Ever wonder what that castle-like building on Park Avenue on the Upper East Side is? Once one of the grandest of the armories in New York City, the Park Avenue Armory has a storied history and comes with a wonderful story of adaptive reuse. Like many institutional buildings in New York City, time and circumstances led the armory to fall into disrepair, and by the year 2000 it was named one of the 100 most endangered historic sites in the world by World Monuments Fund.
Luckily, it has since been revitalized through the efforts of the non-profit group Park Avenue Armory, and today opens its doors to a full calendar of exhibits and performances. In addition to its public facade, there is much unknown about the Armory. Here are ten facts you may not know about the Park Avenue Armory.
10. It’s the Only Privately Funded Armory in NYC
The Park Avenue Armory was made a National Historic Landmark in 1986 and on the National Register of Historic Places. Image courtesy of Park Avenue Armory
The Park Avenue Armory was built from 1877 to 1881 at a cost of $650,000 by the Seventh Regiment of the National Guard. This Regiment was made up of prominent Gilded Age family names that included Vanderbilt, Van Rensselaer, Roosevelt, Harriman, Livingston, and Morgan. Its roster included August Belmont Jr., the financier who helped build the city’s first subway line (and Belmont Track), and artists Thomas Nast and Sanford Robinson Gifford. Often referred to as the Silk Stocking regiment, this was the only privately funded armory – each room looking every bit as decadent as the near-by homes its members lived in.
In a recent lecture series, Military Historian and Park Avenue Armory Chairman, Elihu Rose described this elite band of men as having “easy arrogance – 100% attitude.”