreed to hold the building until funds could be raised for renovations.
  • Construction, which began in summer 2017, was completed in July 2018. The total cost of the renovation was about $10 million.
  • As a reservist training center, it already contained many classrooms and offices and was perfectly suited to become a high school. Much of the renovation involved preserving the building’s historical features and replacing and updating mechanical equipment to meet the needs of a modern high school.
  • The former Armory now offers a spacious gymnasium is home to our Argonaut athletics teams, a beautiful 2-story music room that will be the rehearsal location for our incredible choir and instrumental music programs, four modern science labs, and a former officer’s lounge repurposed as a coffee shop.

View historical photos of the Armory from the Indianapolis Star

Take a virtual tour of the Armory pre-construction