The Fort Homer W. Hesterly Armory opened in December 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Along with serving the 116th Field Artillery Battalion of the National Guard, the Armory regularly hosted community events such as concerts, community dances, school recitals, and company dinners. 75 years to the day, the former Armory reopened its doors as the Bryan Glazer Jewish Community Center.
Boarded up in 2004, the old Armory remained closed until the Tampa JCC & Federation took on the renovation in 2014. Patrick Finelli, theatre consultant for the project, told me that when he first went inside the building, he found a dusty, old JBL speaker pushed aside. “Could this old speaker have broadcast JFK and Elvis Presley?” he wondered. Both men graced the old Armory’s stage in its heyday.
The building is named for Bryan Glazer, co-chairman of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While the façade and interior received a complete overhaul, the historic integrity of the building was preserved. For example, the development group chose to leave signage on the east end of the exterior labelling the structure as “Fort Homer W. Hesterly” and plan to maintain a community-centered approach future programming. “This is a great communal gathering spot. This is a place to come together and grow,” said Executive Director Jack Ross.
The center is 100,000 square feet and houses visual arts and events spaces, a fitness and outdoor aquatics facility, an indoor track, a multi-sport gym, and a café. Working in conjunction with Mr. Ross, Fleischman Garcia Architecture, and theatre consultant Patrick Finelli, IA Stage supplied and installed approximately 400 sq ft of SkyDeck™ above the stage in the main event space, enhancing the inherent flexibility of the performance space as well as ease of use and safety. “It’s a beautiful facility. A fantastic addition and will be a centerpiece of the community,” said Finelli. “I’m really happy with the way it turned out.”
So are we. The Glazer JCC truly is a model community center that embodies the message of the crests embedded in the terrazzo at four entrances of the building: Vestigia Nulla Retrorsum. Rough translation? Footprints don’t go backwards or never retreat.
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Photo By Nola Laleye