A Peek Inside The World’s Largest Armory

There is nothing more seemingly antithetical to New York than its armories. In a city where every building strains toward the heavens without much of a thought to width, New York’s armories brazenly buck the trend by being massively wide and extremely squat – which is one of the reasons I love them so much.

00

My favorite of all is the Kingsbridge Armory, located in the Bronx. Often cited as the largest armory in the world, pictures simply do not do justice to how epically massive this place is. For scale, you could squeeze two full-sized football fields onto its drill floor.

01

Walking into Kingsbridge for the first time, I had the same overwhelming sensation as when I first visited the Grand Canyon: the feeling of being very, very insignificant.

02

The Kingsbridge Armory was built between 1912 and 1917 for munitions storage. It was also home to the 258th Field Artillery.

ADD2

In the 1940s through the 50s, it became a very popular tourist destination, hosting such events as motor boat shows, rodeos, and “doodlebug” car racing (or “midget racing”), pictured below:

add19

Watching the drill deck from the stands, its hard not to picture the rickety wooden chairs populated by the ghosts of the countless bystanders who once frequented the armory over the past century.

04

The chairs today:

05

A neat old exit sign above the entrance:

06

For years, the armory languished in a state of abandonment as no one could figure out what to do with it. It’s only as recently as last October that plans were finally solidified into turning the armory into the largest indoor ice center in the world. If all goes according to plan, in a few years, there’s a good chance the armory will look…well, pretty much exactly as it does today!

add5

The new ice center will house nine rinks, provide over 250 jobs, and become a major new sports center for the city. The building itself is landmarked, so there will presumably be a healthy amount of restoration work thrown in for good measure. Ultimately, a positive turn of events for both the building and the neighborhood.

onemore

Sadly, much of the rest of the interior is probably beyond saving, but there are two areas I always get a kick out of seeing whenever I scout. See, below that drill deck, the Kingsbridge Armory extends deep into the bowels of the city.

07

I honestly couldn’t even begin to guess how far down it goes…

08

…but you could easily get lost wandering its cavernous maze of endless hallways and storage rooms:

09

Definitely not something you’d want to be doing if the lights were to suddenly go out.

add5

One of my favorite bits can be found just beyond this area…

10

…through a door that still bears its original sign…

11

This is what remains of the armory’s lecture hall:

12

With a bit of imagination, you can picture how it probably once was. Here’s the original stage:

13

On the mezzanine level, the last few seats:

14

Spiral staircase leading up to the mezzanine:

15

Around the corner is the second remnant – the armory’s old gym (in later years, used for boxing matches):

16

Again, in a state of dilapidation…

17

…but the backboards are still in place…

18

…along with a full gallery of seats. Seriously – hard not to picture those ghosts, isn’t it?

19

Nearby, the locker rooms:

19a

A few more details. I love this storage room door…

19d

Curious what was inside? Try and make out the scratched-out word and you’ll understand the emblem:

19e

On this staircase leading up to a higher level…

20

…note the railing number:

21

The main entranceway is in gorgeous condition, and I really hope it gets preserved:

a (8)

Upstairs, you’ll find more shadowy hallways…

g2

…with much of the woodwork still in place:

g3

A fireplace between two columns:

h2

Paratus Et Fidelis means Faithful And Ready:

h3

In another room…

i

…a second fireplace:

i1

Finally, a peak into a rounded room in one of the main turrets:

k1

I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes a high end office in the years to come:

k2

While there’s always a certain allure to the effects of abandonment, after nearly two decades of neglect, I’m looking forward to seeing the armory find new life in the coming years.

Pretty sure the ghosts are too.

-SCOUT

If you enjoyed reading this post, would you consider making a donation to help me make my first movie? The goal is $50,000, and to date, 1,701 Scouting NY readers have donated $35,874! Just $5 or $10 can make a difference - AND you get this snazzy Scouting NY sticker/magnet as a Thank-You gift! Click here to donate today!

try4

And hey, if you've made it this far, why not follow us via RSS, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Tumblr?

24 comments

  1. Paratus Et Fidelis is the motto of the 258th Field Artillery Regiment, and in all likelihood the rooms with the fireplace were offices for the headquarters staff. Seeing it reused by the directors of the new ice facility would be a perfect continuation for those offices.

    There is something else that should be mentioned, the biggest tenant is going to be the New York Islanders whose move to Brooklyn just occurred and which was to coincide originally with the renovation to the facility. That was three years ago, so it’s already way behind schedule.

    • True – but most projects like this end up behind schedule.
      Is that confirmed about the Islanders though? I know many schools had signed on – but didn’t know about the Islanders. Since the Bronx is on the “main land” and not on “the Long Island” (Brooklyn still is) though – I would think the Rangers would be a better fit. Plus Messier is a former Ranger. Cool either way though

      • It was announced in 2013 that they were going to use it as part of the initial renovation plan…there are a lot of stories about it still floating around if you would like verification.

        The Rangers already have a new facility in Tarrytown, doubtful that they will move south to the city when their owners own the facility outright…

  2. We used to have a similar [awesome building in Toronto](https://www.google.ca/search?q=university+ave+armouries+toronto&biw=1303&bih=894&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=4-N2VaCfKo2HyASCwIPoBA&ved=0CAgQ_AUoAw) but they tore it down in 1963. Shame! I hope you get something amazing done with yours.

    • The shame Laurin is the ugly Moss Park Armoury which replaced it. At least we still have the Fort York Armoury.

      • Oh the Moss Park one is horrid! And stupid location. Fort York isn’t bad, but it just ain’t like old one on University!

        And don’t get me started on the old Registry Building that was next door… Sure, our new City Hall is nice and all, but we lost a lot to have it there.

  3. Awesome! Can’t wait to see the progress and hope you will keep us posted on it!

  4. I live in The Bronx and took my military entrance exam there in 91-92′. I don’t remember much except it was a hot summer day and there was no air conditioning so I got sick and could not finish my test. Oh, well I guess it was not my destiny. I can’t wait for the renovation and to be able to go back inside.

  5. Wow, I bet you could shoot an entire season of Person of Interest in the below ground areas.

  6. An armory? That’s +15XP to units created in the city, right?
    http://civilization.wikia.com/wiki/Armory_%28Civ5%29

  7. This posting reminds me of my days serving in the New York Army National Guard from 1972 to 1978. The motor pool for my home base, the magnificent Seventh Regiment Armory on East 67th St. and Park Avenue, was in the bowels of the gargantuan Kingsbridge Armory. I had a few occasions when I would have to drive up to the Bronx to drop off a jeep which had just finished being used during a weekend’s maneuvers in Fort Dix or Fort Smith (near Peekskill, NY).

    The amazing changes in the uses of such large public buildings can be seen in how the storied Seventh Regiment Armory metamorphosed from its less-glamorous days of the ‘70’s to its current incarnation as a world-class space for a wide range of art installations and performances. Now known as the Park Avenue Armory, here are a couple of related links:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seventh_Regiment_Armory

    http://www.armoryonpark.org/about_us/history

  8. amazing shots! When were these pictures taken? I wonder if it’s gotten any worse.

  9. Great article and yes, what a splendid building. In the summer of 1981, a few close friends and I attended what would be the first and last “SugarHill’s Annual Rapper’s Convention” ever held. We saw many of the top acts in the infancy stages of Rap’s popularity movement. It was and still is, I believe, the first major organized concert featuring live Rap groups of that magnitude. Flash & Furious 5, Crash Crew, Grand Wizard Theodore & Fantastic 5, Mean Machine, Funky 4 plus 1, Sugar Hill Gang, etc., were a few of the names that performed that day.

  10. When I was a Warrant Officer in the Army National Guard back in the 70’s, I remember the sign up on the wall of the main entrence signed by the City Fire Marshal that read: “Occupancy by more than 32,914 is dangerous and unlawful.” I thought to myself, “Who’s counting?”

  11. WoW !
    The Kingsbridge Armory is a phenomenon that requires , some more master planning ; frankly Ice Skating Rinks
    are a wonderful idea , but for example : Hockey , requires a lot more equipment , than Soccer , which requires
    only a ball and a boy or girl to kick it around.
    Perhaps , it should also house a Military Museum , beginning with the 257th Field Artillery , as well as other
    Ancient and Honorable Military organizations , such as The Old Guard City Of New York , 307 West 91st Street,
    New York , New York 10024-1001 ( A Historic and Honorable New York City/State Military Command- Organized
    21 June 1826 – Summer Solstice = “Something Like Shakespeare’s , comedy , “Mid-Summer Nights Dream” )
    Only a suggestion , but it makes sense to me , you have enough room to invite several Military Organization’s
    to join you in gutting and stripping the interior to build a “Military Museum In Kingsbridge Armory For The
    Organizations In New York Representing The US Army , Navy , Marines ,Coast Guard ,and Airforce , by granting
    them space…However , I do like The Idea of Ice Skating Rinks ! Bravo !

  12. An ice skating rink! In the Bronx! REALLY?
    In a time of war and terrorism and when the state can’t even find a place for our military men and women, most especially the 1/258th Field Artillery whose home it actually was untill sold. They should of NOT SOLD this landmark and home of our state/country’s military. Clearly we see how screwed up our government (AGAIN) has its priorities so twisted. This could of been turned into an amazing and much needed home, training and administrative facility for ALL of our nation’s military branch of services and their families. ESPECIALLY DURING THESE TIMES. If not, then an all out multi-service recreational facility to include and focus on ALL sports that would serve kids interests from ALL of the Bronx and the city of New York. What a shame.

    • Dave P – what is wrong with ice sports in The Bronx? For one thing – it’s private money – not government money. As to the military idea – well that’s the issue – government has been cutting back on those types of things – so where do you expect the money to come from?
      In any event – basketball and baseball were not invented by the groups who are the majority in The Bronx. They play it because that is what is available. If given the opportunity – the next great figure skater or NHL player could have the name Rodriguez. Tennis wasn’t popular in Compton – but look at the Williams sisters. People need to be open minded.

  13. I spent years at the Kingsbridge Armory with the 258 FA. If you travel deep below the armory, you will find am escape tunnel you could drive a truck in that will take you all the way to the resivour. It was dug as an escape access in case an attack could not be repelled.

  14. I’m not convinced that Exit sign is as vintage as it first looks. There doesn’t seem to be any difference in depth between the letters and the surround… and the lighter patches on it almost make it look like it’s been prepared in a program like Photoshop.

    I’d be willing to bet at this point, in the absence of other proof, that it might be left over from a film or television production.

  15. My dad was ANG there for about 30 years, I practically grew up in that place, spent a lot of time in the gym and hanging out with guardsmen, learned how to load a howitzer before I was 10…….Parts of movie “I am legend” were filmed in there, thanks for these pics, stirring up a lot in my heart !

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*