Janesville’s historic Armory to open with new look

JANESVILLE, Wis.—The Armory, a new 21,635-square-foot dinner theater, restaurant and lounge in Janesville, Wis., was set for completion Dec. 21.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Armory was built in the 1930s and, after several years of vacancy, is being renovated and restored by Mick Gilbertson, owner of GA Architecture and treasurer of the Wisconsin Trust for Historic Preservation.

The Armory’s two restaurants—The Bunker Lounge and Lieutenant’s Restaurant—will open in late January and early February, 2006, respectively. The Armory’s intimate, 240-seat Drill Hall Theater will open its professional dinner theater season with Miss Saigon Feb. 9, 2006.

Renovating a historic landmark

The Armory has played a role in every era of Janesville’s history since its construction.

Prior to World War II, the building served as a military training facility and mustering center for militia from the Army National Guard, which later became Company “A” of the 192nd Tank Battalion in WWII.

They were known as the legendary “Janesville 99,” deployed to the Philippines in 1941 and ultimately forced into the infamous Bataan Death March. Since then, Armory tenants have included government and social agencies and the Rock County Historical Society. The building remained vacant from 1999 until renovations began in 2004.

“We focused our renovations on carefully preserving the history of the building by maintaining the exterior appearance, while combining it with an elegant, modern interior to create a distinctive venue for people in the Janesville area to enjoy,” Gilbertson said. “It’s important that a new generation will be able to appreciate this great place.”

Establishments to offer top-quality entertainment

The Armory’s Drill Hall Theater will premiere elegant musical theater productions, using professional actors and musicians from around the country. The Drill Hall Theater features an intimate setting where patrons can savor an elegant dining experience, then enjoy the show.

The opening production will be Miss Saigon, which is a critically-acclaimed musical by the creators of the sensation Les Miserables and is based on Puccini’s opera, Madame Butterfly. Miss Saigon tells the story of a strong-willed Vietnamese woman and an American soldier who fall in love in Saigon during the Vietnam War. Their romance ends tragically when the GI is shipped back home, believing his lover is dead. Three years later, after marrying an American woman, he discovers that his Vietnamese lover is not only alive, but has borne him a son.

Miss Saigon will begin the Armory’s inaugural season Feb. 9, 2006, and will run through April 9, 2006. Season subscriptions and single tickets are on sale now.

Jim Tropp, theater director of the Drill Hall, said: “We are thrilled to be able to bring shows of this caliber to such an exciting new theater. By seeking out professional performers throughout the country, we are confident that the Armory will produce top-quality entertainment.”

Rounding out the Drill Hall Theater’s first season are Aida, Jekyll & Hyde and The Christmas Schooner.

Fine and casual dining

Lieutenant’s Restaurant and The Bunker Lounge will be open within The Armory by February 2006. The 60-seat Lieutenant’s Restaurant will offer American and French cuisine Monday through Saturday beginning at 5 p.m. in a sophisticated and contemporary atmosphere. The Bunker Lounge, a 30-seat café, will feature modern, casual lunches, evening appetizers and an exceptional wine cellar and patio seating when weather permits, Monday through Friday, beginning at 11 a.m.

Both restaurants will feature menus developed by the Armory’s own executive chef, Russell Herrington, in consultation with Chicago-area restaurateurs Carlos and Debbie Neito. In addition, a dining area accommodating 16 people will be available for intimate dinners, private parties and other events.

Info: www.janesvillearmory.com or call (866) 995-7400.

From the Dec. 28, 2005-Jan. 3, 2006, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!