Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Schenectady's Armories

Schenectady's second armory building, looking very inch the architectural bastion of strength and security. Image from Larry Hart Collection. 

This blog entry is written by Library Volunteer Victoria Bohm. 

There is a list of the arsenals and armories built in the State of New York from the Republican era through the Antebellum and Civil War eras in N.L. Todd’s book on New York’s Historic Armories. Albany had already two arsenals (1799, 1858) and Troy had the Fulton Market Armory (1830s) before the construction of Schenectady’s first armory. The first Armory was finished in 1868 for the 5th Division after the Civil War. Schenectady’s second Armory was built in 1898/99 for the 36th and 37th Companies. The third Armory, built in 1936, was used by both companies and the National Guard until it was sold in 2012.

Schenectady's first armory, constructed in 1868. Image from the Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection. 

Plans and fund-raising efforts for the construction of new arsenals/armories in New York State was interrupted by the Civil War. Following the Civil War, Schenectady’s first Armory was authorized in 1866. The name of the architect is not known. Constructed to house Schenectady’s “Washington Continentals,” which, from 1859 through the Civil War was part of the 83rd Regiment, the first Armory found its champion in post-Civil-War Company Commander and State Assemblyman Robert Furman. He convinced the State to finance an armory for the Schenectady with $30,000 (a little less than half a million dollars in today’s account) approved on January 19, 1866. Furman, along with John W. Veeder and Judson S. Landon, were appointed commissioners to choose the site and get the armory built. They chose the rise above Crescent Park (now Veterans’ Park) near Nott Terrace and bought up the property of Civil Engineer Henry Ramsey in the process. The Schenectady Armory, completed in 1868 with its red-brick walls and slate roof, in overall design resembled the Utica 1862 Armory. In 1873/4, the Washington Continentals/83rd Regiment were joined by the new Citizens’ Corps; during the 1880s, both units were disbanded, separately mustered into the National Guard, and renamed the 36th and 37th Companies. They shared the Armory until its demolition for a new Armory, built in 1898.

Lobbying for a new, larger Armory began around 1880 and continued through the 1890s. State Assemblyman and then Commander of the 36th and 37th Companies, Austin A. Yates, managed at first to obtain only $5,000 for repairs to the existing Armory, but by 1897, he was granted $60,000 for a new Armory to be constructed by Barnes, Butts & Ingalls with architect Isaac G. Perry, who designed twenty-six arsenals and armories during the 1890s throughout New York State. This Armory was completed by 1898 and accommodated the troops from the Spanish-American War, specifically the 36th and 37th Companies, which had again been re-formed and re-named this time as Companies E and F in the 2nd Regiment (re-named the 105th Regiment). The building was also used for community activities, exhibitions, concerts, clothing and furniture sales, sports events such as wrestling, auto shows, and Boy Scout-o-ramas through the 1920s and 1930s. As early as 1913, there were recommendations from Federal Offices to demolish this second Armory for a third, even larger construction. However, nothing was realized until 1936.

The 1936 Armory under construction. Image from Larry Hart Collection.

Schenectady’s third Armory, the cornerstone of which was laid at 125 Washington Avenue in 1936, was completed in the Art Deco style and was 65,000 square feet. The interior was designed in what was them termed the “Tudorbethan” style. The Armory was designed by William E. Haugaard (1889-1948), New York State Architect from 1924-1944. Haugaard designed eleven other armories in the 1930s and 1940s. It was the headquarters for Companies E and F and the National Guard. The Armory was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. Eventually the Washington Street Armory was closed, given over to the State Office of General Services. It was purchased by Legere Restorations in 2012. The company hopes to give the historic building a new life as a venue for concerts, trade shows, expos, and sporting events.

Aerial view of the third Armory, ca. 1980. Image from the Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection.

No comments:

Post a Comment