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TO RENT THE ARMORY EMAIL: eligio.santiago@us.army.mil

On Jan. 28, 1994, the 69th Regiment Armory was entered into the State and National Register of Historic Places.


 


On May 6, 1996, the 69th Regiment Armory was entered into listing as a National Historical Landmark


(FOR INFORMATION ON RENTING ARMORY SPACE CONTACT: the Superintendent 646-424-5500)


On November 18, 1980, the Landmarks Preservation Commission held a public hearing on the proposed designation as a Landmark of the 69th Regiment Armory and the proposed designation of the related Landmark Site. The hearing was continued to February 10, 1981. On April 12, 1983, the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the 69th Regiment Armory an official New York City landmark. Landmarks Site: Borough of Manhattan Tax Map Block 381, Lot 6. The decision was made based on three major considerations: the unique architecture of the building; the building housed the Fighting 69th; and the building was the site for the 1913 Armory Show.


 


The Sixty-Ninth Regiment Armory occupies much of the block bounded by 25th and 26th Streets and Lexington and Park Avenues. Like all of the armories built in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Sixty-Ninth is a highly special­ized structure built to serve as training and marshaling center for the National Guard. Designed by noted architects Hunt& Hunt in 1904-06, the building consists of the two standard elements of armory design: an administration building fronting on Lexington Avenue and a vast drill shed rising behind. Earlier armories had been designed in medieval styles, making use of fortress imagery. The Sixty-Ninth Regi­ment Armory however, is recognized as the first of this building type to reject the medieval fortress prototype, employing instead a classically inspired design, still military in aspect that is thoroughly expressive of its function. The armory is notable as the home of the Fighting 69th New York City's only official Irish Regiment. It achieved further renown as the site of the legendary Armory Show of 1913 which brought national attention to the newest art forms of modern European and American artists.


 


From report prepared by Cassie Murray, Landmarks Preservation Specialist, Landmarks Preservation Commission


 


New York City Armories


 


Following the Civil War, an increase in enrollment in the militia and the development of new and heavier military equipment led the State of New York to re­quire by law that each county provide suitable armories for its volunteer regiments. By 1900, New York City held the foremost position in the organized funding and erection of armories through the work of the Armory Board of the City of New York.


 


Created in 1884 to support state-wide public defense efforts, the board acted quickly to improve the city's then deficient facilities, for the training of the militia and the storage of arms.1 Prior to 1884 only one of Manhattan's eight regiments had its own armory headquarters.2 Other National Guard units met and drilled in public markets, city arsenals, or rented loft space until funds from armory bonds were appropriated by the new board for the erection of suitable and permanent quarters for each of the city's regiments.


 


Stylistically, the armories that began to dot the grid of Manhattan in the late nineteenth century were modeled after the medieval fortress-like Seventh Regiment Armory of 1880 (a designated New York City Landmark located at 643 Park Avenue) The Sixty-Ninth Regiment Armory, completed in 1906, was the first to reject the pic­turesque medieval prototype. The building's internal organization is not hidden behind turrets, towers and crenellated parapets that marked earlier armories but is clearly expressed on the exterior.


 


While most of the armories erected in other boroughs and in other cities contin­ued to incorporate medievalism in their design, the three armories built in Man­hattan after l900 were, like the Sixty-Ninth, all of modern inspiration.3


 


The Sixty-Ninth shared quarters with purveyors at the Essex Market until 1880 when the Seventh Regiment vacated the Tompkins Market Armory at Third Avenue and Sixth Street. The cast-iron Tompkins Market (demolished in 1911) was to house the 69th for the next twenty-six years. However, in 1886, following the Regiment's request to the Armory Board, funds were appropriated and a site selection committee appointed to provide the 69th Regiment with new, permanent quarters.


 


The Site


 


The location of the new armory was determined by the site selection committee of the Armory Board. Because all earlier Manhattan armories were located above 59th Street the committee recognized the need for future armories to be erected below 42nd Street.6 After rejecting the Tompkins Market site and yielding to storms of pro­test over the proposed acquisition of the plot occupied by the College of the City of New York at Lexington and 23rd Street, 1 the Board finally began condemnation proceedings in 1901 to acquire land on Lexington Avenue between 25th and 26th Streets, and a competition for the design of the new armory was announced the following year.


 


The Sixty-Ninth Regiment Armory replaced thirty-two tenements and apartment houses8 which had occupied the site since the mid-nineteenth century. Land that had been part of the farm of John Watts in the 18th century,9 was divided and sold in the early 19th century as the area developed as a working-class neighborhood.


Hunt & Hunt


 


The competition for the design of the Sixty-Ninth Regiment Armory was won by the firm of Hunt & Hunt in 1903. The list of competing architects is an indication of the high level of interest in armory design commissions among prominent architects of the period. Robert N. Gibson, Grovesnor Atterbury, CU & AA Sturbton, Howells & Stokes, George B. Post and Henry C. Hardenbergh were each awarded $8,500.00 as losing competitors.10


 


Richard and Joseph Hunt sons of noted architect Richard Morris Hunt formed the firm of Hunt & Hunt in 1901, just a few years before the armory's competition. The partnership continued for 23 years until the death of Joseph in 1924. Their father, dean of the American architectural profession through the last half of the 19th century, was the first American architect to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Richard Rowland Hunt, the oldest son, studied architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. In 1887 he joined his father's offices as a draftsman and later become an associate. Richard Hunt completed the central unit of the Metropolitan Museum of Art after his father's death. He distinguished himself as the architect of private residences for wealthy clients. The impressive Beaux-Arts style mansion, now the Lotos Club, at 5 East 66th Street in the Upper East Side Historic District is another example of his fine work.


 


Joseph Howland Hunt studied at Harvard College, the School of Architecture at Columbia University, and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. His partnership with his brother began upon his return to New York in 1901. Together they continued a highly successful practice, designing distinguished country residences at Newport, Rhode Island; Tuxedo Park, New York; and on Long Island. Urban residences by Hunt & Hunt include the two Beaux-Arts houses designed for George U. Vanderbilt at 645 and 647 Fifth Avenue, known as The Marble Twins. Only No. 647, a designated New York City Landmark, survives today.


 


In addition to the Sixty-Ninth Regiment Armory, Hunt & Hunt designed many in­stitutional and educational buildings. Among them the Old Slip Police Station (a designated New York City Landmark) , the Alumni Building and Williams Hall at Vassar College, Kissam Hall at Vanderbilt University, and Quintard and Hoffman Halls at Sewanee University.


 


The Sixty-Ninth Regiment Armory is an unusual example of what might be termed Beaux-Arts Military architecture. The armory strongly reflects the Hunt brothers training in the academic design principles of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. The armory's symmetrical composition, monumental attic, grand arched entrance and clearly articu­lated parts are characteristic of a later, more refined stage of the Beaux-Arts tradition. The bold use of form, clear expression of function, and inclusion of gun bays gives the armory a decidedly military character.


 


In aesthetic expression, Hunt & Hunt's design represents a significant departure from the popular neo-medieval fortress mode identified with earlier armories. This unique approach to armory design was noted by architectural critic Montgomery Schuyler: The Sixty-Ninth is of an entirely different inspiration from any of its predecessor. It seems even to be a protest and token revolt against them. It is noteworthy by the absence of the conventions of military architecture.


 


This practical conception of an armory produced a comparatively unadorned brick structure that is clearly divided into two distinct sections based largely on nineteenth-century rail stations. Schuyler likens the administration building with offices and meeting rooms to a station headhouse while the vast drill hall is conceived of as a train shed. The critic did not find this to be totally successful but labeled it an interesting mistake and praised Messrs. Hunt & Hunt for having thoroughly carried through their conception.12


 


Description


 


The administration building extends the full length of the block along Lexing­ton Avenue. A three-story brick structure with limestone trim, it is topped by a high two-story mansard roof. The main elements of the building's essentially symmetrical composition are two slightly projecting quoined end pavilions articulating the building's corners and a massive, deeply recessed arched entry way in the center bay. The arch is formed with concentric rows of brick headers. A sculptured winged eagle forms the keystone of the entry arch.


 


As there are no structural columns in the armory, the floors are carried by unusually thick walls, their massiveness emphasized by the contrasting smallness of its fenestration and by the depth of their reveals. A stone string course forts the lintels and sills of the first floor windows and continues to wrap both the administration building and drill hail providing a strong horizontal accent. At the second story, the facade is punctuated with transomed windows set in groups of three, alternating with projecting polygonal gun bays or eyries. A large, bracketed limestone cornice tops an entablature pierced with attic windows on the Lexington Avenue facade. The cornice of the main building continues along the roof of the drill hall. A brick parapet rises above the cornice line abutting the high, two-story mansard roof that crowns the headhouse. The slate-covered roof was originally one story with circular dormer windows. In 1926 the roof was raised and windows altered. The new rectilinear and round-headed windows have classical surrounds of copper.


 


A small four-story wing designed to house a hospital at the southwest corner of the lot is identical in detailing to the administration building.


 


The great arched drill hall of the Sixty-Ninth Regiment Armory is nearly 130 feet in height. The hall, measuring 200feet 11½ inches by 168 feet 10inches, has an arched roof carried by six pairs of three-hinged riveted steel trusses each with a span of 189 feet 8 inches. The steelwork was executed by Milliken Bros. of New York).13 The innovative fea­ture in the design of the drill hall is the method by which the trusses are car­ried on the exterior of the hall giving the interior a large clear span of open space. The arched roof of the shed rests on a base of brick trimmed with limestone. A skylight, now boarded over, extends the full length of the drill hall with total dimensions of 80 feet by 202 feet. The 90 foot arch in the east gable wall of the drill hall was the largest brick arch in the country at the time of construction.14  Originally sheathed in metal, the exterior of the drill shed roof has recently been covered with an aluminum fabric


 


Today the Sixty-Ninth Regiment Armory serves its original function as the headquarters of and training center for the National Guard's "Fighting Sixth-Ninth" and continues to lend its drill hall for exhibition purposes. The new sheathing on the drill shed and the one-story addition to the administration building are the only major changes to the original appearance of the building. Architect George M. McCabe incorporated the additional story into the mansarded roof of the main building in a style consistent with the original Hunt & Hunt design. The alteration, completed in 1929, raised the mansard from one to two stories giving the regiment additional storage space.15


 


At the time of its construction in 1904, the Sixty-Ninth Regiment Armory was praised by the press as one of the finest structures of its character in the country16 and in retrospect it is viewed by historians as representative of: the first step toward a modern or twentieth-century concept, more simple, restrained and honest in its exterior reflection on interior organization than any earlier example clearly points to the newer, more rational trends which at that time were beginning to develop in all phases of art.9


 


ENDNOTES


 


1.       The Armory Board 1884-1911: Official Deliberations and Proceedings (New York:


The Armory Board, 1912), p. 3.


2.       Ibid., p. 5.


3.       Post-1906 armories built in Manhattan are: the Twenty-Second Regiment Armory of 1911; the Three-Hundred Sixty-Ninth Armory of 193; the Forty-Second Infantry Division


 


The following list of armories built in Manhattan puts the construction of the 69th Regiment Armory in perspective:


Armory                                  Address                                     Completed              Demolished          NYC  LM


7th Regiment                          643 Park Avenue                                   1880                                               1967


12th Regiment                        9th (Columbus Ave. at 61st                    1887           Post1960


8th Regiment                          Park Ave. at 94th                                   1890                 1966


22nd Regiment                       Broadway at 67th                                  1890                  1929


71st Regiment                        Park Ave. at 34th                                   1894                  1902 (fire)


Squadron A                           Madison Ave. at 94th                             1895                  1966 (partial)         1966


9th Regiment                          125 N. 14th St.                                     1895                  1965


1st Battalion                           56 West 66th St.                                   1901


71st Regiment                        Park Ave. at 34th                                  1905                  1972


69th Regiment                        Lexington at 25th                                   1906


102nd Regiment                     Ft. Washington at 168th                         1911


369th Regiment                      Fifth Ave. at 142nd                                1932


42nd Division                         125 West. 14th St.                                1971


 


5.     The history of the SixtyNinth Regiment that follows is largely based on Lieut. Col. Kenneth Powers study entitled The Sixty-Ninth Regiment of New York-Its History, Heraldry, Traditions and Customs. (typescript, n.d.)


6.     The Armory Board..., p. 11.


7.      Ibid., p. 15.


8.     The Sixty-Ninth Regiment Armory Drill Hall, New York, The Engineering Record,


51 (July 1904), p. 625.


9.       Map of Farms in New York, 1815 (New York: E. Robinson, 1887), plate


10.      The. Armory Board p. 21.


11.     Montgomery Schuyler, Two New Armories, The Architectural Record, 19 (April 1906), 262-263.


12.     Ibid., 263.


13.     Engineering Record, 61925.


14.     Ibid.


15.     New York City, Department of Buildings, Manhattan, Alteration Permit No. 1253 26 of 1926.


16.     Mayor Handles Trowel-Lays a Cornerstone-Sixty-Ninth Regiment sees Beginning of New Armory, New York Daily Tribune, April 24, 1904, p.6.


19.     Robert Koch, The Medieval Castle Revival: New York Armories, Society of Architectural Historians Journal, 14 (October 1955), 27.


 


 


 





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