In a far from literate nineteenth century America, armories were one of a type of buildings that signaled its purpose at a glance. The castle-like appearance of armories deliberately projected a sense of strength, civic order, security and pride. In addition, this building must have been of special significance for the former slaves and children of ex-slaves in Richmond. Here, in the heart of Jackson Ward, stood a promise written in brick and granite—the same promise that had been written in an ocean of blood by a civil war only a generation before. The promise was that there was a people and a society that was equal to all others.

John Mitchell Jr., understood the importance of an armory for Richmond blacks, especially since there were four other white militias in the city, each with their own facility:  the Richmond Blues, the Richmond Grays, the Richmond Howitzers, and the Cavalry armories.  Seeking political support for an armory for blacks, Mitchell, accompanied by officers from the 1st Battalion, visited every alderman and councilman to explain the importance of the project.  Although, many in Richmond opposed funding a “colored” armory, the city allocated $4,000 to buy land in Jackson Ward in 1884.

Wilfred Cutshaw, the city engineer and a former Confederate officer, threw his support behind the project.