4. The “Harlem Hellfighters” were based at the 369th Regiment Armory

The Harlem Hellfighters
The Harlem Hellfighters returning to New York City. Photo from National Archives, created by the War Department.

Located between West 142nd and 143rd Streets is the 369th Regiment Armory, a historic National Guard Armory built for the 369th Infantry Regiment, or “Harlem Hellfighters.” Established in 1913, the 369th Infantry Regiment became the first National Guard unit in New York State composed solely of African Americans. In addition, the Infantry was one of the first African American regiments to serve with the American Expeditionary Force during World War I, spending 191 days on the frontline — more than any other American unit. In the end, the Infantry would also suffer the most losses out of any regiment, with 1,500 casualties reported.

After a number of Harlem residents expressed their interest in joining the military, the 15th Regiment was founded for deployment to France during World War I — reaching a total of 2,000 members by 1917. In 1918, the regiment was reorganized as the 369th and went on to be housed at Astor Row on West 130th Street. Following the reorganization, the city’s Armory Board began building an armory for the regiment, with its medieval-inspired drill shell finished in 1924. The armory’s administration building, designed by John S. Van Wart and Sidney Wein in the Art Deco style, was completed a few years later between 1930 and 1933. Today, the armory houses the 369th Sustainment Brigade — a descendant of the 369th Infantry Regiment.