TWELFTH REGIMENT ARMORY
Though New York's armories today are picturesque reminders of another time, in the late nineteenth century they were serious business. When the Twelfth Regiment Armory was completed in 1886, it was said to be "a tower of strength to lovers of civic order and peace who remember the possibilities, remote ones it is hoped, of riot and disturbance".
Monumental armories were built after the Civil War when memories of the draft riots during the Civil War, the worse riots in United States history, were still fresh. During the riots the mobs targeted armories and arsenals. Weapons were taken from the East 23rd Street armory; then the armory was set on fire. Striking workers also targeted armories. During the Railroad Strike of 1877, when most of the railroads cut their employees wages by 10%, strikers attacked armories in Pennsylvania. Hearing of violent acts committed during the Paris Commune, New York's middle and upper classes feared class warfare.
The city's Armory Board, empowered by state legislation and funded by the city, built armories above 59th Street, many near Central Park, even though the 'dangerous classes' lived below 59th Street. The reserves who manned the armories were drawn from the middle and upper class residents above 59th Street. Of the three armories built on the West Side, only one remains, the First Battery Armory at 56 West 66th Street, now ABC television studios.
The massive Twelfth Regiment Armory was built to replace its rental quarters at Broadway and 34th Street. James E. Ware, its designer, was well known for designing the Osborne Apartments on 57th Street and the East Side City and Suburban Homes Company model tenements. The armory, described as somewhat 'Scottish Baronial', filled one and a half acres facing Ninth Avenue. It was said that "the entrance could be defended in the mediaeval manner with boiling oil and melted lead, or even in the modern manner with musketry fire'. Moses King's guide to New York stated,
The building is a castellated structure in the Norman style of architecture, and has a solid fortress-like character, with its mediaeval bastions, machicolations and narrow slits in corbelled galleries, and grillework at the windows. At each street corner are flanking towers, with loop-holes and arrangements for howitzers, or Gatling guns, on the top. Around the entire roof is a paved promenade, protected by a parapet with many loop-holes, constituting a valuable defensive position."
There is no record that the Twelfth Regiment Armory was ever attacked. In 1919 the armory was a temporary home for about a hundred evicted tenants. It was razed in 1958 for the Lincoln Center urban renewal project.
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