BLACK CHURCHES & FRATERNAL SOCIETIES - BROOKLYN, NEW YORK
The church has long been at the heart of African-American life in Brooklyn, once known as the “city of churches.” In the 1760s, Captain Thomas Webb, a British convert to Wesleyan Methodism, began holding outdoor services in downtown Brooklyn before purchasing land on Sands Street in 1794 for what would become the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Brooklyn. The church was notable for its integrated white and black congregation, highly unusual for the time; however, African-American parishioners soon grew displeased with the discriminatory treatment they endured from the majority-white congregation. In 1818, blacks from the Sands Street church sent a delegation to Philadelphia to meet with Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in that city. After gaining recognition from the AME Church and the State of New York, the breakaway group founded the First African Wesleyan Methodist Episcopal Church, later known as the Bridge Street Church after it moved to that locale in 1854. The present Bridge Street Church is located on Stuyvesant Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where it continues to be a vital part of the community.
During the Civil War, Brooklyn’s small free black population was given a boost by the exodus of African Americans from Manhattan following the notorious Draft Riots. Small black communities, clustered near the waterfront in Downtown Brooklyn, Williamsburg and Fort Greene, were gradually drawn further out to areas like “Crow Hill” (Crown Heights) and Weeksville, the latter being the speculative venture of James Weeks, an African-American real estate developer. Successive waves of migrants from the post-Emancipation South were followed by immigrants from the Caribbean after World War I. By the mid-twentieth century, de facto segregation, government policies, and “redlining” by banks and real estate agencies had combined to concentrate people of African descent in Central Brooklyn, particularly in the neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights.
Church life continues to play a highly visible role in black Brooklyn, even as Bloomberg-era gentrification and high rents compound decades of neglect and threaten to displace older residents. While some of the images here—particularly those of the storefront churches which proliferated with the spread of various Pentacostal and Evangelical Protestant denominations—suggest a kind of picturesque decay, many congregations, such as Concord Street Baptist (founded 1847) and First AME Zion (1885) continue to thrive.
An interesting analogue to the black church has been the contemporaneous development of African-American fraternal societies, most famously the Prince Hall Freemasons, members of which continue to meet at the Enoch Grand Lodge on Nostrand Avenue (various Prince Hall lodges also utilize the larger Brooklyn Masonic Temple on Clermont Avenue in Fort Greene). Masonic insignia featuring the square and compass with the letter “G” abound on the building, seen in its stained glass and on its flagpole, and reflected on license-plate holders, window decals and the awning of a deli across the street. Founded by Prince Hall, a free African American who chartered an “African Lodge” during the Revolutionary War, the Prince Hall Masons formed part of a vital network linking antebellum free black communities, fostering close ties to the churches and taking an active part in antislavery agitation. In the Reconstruction South, black politicians and ministers organized Masonic lodges alongside AME churches and Republican Party clubs. Despite being excluded from the mainstream, whites-only iterations of fraternal societies, blacks formed their own lodges of Prince Hall Masons as well as of fraternal offshoots like the Odd-Fellows, the Knights of Pythias, and the Order of the Eastern Star. Membership in these organizations exploded in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as part of a general mania for secret societies and associations of all kinds. But for African Americans, the benevolent and charitable functions of these groups only grew in importance as segregation forced them to rely increasingly on institutions within their own communities for mutual aid and support.
One such organization, the all-female Grand United Order of Tents, was established in Norfolk, Virginia in 1866 by two former slaves, Annetta Lane and Harriet Taylor (the group may in fact have originated before the Civil War as part of the Underground Railroad organized to shelter runaway slaves). Their somewhat forlorn-looking former headquarters on MacDonough Street, in the former mansion of an Irish-American railroad magnate and banker, bears silent testimony to this now often-overlooked facet of African-American associational life.
Words - Sean Griffin; Images - Leah Frances
In order of appearance - top to bottom, left to right:
1) Vision Pentecostal Church of God - 1050 Utica Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11203
2) Glorious Trinity Baptist Church - 285 Kingston Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11213
3) Up South Missionary Baptist Church - 553 Waverly Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238
4) The Most Worshipful Enoch Grand Lodge of the Order of Masons - 423 Nostrand Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216
5) The Almighty God Ministries International - 329 Nostrand Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216
6) Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church - 228 Decatur St, Brooklyn, NY 11233
7) Church of God Victory - 658 Washington Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238
8) South Brooklyn Seventh-day Adventist Church - 1313 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216-2928
9) Eastern District Grand Tent #3, Grand United Order of Tents - 87 MacDonough St, Brooklyn, NY 11216
10) Lovely Hill Baptist Church - 375 Throop Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11221
11) The Greater New Harvest Church of Christ - 210 Kingston Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11213
12) First AME Zion Church - 54 MacDonough St, Brooklyn, NY 11216
13) Bridge Street AME Church - 277 Stuyvesant Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11221
14) The Concord Baptist Church of Christ - 833 Gardner C. Taylor Boulevard (formerly Marcy Avenue), Brooklyn, NY 11216
15) Grace Baptist Church - 1200 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216
* * *
Sean Griffin is a Ph.D student in U.S. History at the City University of New York Graduate Center.

Northeast Regional Guide Leah Frances was born in a small fishing village off the west coast of Canada and raised in Victoria, British Columbia. In pursuit of a graphic design career she moved to New York City in 2005 and now calls Crown Heights, Brooklyn, home. She spends her days in the production departments of magazines and her evenings studying at the International Center of Photography. Weekends you will find her in the back of a Greyhound bus, map in hand. Leah posts daily at americanroads.tumblr.com. 
Zoom Info
BLACK CHURCHES & FRATERNAL SOCIETIES - BROOKLYN, NEW YORK
The church has long been at the heart of African-American life in Brooklyn, once known as the “city of churches.” In the 1760s, Captain Thomas Webb, a British convert to Wesleyan Methodism, began holding outdoor services in downtown Brooklyn before purchasing land on Sands Street in 1794 for what would become the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Brooklyn. The church was notable for its integrated white and black congregation, highly unusual for the time; however, African-American parishioners soon grew displeased with the discriminatory treatment they endured from the majority-white congregation. In 1818, blacks from the Sands Street church sent a delegation to Philadelphia to meet with Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in that city. After gaining recognition from the AME Church and the State of New York, the breakaway group founded the First African Wesleyan Methodist Episcopal Church, later known as the Bridge Street Church after it moved to that locale in 1854. The present Bridge Street Church is located on Stuyvesant Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where it continues to be a vital part of the community.
During the Civil War, Brooklyn’s small free black population was given a boost by the exodus of African Americans from Manhattan following the notorious Draft Riots. Small black communities, clustered near the waterfront in Downtown Brooklyn, Williamsburg and Fort Greene, were gradually drawn further out to areas like “Crow Hill” (Crown Heights) and Weeksville, the latter being the speculative venture of James Weeks, an African-American real estate developer. Successive waves of migrants from the post-Emancipation South were followed by immigrants from the Caribbean after World War I. By the mid-twentieth century, de facto segregation, government policies, and “redlining” by banks and real estate agencies had combined to concentrate people of African descent in Central Brooklyn, particularly in the neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights.
Church life continues to play a highly visible role in black Brooklyn, even as Bloomberg-era gentrification and high rents compound decades of neglect and threaten to displace older residents. While some of the images here—particularly those of the storefront churches which proliferated with the spread of various Pentacostal and Evangelical Protestant denominations—suggest a kind of picturesque decay, many congregations, such as Concord Street Baptist (founded 1847) and First AME Zion (1885) continue to thrive.
An interesting analogue to the black church has been the contemporaneous development of African-American fraternal societies, most famously the Prince Hall Freemasons, members of which continue to meet at the Enoch Grand Lodge on Nostrand Avenue (various Prince Hall lodges also utilize the larger Brooklyn Masonic Temple on Clermont Avenue in Fort Greene). Masonic insignia featuring the square and compass with the letter “G” abound on the building, seen in its stained glass and on its flagpole, and reflected on license-plate holders, window decals and the awning of a deli across the street. Founded by Prince Hall, a free African American who chartered an “African Lodge” during the Revolutionary War, the Prince Hall Masons formed part of a vital network linking antebellum free black communities, fostering close ties to the churches and taking an active part in antislavery agitation. In the Reconstruction South, black politicians and ministers organized Masonic lodges alongside AME churches and Republican Party clubs. Despite being excluded from the mainstream, whites-only iterations of fraternal societies, blacks formed their own lodges of Prince Hall Masons as well as of fraternal offshoots like the Odd-Fellows, the Knights of Pythias, and the Order of the Eastern Star. Membership in these organizations exploded in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as part of a general mania for secret societies and associations of all kinds. But for African Americans, the benevolent and charitable functions of these groups only grew in importance as segregation forced them to rely increasingly on institutions within their own communities for mutual aid and support.
One such organization, the all-female Grand United Order of Tents, was established in Norfolk, Virginia in 1866 by two former slaves, Annetta Lane and Harriet Taylor (the group may in fact have originated before the Civil War as part of the Underground Railroad organized to shelter runaway slaves). Their somewhat forlorn-looking former headquarters on MacDonough Street, in the former mansion of an Irish-American railroad magnate and banker, bears silent testimony to this now often-overlooked facet of African-American associational life.
Words - Sean Griffin; Images - Leah Frances
In order of appearance - top to bottom, left to right:
1) Vision Pentecostal Church of God - 1050 Utica Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11203
2) Glorious Trinity Baptist Church - 285 Kingston Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11213
3) Up South Missionary Baptist Church - 553 Waverly Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238
4) The Most Worshipful Enoch Grand Lodge of the Order of Masons - 423 Nostrand Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216
5) The Almighty God Ministries International - 329 Nostrand Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216
6) Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church - 228 Decatur St, Brooklyn, NY 11233
7) Church of God Victory - 658 Washington Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238
8) South Brooklyn Seventh-day Adventist Church - 1313 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216-2928
9) Eastern District Grand Tent #3, Grand United Order of Tents - 87 MacDonough St, Brooklyn, NY 11216
10) Lovely Hill Baptist Church - 375 Throop Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11221
11) The Greater New Harvest Church of Christ - 210 Kingston Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11213
12) First AME Zion Church - 54 MacDonough St, Brooklyn, NY 11216
13) Bridge Street AME Church - 277 Stuyvesant Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11221
14) The Concord Baptist Church of Christ - 833 Gardner C. Taylor Boulevard (formerly Marcy Avenue), Brooklyn, NY 11216
15) Grace Baptist Church - 1200 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216
* * *
Sean Griffin is a Ph.D student in U.S. History at the City University of New York Graduate Center.

Northeast Regional Guide Leah Frances was born in a small fishing village off the west coast of Canada and raised in Victoria, British Columbia. In pursuit of a graphic design career she moved to New York City in 2005 and now calls Crown Heights, Brooklyn, home. She spends her days in the production departments of magazines and her evenings studying at the International Center of Photography. Weekends you will find her in the back of a Greyhound bus, map in hand. Leah posts daily at americanroads.tumblr.com. 
Zoom Info
BLACK CHURCHES & FRATERNAL SOCIETIES - BROOKLYN, NEW YORK
The church has long been at the heart of African-American life in Brooklyn, once known as the “city of churches.” In the 1760s, Captain Thomas Webb, a British convert to Wesleyan Methodism, began holding outdoor services in downtown Brooklyn before purchasing land on Sands Street in 1794 for what would become the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Brooklyn. The church was notable for its integrated white and black congregation, highly unusual for the time; however, African-American parishioners soon grew displeased with the discriminatory treatment they endured from the majority-white congregation. In 1818, blacks from the Sands Street church sent a delegation to Philadelphia to meet with Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in that city. After gaining recognition from the AME Church and the State of New York, the breakaway group founded the First African Wesleyan Methodist Episcopal Church, later known as the Bridge Street Church after it moved to that locale in 1854. The present Bridge Street Church is located on Stuyvesant Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where it continues to be a vital part of the community.
During the Civil War, Brooklyn’s small free black population was given a boost by the exodus of African Americans from Manhattan following the notorious Draft Riots. Small black communities, clustered near the waterfront in Downtown Brooklyn, Williamsburg and Fort Greene, were gradually drawn further out to areas like “Crow Hill” (Crown Heights) and Weeksville, the latter being the speculative venture of James Weeks, an African-American real estate developer. Successive waves of migrants from the post-Emancipation South were followed by immigrants from the Caribbean after World War I. By the mid-twentieth century, de facto segregation, government policies, and “redlining” by banks and real estate agencies had combined to concentrate people of African descent in Central Brooklyn, particularly in the neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights.
Church life continues to play a highly visible role in black Brooklyn, even as Bloomberg-era gentrification and high rents compound decades of neglect and threaten to displace older residents. While some of the images here—particularly those of the storefront churches which proliferated with the spread of various Pentacostal and Evangelical Protestant denominations—suggest a kind of picturesque decay, many congregations, such as Concord Street Baptist (founded 1847) and First AME Zion (1885) continue to thrive.
An interesting analogue to the black church has been the contemporaneous development of African-American fraternal societies, most famously the Prince Hall Freemasons, members of which continue to meet at the Enoch Grand Lodge on Nostrand Avenue (various Prince Hall lodges also utilize the larger Brooklyn Masonic Temple on Clermont Avenue in Fort Greene). Masonic insignia featuring the square and compass with the letter “G” abound on the building, seen in its stained glass and on its flagpole, and reflected on license-plate holders, window decals and the awning of a deli across the street. Founded by Prince Hall, a free African American who chartered an “African Lodge” during the Revolutionary War, the Prince Hall Masons formed part of a vital network linking antebellum free black communities, fostering close ties to the churches and taking an active part in antislavery agitation. In the Reconstruction South, black politicians and ministers organized Masonic lodges alongside AME churches and Republican Party clubs. Despite being excluded from the mainstream, whites-only iterations of fraternal societies, blacks formed their own lodges of Prince Hall Masons as well as of fraternal offshoots like the Odd-Fellows, the Knights of Pythias, and the Order of the Eastern Star. Membership in these organizations exploded in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as part of a general mania for secret societies and associations of all kinds. But for African Americans, the benevolent and charitable functions of these groups only grew in importance as segregation forced them to rely increasingly on institutions within their own communities for mutual aid and support.
One such organization, the all-female Grand United Order of Tents, was established in Norfolk, Virginia in 1866 by two former slaves, Annetta Lane and Harriet Taylor (the group may in fact have originated before the Civil War as part of the Underground Railroad organized to shelter runaway slaves). Their somewhat forlorn-looking former headquarters on MacDonough Street, in the former mansion of an Irish-American railroad magnate and banker, bears silent testimony to this now often-overlooked facet of African-American associational life.
Words - Sean Griffin; Images - Leah Frances
In order of appearance - top to bottom, left to right:
1) Vision Pentecostal Church of God - 1050 Utica Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11203
2) Glorious Trinity Baptist Church - 285 Kingston Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11213
3) Up South Missionary Baptist Church - 553 Waverly Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238
4) The Most Worshipful Enoch Grand Lodge of the Order of Masons - 423 Nostrand Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216
5) The Almighty God Ministries International - 329 Nostrand Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216
6) Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church - 228 Decatur St, Brooklyn, NY 11233
7) Church of God Victory - 658 Washington Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238
8) South Brooklyn Seventh-day Adventist Church - 1313 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216-2928
9) Eastern District Grand Tent #3, Grand United Order of Tents - 87 MacDonough St, Brooklyn, NY 11216
10) Lovely Hill Baptist Church - 375 Throop Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11221
11) The Greater New Harvest Church of Christ - 210 Kingston Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11213
12) First AME Zion Church - 54 MacDonough St, Brooklyn, NY 11216
13) Bridge Street AME Church - 277 Stuyvesant Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11221
14) The Concord Baptist Church of Christ - 833 Gardner C. Taylor Boulevard (formerly Marcy Avenue), Brooklyn, NY 11216
15) Grace Baptist Church - 1200 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216
* * *
Sean Griffin is a Ph.D student in U.S. History at the City University of New York Graduate Center.

Northeast Regional Guide Leah Frances was born in a small fishing village off the west coast of Canada and raised in Victoria, British Columbia. In pursuit of a graphic design career she moved to New York City in 2005 and now calls Crown Heights, Brooklyn, home. She spends her days in the production departments of magazines and her evenings studying at the International Center of Photography. Weekends you will find her in the back of a Greyhound bus, map in hand. Leah posts daily at americanroads.tumblr.com. 
Zoom Info
BLACK CHURCHES & FRATERNAL SOCIETIES - BROOKLYN, NEW YORK
The church has long been at the heart of African-American life in Brooklyn, once known as the “city of churches.” In the 1760s, Captain Thomas Webb, a British convert to Wesleyan Methodism, began holding outdoor services in downtown Brooklyn before purchasing land on Sands Street in 1794 for what would become the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Brooklyn. The church was notable for its integrated white and black congregation, highly unusual for the time; however, African-American parishioners soon grew displeased with the discriminatory treatment they endured from the majority-white congregation. In 1818, blacks from the Sands Street church sent a delegation to Philadelphia to meet with Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in that city. After gaining recognition from the AME Church and the State of New York, the breakaway group founded the First African Wesleyan Methodist Episcopal Church, later known as the Bridge Street Church after it moved to that locale in 1854. The present Bridge Street Church is located on Stuyvesant Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where it continues to be a vital part of the community.
During the Civil War, Brooklyn’s small free black population was given a boost by the exodus of African Americans from Manhattan following the notorious Draft Riots. Small black communities, clustered near the waterfront in Downtown Brooklyn, Williamsburg and Fort Greene, were gradually drawn further out to areas like “Crow Hill” (Crown Heights) and Weeksville, the latter being the speculative venture of James Weeks, an African-American real estate developer. Successive waves of migrants from the post-Emancipation South were followed by immigrants from the Caribbean after World War I. By the mid-twentieth century, de facto segregation, government policies, and “redlining” by banks and real estate agencies had combined to concentrate people of African descent in Central Brooklyn, particularly in the neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights.
Church life continues to play a highly visible role in black Brooklyn, even as Bloomberg-era gentrification and high rents compound decades of neglect and threaten to displace older residents. While some of the images here—particularly those of the storefront churches which proliferated with the spread of various Pentacostal and Evangelical Protestant denominations—suggest a kind of picturesque decay, many congregations, such as Concord Street Baptist (founded 1847) and First AME Zion (1885) continue to thrive.
An interesting analogue to the black church has been the contemporaneous development of African-American fraternal societies, most famously the Prince Hall Freemasons, members of which continue to meet at the Enoch Grand Lodge on Nostrand Avenue (various Prince Hall lodges also utilize the larger Brooklyn Masonic Temple on Clermont Avenue in Fort Greene). Masonic insignia featuring the square and compass with the letter “G” abound on the building, seen in its stained glass and on its flagpole, and reflected on license-plate holders, window decals and the awning of a deli across the street. Founded by Prince Hall, a free African American who chartered an “African Lodge” during the Revolutionary War, the Prince Hall Masons formed part of a vital network linking antebellum free black communities, fostering close ties to the churches and taking an active part in antislavery agitation. In the Reconstruction South, black politicians and ministers organized Masonic lodges alongside AME churches and Republican Party clubs. Despite being excluded from the mainstream, whites-only iterations of fraternal societies, blacks formed their own lodges of Prince Hall Masons as well as of fraternal offshoots like the Odd-Fellows, the Knights of Pythias, and the Order of the Eastern Star. Membership in these organizations exploded in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as part of a general mania for secret societies and associations of all kinds. But for African Americans, the benevolent and charitable functions of these groups only grew in importance as segregation forced them to rely increasingly on institutions within their own communities for mutual aid and support.
One such organization, the all-female Grand United Order of Tents, was established in Norfolk, Virginia in 1866 by two former slaves, Annetta Lane and Harriet Taylor (the group may in fact have originated before the Civil War as part of the Underground Railroad organized to shelter runaway slaves). Their somewhat forlorn-looking former headquarters on MacDonough Street, in the former mansion of an Irish-American railroad magnate and banker, bears silent testimony to this now often-overlooked facet of African-American associational life.
Words - Sean Griffin; Images - Leah Frances
In order of appearance - top to bottom, left to right:
1) Vision Pentecostal Church of God - 1050 Utica Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11203
2) Glorious Trinity Baptist Church - 285 Kingston Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11213
3) Up South Missionary Baptist Church - 553 Waverly Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238
4) The Most Worshipful Enoch Grand Lodge of the Order of Masons - 423 Nostrand Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216
5) The Almighty God Ministries International - 329 Nostrand Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216
6) Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church - 228 Decatur St, Brooklyn, NY 11233
7) Church of God Victory - 658 Washington Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238
8) South Brooklyn Seventh-day Adventist Church - 1313 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216-2928
9) Eastern District Grand Tent #3, Grand United Order of Tents - 87 MacDonough St, Brooklyn, NY 11216
10) Lovely Hill Baptist Church - 375 Throop Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11221
11) The Greater New Harvest Church of Christ - 210 Kingston Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11213
12) First AME Zion Church - 54 MacDonough St, Brooklyn, NY 11216
13) Bridge Street AME Church - 277 Stuyvesant Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11221
14) The Concord Baptist Church of Christ - 833 Gardner C. Taylor Boulevard (formerly Marcy Avenue), Brooklyn, NY 11216
15) Grace Baptist Church - 1200 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216
* * *
Sean Griffin is a Ph.D student in U.S. History at the City University of New York Graduate Center.

Northeast Regional Guide Leah Frances was born in a small fishing village off the west coast of Canada and raised in Victoria, British Columbia. In pursuit of a graphic design career she moved to New York City in 2005 and now calls Crown Heights, Brooklyn, home. She spends her days in the production departments of magazines and her evenings studying at the International Center of Photography. Weekends you will find her in the back of a Greyhound bus, map in hand. Leah posts daily at americanroads.tumblr.com. 
Zoom Info
BLACK CHURCHES & FRATERNAL SOCIETIES - BROOKLYN, NEW YORK
The church has long been at the heart of African-American life in Brooklyn, once known as the “city of churches.” In the 1760s, Captain Thomas Webb, a British convert to Wesleyan Methodism, began holding outdoor services in downtown Brooklyn before purchasing land on Sands Street in 1794 for what would become the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Brooklyn. The church was notable for its integrated white and black congregation, highly unusual for the time; however, African-American parishioners soon grew displeased with the discriminatory treatment they endured from the majority-white congregation. In 1818, blacks from the Sands Street church sent a delegation to Philadelphia to meet with Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in that city. After gaining recognition from the AME Church and the State of New York, the breakaway group founded the First African Wesleyan Methodist Episcopal Church, later known as the Bridge Street Church after it moved to that locale in 1854. The present Bridge Street Church is located on Stuyvesant Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where it continues to be a vital part of the community.
During the Civil War, Brooklyn’s small free black population was given a boost by the exodus of African Americans from Manhattan following the notorious Draft Riots. Small black communities, clustered near the waterfront in Downtown Brooklyn, Williamsburg and Fort Greene, were gradually drawn further out to areas like “Crow Hill” (Crown Heights) and Weeksville, the latter being the speculative venture of James Weeks, an African-American real estate developer. Successive waves of migrants from the post-Emancipation South were followed by immigrants from the Caribbean after World War I. By the mid-twentieth century, de facto segregation, government policies, and “redlining” by banks and real estate agencies had combined to concentrate people of African descent in Central Brooklyn, particularly in the neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights.
Church life continues to play a highly visible role in black Brooklyn, even as Bloomberg-era gentrification and high rents compound decades of neglect and threaten to displace older residents. While some of the images here—particularly those of the storefront churches which proliferated with the spread of various Pentacostal and Evangelical Protestant denominations—suggest a kind of picturesque decay, many congregations, such as Concord Street Baptist (founded 1847) and First AME Zion (1885) continue to thrive.
An interesting analogue to the black church has been the contemporaneous development of African-American fraternal societies, most famously the Prince Hall Freemasons, members of which continue to meet at the Enoch Grand Lodge on Nostrand Avenue (various Prince Hall lodges also utilize the larger Brooklyn Masonic Temple on Clermont Avenue in Fort Greene). Masonic insignia featuring the square and compass with the letter “G” abound on the building, seen in its stained glass and on its flagpole, and reflected on license-plate holders, window decals and the awning of a deli across the street. Founded by Prince Hall, a free African American who chartered an “African Lodge” during the Revolutionary War, the Prince Hall Masons formed part of a vital network linking antebellum free black communities, fostering close ties to the churches and taking an active part in antislavery agitation. In the Reconstruction South, black politicians and ministers organized Masonic lodges alongside AME churches and Republican Party clubs. Despite being excluded from the mainstream, whites-only iterations of fraternal societies, blacks formed their own lodges of Prince Hall Masons as well as of fraternal offshoots like the Odd-Fellows, the Knights of Pythias, and the Order of the Eastern Star. Membership in these organizations exploded in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as part of a general mania for secret societies and associations of all kinds. But for African Americans, the benevolent and charitable functions of these groups only grew in importance as segregation forced them to rely increasingly on institutions within their own communities for mutual aid and support.
One such organization, the all-female Grand United Order of Tents, was established in Norfolk, Virginia in 1866 by two former slaves, Annetta Lane and Harriet Taylor (the group may in fact have originated before the Civil War as part of the Underground Railroad organized to shelter runaway slaves). Their somewhat forlorn-looking former headquarters on MacDonough Street, in the former mansion of an Irish-American railroad magnate and banker, bears silent testimony to this now often-overlooked facet of African-American associational life.
Words - Sean Griffin; Images - Leah Frances
In order of appearance - top to bottom, left to right:
1) Vision Pentecostal Church of God - 1050 Utica Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11203
2) Glorious Trinity Baptist Church - 285 Kingston Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11213
3) Up South Missionary Baptist Church - 553 Waverly Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238
4) The Most Worshipful Enoch Grand Lodge of the Order of Masons - 423 Nostrand Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216
5) The Almighty God Ministries International - 329 Nostrand Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216
6) Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church - 228 Decatur St, Brooklyn, NY 11233
7) Church of God Victory - 658 Washington Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238
8) South Brooklyn Seventh-day Adventist Church - 1313 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216-2928
9) Eastern District Grand Tent #3, Grand United Order of Tents - 87 MacDonough St, Brooklyn, NY 11216
10) Lovely Hill Baptist Church - 375 Throop Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11221
11) The Greater New Harvest Church of Christ - 210 Kingston Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11213
12) First AME Zion Church - 54 MacDonough St, Brooklyn, NY 11216
13) Bridge Street AME Church - 277 Stuyvesant Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11221
14) The Concord Baptist Church of Christ - 833 Gardner C. Taylor Boulevard (formerly Marcy Avenue), Brooklyn, NY 11216
15) Grace Baptist Church - 1200 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216
* * *
Sean Griffin is a Ph.D student in U.S. History at the City University of New York Graduate Center.

Northeast Regional Guide Leah Frances was born in a small fishing village off the west coast of Canada and raised in Victoria, British Columbia. In pursuit of a graphic design career she moved to New York City in 2005 and now calls Crown Heights, Brooklyn, home. She spends her days in the production departments of magazines and her evenings studying at the International Center of Photography. Weekends you will find her in the back of a Greyhound bus, map in hand. Leah posts daily at americanroads.tumblr.com. 
Zoom Info

BLACK CHURCHES & FRATERNAL SOCIETIES - BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

The church has long been at the heart of African-American life in Brooklyn, once known as the “city of churches.” In the 1760s, Captain Thomas Webb, a British convert to Wesleyan Methodism, began holding outdoor services in downtown Brooklyn before purchasing land on Sands Street in 1794 for what would become the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Brooklyn. The church was notable for its integrated white and black congregation, highly unusual for the time; however, African-American parishioners soon grew displeased with the discriminatory treatment they endured from the majority-white congregation. In 1818, blacks from the Sands Street church sent a delegation to Philadelphia to meet with Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in that city. After gaining recognition from the AME Church and the State of New York, the breakaway group founded the First African Wesleyan Methodist Episcopal Church, later known as the Bridge Street Church after it moved to that locale in 1854. The present Bridge Street Church is located on Stuyvesant Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where it continues to be a vital part of the community.

During the Civil War, Brooklyn’s small free black population was given a boost by the exodus of African Americans from Manhattan following the notorious Draft Riots. Small black communities, clustered near the waterfront in Downtown Brooklyn, Williamsburg and Fort Greene, were gradually drawn further out to areas like “Crow Hill” (Crown Heights) and Weeksville, the latter being the speculative venture of James Weeks, an African-American real estate developer. Successive waves of migrants from the post-Emancipation South were followed by immigrants from the Caribbean after World War I. By the mid-twentieth century, de facto segregation, government policies, and “redlining” by banks and real estate agencies had combined to concentrate people of African descent in Central Brooklyn, particularly in the neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights.

Church life continues to play a highly visible role in black Brooklyn, even as Bloomberg-era gentrification and high rents compound decades of neglect and threaten to displace older residents. While some of the images here—particularly those of the storefront churches which proliferated with the spread of various Pentacostal and Evangelical Protestant denominations—suggest a kind of picturesque decay, many congregations, such as Concord Street Baptist (founded 1847) and First AME Zion (1885) continue to thrive.

An interesting analogue to the black church has been the contemporaneous development of African-American fraternal societies, most famously the Prince Hall Freemasons, members of which continue to meet at the Enoch Grand Lodge on Nostrand Avenue (various Prince Hall lodges also utilize the larger Brooklyn Masonic Temple on Clermont Avenue in Fort Greene). Masonic insignia featuring the square and compass with the letter “G” abound on the building, seen in its stained glass and on its flagpole, and reflected on license-plate holders, window decals and the awning of a deli across the street. Founded by Prince Hall, a free African American who chartered an “African Lodge” during the Revolutionary War, the Prince Hall Masons formed part of a vital network linking antebellum free black communities, fostering close ties to the churches and taking an active part in antislavery agitation. In the Reconstruction South, black politicians and ministers organized Masonic lodges alongside AME churches and Republican Party clubs. Despite being excluded from the mainstream, whites-only iterations of fraternal societies, blacks formed their own lodges of Prince Hall Masons as well as of fraternal offshoots like the Odd-Fellows, the Knights of Pythias, and the Order of the Eastern Star. Membership in these organizations exploded in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as part of a general mania for secret societies and associations of all kinds. But for African Americans, the benevolent and charitable functions of these groups only grew in importance as segregation forced them to rely increasingly on institutions within their own communities for mutual aid and support.

One such organization, the all-female Grand United Order of Tents, was established in Norfolk, Virginia in 1866 by two former slaves, Annetta Lane and Harriet Taylor (the group may in fact have originated before the Civil War as part of the Underground Railroad organized to shelter runaway slaves). Their somewhat forlorn-looking former headquarters on MacDonough Street, in the former mansion of an Irish-American railroad magnate and banker, bears silent testimony to this now often-overlooked facet of African-American associational life.

Words - Sean Griffin; Images - Leah Frances

In order of appearance - top to bottom, left to right:

1) Vision Pentecostal Church of God - 1050 Utica Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11203

2) Glorious Trinity Baptist Church - 285 Kingston Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11213

3) Up South Missionary Baptist Church - 553 Waverly Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238

4) The Most Worshipful Enoch Grand Lodge of the Order of Masons - 423 Nostrand Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216

5) The Almighty God Ministries International - 329 Nostrand Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216

6) Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church - 228 Decatur St, Brooklyn, NY 11233

7) Church of God Victory - 658 Washington Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238

8) South Brooklyn Seventh-day Adventist Church - 1313 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216-2928

9) Eastern District Grand Tent #3, Grand United Order of Tents - 87 MacDonough St, Brooklyn, NY 11216

10) Lovely Hill Baptist Church - 375 Throop Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11221

11) The Greater New Harvest Church of Christ - 210 Kingston Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11213

12) First AME Zion Church - 54 MacDonough St, Brooklyn, NY 11216

13) Bridge Street AME Church - 277 Stuyvesant Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11221

14) The Concord Baptist Church of Christ - 833 Gardner C. Taylor Boulevard (formerly Marcy Avenue), Brooklyn, NY 11216

15) Grace Baptist Church - 1200 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216

* * *

Sean Griffin is a Ph.D student in U.S. History at the City University of New York Graduate Center.

Northeast Regional Guide Leah Frances was born in a small fishing village off the west coast of Canada and raised in Victoria, British Columbia. In pursuit of a graphic design career she moved to New York City in 2005 and now calls Crown Heights, Brooklyn, home. She spends her days in the production departments of magazines and her evenings studying at the International Center of Photography. Weekends you will find her in the back of a Greyhound bus, map in hand. Leah posts daily at americanroads.tumblr.com. 

THE SUNSET PARK NEIGHBORHOOD - BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

The SUNSET PARK NEIGHBORHOOD, south of Fifth Avenue and Thirty-sixth Street, is inhabited by a large number of Scandinavians and Finns. Local enterprises including small businesses of every type are bound together in the nationally known Finnish Co-operative Association. The apartment house at 816 Forty-third Street, opened in 1916, is supposedly the first co-operative dwelling established in New York City. Within the locality are several Finnish steam baths; the restaurants feature Finnish dishes: kaalikeitto (cabbage soup), lihapullat (meat balls), silliperunat (herring and potatoes); the homeland’s culture is kept alive by Finnish societies; and folk dances are held occasionally at which the women wear the gay peasant costumes of their native land. The bluff of Sunset Park, Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street, affords a thrilling view of the harbor.
—New York City Guide: A Comprehensive Guide to the Five Boroughs of the Metropolis (WPA, 1939)

Read more at URBAN OMNIBUS for a historical field trip through Sunset Park, Brooklyn, with guide Jonathan Tarleton. 
* * *
Jonathan Tarleton is a State Guide to New York. He was schooled in Georgia and North Carolina before moving on to denser pastures in Brooklyn. He currently helps out at Urban Omnibus where he researches and writes about the policy, art, peculiarities, and movements that make New York City so enticingly combative. He likes to be outside and to make things, preferably concurrently. Follow him on Tumblr at jttarleton.tumblr.com and find more of his NYC field trips at Urban Omnibus.
Zoom Info
THE SUNSET PARK NEIGHBORHOOD - BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

The SUNSET PARK NEIGHBORHOOD, south of Fifth Avenue and Thirty-sixth Street, is inhabited by a large number of Scandinavians and Finns. Local enterprises including small businesses of every type are bound together in the nationally known Finnish Co-operative Association. The apartment house at 816 Forty-third Street, opened in 1916, is supposedly the first co-operative dwelling established in New York City. Within the locality are several Finnish steam baths; the restaurants feature Finnish dishes: kaalikeitto (cabbage soup), lihapullat (meat balls), silliperunat (herring and potatoes); the homeland’s culture is kept alive by Finnish societies; and folk dances are held occasionally at which the women wear the gay peasant costumes of their native land. The bluff of Sunset Park, Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street, affords a thrilling view of the harbor.
—New York City Guide: A Comprehensive Guide to the Five Boroughs of the Metropolis (WPA, 1939)

Read more at URBAN OMNIBUS for a historical field trip through Sunset Park, Brooklyn, with guide Jonathan Tarleton. 
* * *
Jonathan Tarleton is a State Guide to New York. He was schooled in Georgia and North Carolina before moving on to denser pastures in Brooklyn. He currently helps out at Urban Omnibus where he researches and writes about the policy, art, peculiarities, and movements that make New York City so enticingly combative. He likes to be outside and to make things, preferably concurrently. Follow him on Tumblr at jttarleton.tumblr.com and find more of his NYC field trips at Urban Omnibus.
Zoom Info
THE SUNSET PARK NEIGHBORHOOD - BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

The SUNSET PARK NEIGHBORHOOD, south of Fifth Avenue and Thirty-sixth Street, is inhabited by a large number of Scandinavians and Finns. Local enterprises including small businesses of every type are bound together in the nationally known Finnish Co-operative Association. The apartment house at 816 Forty-third Street, opened in 1916, is supposedly the first co-operative dwelling established in New York City. Within the locality are several Finnish steam baths; the restaurants feature Finnish dishes: kaalikeitto (cabbage soup), lihapullat (meat balls), silliperunat (herring and potatoes); the homeland’s culture is kept alive by Finnish societies; and folk dances are held occasionally at which the women wear the gay peasant costumes of their native land. The bluff of Sunset Park, Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street, affords a thrilling view of the harbor.
—New York City Guide: A Comprehensive Guide to the Five Boroughs of the Metropolis (WPA, 1939)

Read more at URBAN OMNIBUS for a historical field trip through Sunset Park, Brooklyn, with guide Jonathan Tarleton. 
* * *
Jonathan Tarleton is a State Guide to New York. He was schooled in Georgia and North Carolina before moving on to denser pastures in Brooklyn. He currently helps out at Urban Omnibus where he researches and writes about the policy, art, peculiarities, and movements that make New York City so enticingly combative. He likes to be outside and to make things, preferably concurrently. Follow him on Tumblr at jttarleton.tumblr.com and find more of his NYC field trips at Urban Omnibus.
Zoom Info
THE SUNSET PARK NEIGHBORHOOD - BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

The SUNSET PARK NEIGHBORHOOD, south of Fifth Avenue and Thirty-sixth Street, is inhabited by a large number of Scandinavians and Finns. Local enterprises including small businesses of every type are bound together in the nationally known Finnish Co-operative Association. The apartment house at 816 Forty-third Street, opened in 1916, is supposedly the first co-operative dwelling established in New York City. Within the locality are several Finnish steam baths; the restaurants feature Finnish dishes: kaalikeitto (cabbage soup), lihapullat (meat balls), silliperunat (herring and potatoes); the homeland’s culture is kept alive by Finnish societies; and folk dances are held occasionally at which the women wear the gay peasant costumes of their native land. The bluff of Sunset Park, Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street, affords a thrilling view of the harbor.
—New York City Guide: A Comprehensive Guide to the Five Boroughs of the Metropolis (WPA, 1939)

Read more at URBAN OMNIBUS for a historical field trip through Sunset Park, Brooklyn, with guide Jonathan Tarleton. 
* * *
Jonathan Tarleton is a State Guide to New York. He was schooled in Georgia and North Carolina before moving on to denser pastures in Brooklyn. He currently helps out at Urban Omnibus where he researches and writes about the policy, art, peculiarities, and movements that make New York City so enticingly combative. He likes to be outside and to make things, preferably concurrently. Follow him on Tumblr at jttarleton.tumblr.com and find more of his NYC field trips at Urban Omnibus.
Zoom Info
THE SUNSET PARK NEIGHBORHOOD - BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

The SUNSET PARK NEIGHBORHOOD, south of Fifth Avenue and Thirty-sixth Street, is inhabited by a large number of Scandinavians and Finns. Local enterprises including small businesses of every type are bound together in the nationally known Finnish Co-operative Association. The apartment house at 816 Forty-third Street, opened in 1916, is supposedly the first co-operative dwelling established in New York City. Within the locality are several Finnish steam baths; the restaurants feature Finnish dishes: kaalikeitto (cabbage soup), lihapullat (meat balls), silliperunat (herring and potatoes); the homeland’s culture is kept alive by Finnish societies; and folk dances are held occasionally at which the women wear the gay peasant costumes of their native land. The bluff of Sunset Park, Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street, affords a thrilling view of the harbor.
—New York City Guide: A Comprehensive Guide to the Five Boroughs of the Metropolis (WPA, 1939)

Read more at URBAN OMNIBUS for a historical field trip through Sunset Park, Brooklyn, with guide Jonathan Tarleton. 
* * *
Jonathan Tarleton is a State Guide to New York. He was schooled in Georgia and North Carolina before moving on to denser pastures in Brooklyn. He currently helps out at Urban Omnibus where he researches and writes about the policy, art, peculiarities, and movements that make New York City so enticingly combative. He likes to be outside and to make things, preferably concurrently. Follow him on Tumblr at jttarleton.tumblr.com and find more of his NYC field trips at Urban Omnibus.
Zoom Info

THE SUNSET PARK NEIGHBORHOOD - BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

The SUNSET PARK NEIGHBORHOOD, south of Fifth Avenue and Thirty-sixth Street, is inhabited by a large number of Scandinavians and Finns. Local enterprises including small businesses of every type are bound together in the nationally known Finnish Co-operative Association. The apartment house at 816 Forty-third Street, opened in 1916, is supposedly the first co-operative dwelling established in New York City. Within the locality are several Finnish steam baths; the restaurants feature Finnish dishes: kaalikeitto (cabbage soup), lihapullat (meat balls), silliperunat (herring and potatoes); the homeland’s culture is kept alive by Finnish societies; and folk dances are held occasionally at which the women wear the gay peasant costumes of their native land. The bluff of Sunset Park, Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street, affords a thrilling view of the harbor.

New York City Guide: A Comprehensive Guide to the Five Boroughs of the Metropolis (WPA, 1939)

Read more at URBAN OMNIBUS for a historical field trip through Sunset Park, Brooklyn, with guide Jonathan Tarleton. 

* * *

Jonathan Tarleton is a State Guide to New York. He was schooled in Georgia and North Carolina before moving on to denser pastures in Brooklyn. He currently helps out at Urban Omnibus where he researches and writes about the policy, art, peculiarities, and movements that make New York City so enticingly combative. He likes to be outside and to make things, preferably concurrently. Follow him on Tumblr at jttarleton.tumblr.com and find more of his NYC field trips at Urban Omnibus.

CONEY ISLAND MERMAID DAY PARADE - BROOKLYN, NEW YORK
The hot press of flesh and glitter on Brooklyn’s sandy shore. Guide to New York Leah Frances tags in with her contribution to Field Assignment #4 - Folk festivals, Pageants, Celebrations, and Customs:

Originating in 1983, the Coney Island Mermaid Parade takes place every June at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, usually on the Saturday closest to the official start of summer. Billed as the nation’s largest art parade, it pays tribute to the Mardi Gras-type pageantry regularly in evidence on the boardwalk in the beginning of the 20th century. Consisting of marchers in hand-made costumes, push-pull and motorized floats, and antique cars, the parade showcases over 1,500 creative individuals and brings out hundreds of thousands of spectators.
The 2014 Mermaid Parade will be held Saturday, June 21st.

* * *

Leah Frances was born in a small fishing village off the west coast of Canada and raised in Victoria, British Columbia. In pursuit of a graphic design career she moved to New York City in 2005 and now calls Crown Heights, Brooklyn, home. Leah posts daily at americanroads.tumblr.com. 
Zoom Info
CONEY ISLAND MERMAID DAY PARADE - BROOKLYN, NEW YORK
The hot press of flesh and glitter on Brooklyn’s sandy shore. Guide to New York Leah Frances tags in with her contribution to Field Assignment #4 - Folk festivals, Pageants, Celebrations, and Customs:

Originating in 1983, the Coney Island Mermaid Parade takes place every June at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, usually on the Saturday closest to the official start of summer. Billed as the nation’s largest art parade, it pays tribute to the Mardi Gras-type pageantry regularly in evidence on the boardwalk in the beginning of the 20th century. Consisting of marchers in hand-made costumes, push-pull and motorized floats, and antique cars, the parade showcases over 1,500 creative individuals and brings out hundreds of thousands of spectators.
The 2014 Mermaid Parade will be held Saturday, June 21st.

* * *

Leah Frances was born in a small fishing village off the west coast of Canada and raised in Victoria, British Columbia. In pursuit of a graphic design career she moved to New York City in 2005 and now calls Crown Heights, Brooklyn, home. Leah posts daily at americanroads.tumblr.com. 
Zoom Info
CONEY ISLAND MERMAID DAY PARADE - BROOKLYN, NEW YORK
The hot press of flesh and glitter on Brooklyn’s sandy shore. Guide to New York Leah Frances tags in with her contribution to Field Assignment #4 - Folk festivals, Pageants, Celebrations, and Customs:

Originating in 1983, the Coney Island Mermaid Parade takes place every June at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, usually on the Saturday closest to the official start of summer. Billed as the nation’s largest art parade, it pays tribute to the Mardi Gras-type pageantry regularly in evidence on the boardwalk in the beginning of the 20th century. Consisting of marchers in hand-made costumes, push-pull and motorized floats, and antique cars, the parade showcases over 1,500 creative individuals and brings out hundreds of thousands of spectators.
The 2014 Mermaid Parade will be held Saturday, June 21st.

* * *

Leah Frances was born in a small fishing village off the west coast of Canada and raised in Victoria, British Columbia. In pursuit of a graphic design career she moved to New York City in 2005 and now calls Crown Heights, Brooklyn, home. Leah posts daily at americanroads.tumblr.com. 
Zoom Info
CONEY ISLAND MERMAID DAY PARADE - BROOKLYN, NEW YORK
The hot press of flesh and glitter on Brooklyn’s sandy shore. Guide to New York Leah Frances tags in with her contribution to Field Assignment #4 - Folk festivals, Pageants, Celebrations, and Customs:

Originating in 1983, the Coney Island Mermaid Parade takes place every June at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, usually on the Saturday closest to the official start of summer. Billed as the nation’s largest art parade, it pays tribute to the Mardi Gras-type pageantry regularly in evidence on the boardwalk in the beginning of the 20th century. Consisting of marchers in hand-made costumes, push-pull and motorized floats, and antique cars, the parade showcases over 1,500 creative individuals and brings out hundreds of thousands of spectators.
The 2014 Mermaid Parade will be held Saturday, June 21st.

* * *

Leah Frances was born in a small fishing village off the west coast of Canada and raised in Victoria, British Columbia. In pursuit of a graphic design career she moved to New York City in 2005 and now calls Crown Heights, Brooklyn, home. Leah posts daily at americanroads.tumblr.com. 
Zoom Info
CONEY ISLAND MERMAID DAY PARADE - BROOKLYN, NEW YORK
The hot press of flesh and glitter on Brooklyn’s sandy shore. Guide to New York Leah Frances tags in with her contribution to Field Assignment #4 - Folk festivals, Pageants, Celebrations, and Customs:

Originating in 1983, the Coney Island Mermaid Parade takes place every June at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, usually on the Saturday closest to the official start of summer. Billed as the nation’s largest art parade, it pays tribute to the Mardi Gras-type pageantry regularly in evidence on the boardwalk in the beginning of the 20th century. Consisting of marchers in hand-made costumes, push-pull and motorized floats, and antique cars, the parade showcases over 1,500 creative individuals and brings out hundreds of thousands of spectators.
The 2014 Mermaid Parade will be held Saturday, June 21st.

* * *

Leah Frances was born in a small fishing village off the west coast of Canada and raised in Victoria, British Columbia. In pursuit of a graphic design career she moved to New York City in 2005 and now calls Crown Heights, Brooklyn, home. Leah posts daily at americanroads.tumblr.com. 
Zoom Info
CONEY ISLAND MERMAID DAY PARADE - BROOKLYN, NEW YORK
The hot press of flesh and glitter on Brooklyn’s sandy shore. Guide to New York Leah Frances tags in with her contribution to Field Assignment #4 - Folk festivals, Pageants, Celebrations, and Customs:

Originating in 1983, the Coney Island Mermaid Parade takes place every June at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, usually on the Saturday closest to the official start of summer. Billed as the nation’s largest art parade, it pays tribute to the Mardi Gras-type pageantry regularly in evidence on the boardwalk in the beginning of the 20th century. Consisting of marchers in hand-made costumes, push-pull and motorized floats, and antique cars, the parade showcases over 1,500 creative individuals and brings out hundreds of thousands of spectators.
The 2014 Mermaid Parade will be held Saturday, June 21st.

* * *

Leah Frances was born in a small fishing village off the west coast of Canada and raised in Victoria, British Columbia. In pursuit of a graphic design career she moved to New York City in 2005 and now calls Crown Heights, Brooklyn, home. Leah posts daily at americanroads.tumblr.com. 
Zoom Info
CONEY ISLAND MERMAID DAY PARADE - BROOKLYN, NEW YORK
The hot press of flesh and glitter on Brooklyn’s sandy shore. Guide to New York Leah Frances tags in with her contribution to Field Assignment #4 - Folk festivals, Pageants, Celebrations, and Customs:

Originating in 1983, the Coney Island Mermaid Parade takes place every June at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, usually on the Saturday closest to the official start of summer. Billed as the nation’s largest art parade, it pays tribute to the Mardi Gras-type pageantry regularly in evidence on the boardwalk in the beginning of the 20th century. Consisting of marchers in hand-made costumes, push-pull and motorized floats, and antique cars, the parade showcases over 1,500 creative individuals and brings out hundreds of thousands of spectators.
The 2014 Mermaid Parade will be held Saturday, June 21st.

* * *

Leah Frances was born in a small fishing village off the west coast of Canada and raised in Victoria, British Columbia. In pursuit of a graphic design career she moved to New York City in 2005 and now calls Crown Heights, Brooklyn, home. Leah posts daily at americanroads.tumblr.com. 
Zoom Info
CONEY ISLAND MERMAID DAY PARADE - BROOKLYN, NEW YORK
The hot press of flesh and glitter on Brooklyn’s sandy shore. Guide to New York Leah Frances tags in with her contribution to Field Assignment #4 - Folk festivals, Pageants, Celebrations, and Customs:

Originating in 1983, the Coney Island Mermaid Parade takes place every June at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, usually on the Saturday closest to the official start of summer. Billed as the nation’s largest art parade, it pays tribute to the Mardi Gras-type pageantry regularly in evidence on the boardwalk in the beginning of the 20th century. Consisting of marchers in hand-made costumes, push-pull and motorized floats, and antique cars, the parade showcases over 1,500 creative individuals and brings out hundreds of thousands of spectators.
The 2014 Mermaid Parade will be held Saturday, June 21st.

* * *

Leah Frances was born in a small fishing village off the west coast of Canada and raised in Victoria, British Columbia. In pursuit of a graphic design career she moved to New York City in 2005 and now calls Crown Heights, Brooklyn, home. Leah posts daily at americanroads.tumblr.com. 
Zoom Info
CONEY ISLAND MERMAID DAY PARADE - BROOKLYN, NEW YORK
The hot press of flesh and glitter on Brooklyn’s sandy shore. Guide to New York Leah Frances tags in with her contribution to Field Assignment #4 - Folk festivals, Pageants, Celebrations, and Customs:

Originating in 1983, the Coney Island Mermaid Parade takes place every June at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, usually on the Saturday closest to the official start of summer. Billed as the nation’s largest art parade, it pays tribute to the Mardi Gras-type pageantry regularly in evidence on the boardwalk in the beginning of the 20th century. Consisting of marchers in hand-made costumes, push-pull and motorized floats, and antique cars, the parade showcases over 1,500 creative individuals and brings out hundreds of thousands of spectators.
The 2014 Mermaid Parade will be held Saturday, June 21st.

* * *

Leah Frances was born in a small fishing village off the west coast of Canada and raised in Victoria, British Columbia. In pursuit of a graphic design career she moved to New York City in 2005 and now calls Crown Heights, Brooklyn, home. Leah posts daily at americanroads.tumblr.com. 
Zoom Info

CONEY ISLAND MERMAID DAY PARADE - BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

The hot press of flesh and glitter on Brooklyn’s sandy shore. Guide to New York Leah Frances tags in with her contribution to Field Assignment #4 - Folk festivals, Pageants, Celebrations, and Customs:

Originating in 1983, the Coney Island Mermaid Parade takes place every June at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, usually on the Saturday closest to the official start of summer. Billed as the nation’s largest art parade, it pays tribute to the Mardi Gras-type pageantry regularly in evidence on the boardwalk in the beginning of the 20th century. Consisting of marchers in hand-made costumes, push-pull and motorized floats, and antique cars, the parade showcases over 1,500 creative individuals and brings out hundreds of thousands of spectators.

The 2014 Mermaid Parade will be held Saturday, June 21st.

* * *

Leah Frances was born in a small fishing village off the west coast of Canada and raised in Victoria, British Columbia. In pursuit of a graphic design career she moved to New York City in 2005 and now calls Crown Heights, Brooklyn, home. Leah posts daily at americanroads.tumblr.com

SUKKAHS - WILLIAMSBURG, BROOKLYN

Head southwest across aptly-named Division Avenue on the Southside of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and you enter what is, in some respects, another nation. While still technically part of greater Williamsburg—painfully reduced to a land of PBR and fixies in current neighborhood stereotyping—this area is much better known simply as Hasidic Williamsburg. The sub-neighborhood is roughly bounded by Division Ave., Broadway, Heyward St., and the Brooklyn Navy Yard. It is home to the largest Hasidic Jewish sect in the world, the Satmars, and almost no one else. Pass through, as I often do by bike, and you will know you are no longer in the Brooklyn of contemporary fame: the hodgepodge of brownstones and brick apartment buildings may look familiar, but the Yiddish-plastered school buses likely do not.

Beyond the language, the side curls, furry hats, and long, black coats worn no matter the season, I find the adaptations the Hasidim enact on the built environment—housing often constructed prior to their settlement in the area following World War II—to be far more curious.

These are most conspicuous during Sukkot, the Jewish holiday which takes its name from the sukkah, a temporary dwelling with a thatched roof that, according to biblical history, is erected in honor of the “booths” that provided shelter for the Israelites following their escape from Egypt. The true origin of the celebration likely stretches farther back than the Exodus: Sukkot incorporates many aspects of an ancient harvest festival. For eight days and seven nights (this year beginning on sundown of Sept. 18th and ending at nightfall on the 25th), those who observe the holiday eat and sometimes sleep in the sukkah, celebrating through song, storytelling, and satiation.

I always know when Sukkot is on the horizon: a backyard I overlook from my fire escape is cleared of overgrowth for its only occupation of the year, and sukkah construction begins—power saws and drills sometimes whirring until 1 AM. A new layer of buildings is added across Hasidic Williamsburg, the density of the city causing plywood structures to spill into the street from the front of synagogues and yeshivas. The main markers of buildings constructed, or adapted, by the Hasidim are also put to their intended use: the large balconies that sprout haphazardly from often-dull facades become platforms for sukkahs. Where these balconies are in short supply, a long skinny hut occupies the iconic Brooklyn stoop.

While the orthodox enclave is firmly embedded in contemporary Brooklyn, a mainstay in its narrative of diversity and idiosyncrasy, it also operates apart and often by its own rules. Some of these structures may not fully comply with New York City building code, but as with many things in the community, the constructions are intended to abide by a higher law. And while a sukkah must abide by precise parameters—it must be a temporary structure, have at least two and a half walls, be big enough to fit a table, and have a roof of organic materials that provides shade but lets you see the stars—this code allows ample space for reinterpretation, producing a diverse array of sukkah styles. Some appear ready-made, others cobbled together from an array of materials, and a few stand out for their relative luxury. Whatever the style, the concentration of this ritualistic intervention in the urban fabric is a welcome site each year, as is the replacement of the noise of construction with the hubbub of ceremony wafting through my window.

* * *

Jonathan Tarleton is a State Guide to New York. He was schooled in Georgia and North Carolina before moving on to denser pastures in Brooklyn. He currently helps out at Urban Omnibus where he researches and writes about the policy, art, peculiarities, and movements that make New York City so enticingly combative. He likes to be outside and to make things, preferably concurrently. Follow him on Tumblr at jttarleton.tumblr.com and find more of his NYC field trips at Urban Omnibus.

FLOYD BENNETT FIELD, BROOKLYN - NEW YORK - STATION TO STATION

FLOYD BENNETT FIELD, Flatbush Avenue and Jamaica Bay, one of New York’s two municipal airports, covers a rectangular expanse of 387 acres surrounded by fens bordering Jamaica Bay…Carefully planned to handle a large volume of traffic built on reclaimed marshland by hydraulic fill sixteen feet above sea level, Floyd Bennett Field has not been a commercial success because of its distance from the heart of the city…The airport’s attractive Administration Building is flanked by eight fireproof hangars, each measuring 120 by 140 feet. Four concrete runways, from 3,200 to 4,200 feet long and from 100 to 150 feet wide, crisscross the field.

New York City Guide (WPA, 1939)

The Field retains the form it took as New York City’s first municipal airport: broad concrete runways dotted with hangars and a small terminal building. It occupies a knob of land in South Brooklyn south of Marine Park, the product of distinct islands and marshland glued together by landfill throughout the 20th century. The NYPD bases its helicopters there, the Department of Sanitation trains employees there, and the US Marine Corps has a reserve center there. Planes appear as if they might have opted to land at the park’s empty runways rather than fight the hordes at nearby JFK. Floyd Bennett Field is as much a constructed environment as anywhere else in the city, and it certainly does not attempt to disguise the marks of this construction like Central or Prospect Park. While Olmsted and Vaux’s masterpieces build the illusion of laconic countryside into the concrete seas of Brooklyn and Manhattan, the Field adapts abandoned infrastructure for various and spontaneous uses not easily accommodated elsewhere in the city.

Editor’s note: This post is excerpted from a longer article about camping on Floyd Bennett Field. You’ll find the piece in full over at Urban Omnibus and it’s well worth a click through. Read more

Guide note: Floyd Bennett Field is part of the Gateway National Recreational Area. The Visitor’s Center is open seven days a week from 9:00AM - 5:00PM. Start planning your visit here.

* * *

Jonathan Tarleton is a State Guide to New York. He was schooled in Georgia and North Carolina before moving on to denser pastures in Brooklyn. He currently helps out at Urban Omnibus where he researches and writes about the policy, art, peculiarities, and movements that make New York City so enticingly combative. He likes to be outside and to make things, preferably concurrently. Follow him on Tumblr at jttarleton.tumblr.com and find more of his NYC field trips at Urban Omnibus.

* * *

THE AMERICAN GUIDE is joining STATION TO STATION for a cross-country train ride. First stop: New York.

Follow your guide along the rails and see America. [Track A/G’s trip here]   

CONEY ISLAND, BROOKLYN - NEW YORK - STATION TO STATION

Summer crowds are the essence of Coney Island. From early monrning, when the first throngs pour from the Stillwell Avenue subway terminal, humanity flows over Coney seeking relief from the heat of the city. Italians, Jews, Greeks, Poles, Germans, Negroes, Irish, people of every nationality; boys and girls, feeble ancients, mothers with squirming children, fathers with bundles, push and collide as they rush, laughing, scolding, sweating, for a spot on the sand. … From the boardwalk the whole beach may be viewed: bathers splash and shout in the turgid waters close to the shore; on the sand, children dig, young men engage in gymnastics and roughhouse each other, or toss balls over the backs of couples lying amorously intertwined. Luncheon combines the difficulties of a picnic with those of a subway rush hour; families sit in wriggling circles consuming food and drinking from thermos bottles brought in suitcases together with bathing suits, spare clothing, and water wings. …

After sunset the Island becomes the playground of a mixed crowd of sightseers and strollers. … [The] shouts of competing barkers become more strident, the crowds more compact. Enormous paintings in primitive colors advertise the freak shows, shooting galleries, and waxworks “Chamber of Horrors.” Riders are whirled, jolted, battered, tossed upside down by the Cyclone, the Thunderbolt, the Mile Sky Chaser, the Loop-o-Plane, the Whip, the Flying Turns, the Dodgem Speedway, the Chute-the-Chutes, and the Comet. Above the cacophony of spielers, cries, and the shrieks and laughter, carrousel organs pound out last year’s tunes, and roller coasters slam down their terrific inclines. …

About midnight, the weary crowds begin to depart, leaving a litter of cigarette butts, torn newspapers, orange and banana peel, old shoes and hats, pop bottles and soiled cardboard boxes, and an occasional corset. A few couples remain behind, with here and there a solitary drunk, or a sleepless old man pacing the boardwalk. The last concessionaire counts his receipts and puts up his shutters, and only the amiable roar of the forgotten sea is heard.

New York City Guide (WPA, 1939)

* * *

Martina Albertazzi is a Guide to New York and New Jersey. She’s a freelance photographer who was born in Rome, but has now settled in New York City. Other than photography, her biggest interests are: her dog Ugo, people, good food, good wine, and books. Follow her on Tumblr at martina-albertazzi.tumblr.com.

* * *

THE AMERICAN GUIDE is joining STATION TO STATION for a cross-country train ride. First stop: New York.

Follow your guide along the rails and see America. [Track A/G’s trip here]   

CONEY ISLAND - BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

Summer crowds are the essence of Coney Island. From early monrning, when the first throngs pour from the Stillwell Avenue subway terminal, humanity flows over Coney seeking relief from the heat of the city. Italians, Jews, Greeks, Poles, Germans, Negroes, Irish, people of every nationality; boys and girls, feeble ancients, mothers with squirming children, fathers with bundles, push and collide as they rush, laughing, scolding, sweating, for a spot on the sand. … From the boardwalk the whole beach may be viewed: bathers splash and shout in the turgid waters close to the shore; on the sand, children dig, young men engage in gymnastics and roughhouse each other, or toss balls over the backs of couples lying amorously intertwined. Luncheon combines the difficulties of a picnic with those of a subway rush hour; families sit in wriggling circles consuming food and drinking from thermos bottles brought in suitcases together with bathing suits, spare clothing, and water wings. …

After sunset the Island becomes the playground of a mixed crowd of sightseers and strollers. … [The] shouts of competing barkers become more strident, the crowds more compact. Enormous paintings in primitive colors advertise the freak shows, shooting galleries, and waxworks “Chamber of Horrors.” Riders are whirled, jolted, battered, tossed upside down by the Cyclone, the Thunderbolt, the Mile Sky Chaser, the Loop-o-Plane, the Whip, the Flying Turns, the Dodgem Speedway, the Chute-the-Chutes, and the Comet. Above the cacophony of spielers, cries, and the shrieks and laughter, carrousel organs pound out last year’s tunes, and roller coasters slam down their terrific inclines. …

About midnight, the weary crowds begin to depart, leaving a litter of cigarette butts, torn newspapers, orange and banana peel, old shoes and hats, pop bottles and soiled cardboard boxes, and an occasional corset. A few couples remain behind, with here and there a solitary drunk, or a sleepless old man pacing the boardwalk. The last concessionaire counts his receipts and puts up his shutters, and only the amiable roar of the forgotten sea is heard.

New York City Guide (WPA, 1939)

* * *

Martina Albertazzi is a Guide to New York and New Jersey. She’s a freelance photographer who was born in Rome, but has now settled in New York City. Other than photography, her biggest interests are: her dog Ugo, people, good food, good wine, and books. Follow her on Tumblr at martina-albertazzi.tumblr.com.

CASTLES IN THE CITY - ARMORIES OF NEW YORK, NY

A city as old as New York contains layer upon layer of building types, each exhibiting its own architectural and social histories. Distinctive structures are therefore fairly pedestrian in that they are all around, popping up in the midst of indistinguishable rows of sameness that have their own charm. Turning a corner to see a castle, however, may not seem one of the more likely occurrences, regardless of your location on bustling Park Avenue or a quiet Hasidic Williamsburg block.
Armories and arsenals – generally massive masonry structures fashioned in the medieval Gothic style of fortresses (parapets and turrets included) – are scattered throughout the city. The WPA Guide to New York City mentions many armories briefly, four for their 50-cent badminton rates and others for their resident regiments’ performance in this or that war, though it definitely does not serve as a comprehensive source for the building form. In the 1930s, armories were noted pieces of a community, at once social clubs for men of the upper and upper-middle classes, training grounds for the State’s National Guard divisions, and symbols of government and military might that also sometimes doubled as civic centers. Today, their uses vary widely, as do their states of (dis)repair. In the current economy, one would have a hard time justifying the contemporary construction of such monumental structures on some of the most valuable real estate in the world. But these were quite expensive to construct back in the day as well, which begs the questions of why they were built initially and how these elephant-in-the-city holdovers from a previous era are being used today.

Wanting a bit more information on these behemoths designed to house guns and the people authorized to use them, I stumbled on the NY State Military Museum’s listing of still-existing and long-demolished armories across the state. This resource, coupled with Nancy Todd’s New York’s Historic Armories: An Illustrated History, gave me the bones of a plan to jaunt around the city and visit a few. Todd’s situation of form’s rise in the state within the larger context of the militia in the country’s history is fascinating. To paraphrase greatly, the state militias went from the military force of the colonies and newly minted states to a fairly equal partner with the centralized military, largely focused on domestic unrest, to a group of trained folks that serve overseas and scramble to action when disasters strike at home.

Armories grew in popularity when the state National Guard became a serious force. With industrialization giving rise to class inequality that seems quaint by today’s standards, labor-capital conflicts exploded in the 1870s to the 1890s and the National Guard – rallying out from its urban (and rural) castles – was the group that quashed the riots. The Guard’s consequence among the moneyed classes during that time figured prominently in the construction of more homes for Guard regiments across the city.

The reserve force we know today, which in the City rallied (to name only two instances) post-Sandy and post-9/11 for significant relief efforts, no longer requires structures from which to withstand siege. (Whether the necessity ever truly existed is a very valid question.) Largely beginning in the late 1960s, armories began to fall out of use by the Guard, sometimes due to the cost of upkeep when balanced against the true need for the structures. Ownership of some was transferred to the City, others maintained by the State, some to private groups, and most falling into some sort of disrepair. Many remain in such condition, though some have been repurposed, and plans are in the works for others to be put back to use.

The Central Park Arsenal at 5th Ave. and 64th St. is the oldest of the bunch I visited (constructed in 1848), and one of two structures within Vaux and Olmsted’s great park that predate its creation. As an arsenal, it was largely a warehouse for arms and over time saw many uses, including as a police precinct, a menagerie, the first home of the American Museum of Natural History, and, since Robert Moses assumed its helm in 1934, the City Department of Parks and Recreation.

To bring the regiments off of parade grounds into a weatherized space, the state moved away from the construction of simply arsenals to armories, which generally include an administrative structure, complete with fancy rooms in which cigar smoking would seem a fitting activity, backed by a massive drill shed used for military exercises. Todd calls the Seventh Regiment Armory, known also as the Park Avenue Armory, the “flagship of the building type” and dedicates a whole chapter in her book to its history. Sitting on Park Ave. between 66th and 67th, the 1880 building strikes a powerful image, thanks in part to its rehabilitation as the performance arts space it is today. The massive drill shed, the roof of which is held up by eleven wrought-iron arches, now hosts a range of performances. The space is so large as to permit feats like the reconstruction of an entire four-story theater in the round for a run of performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2011 (with ample space left over). The building’s management was not too keen on allowing me to take photos, so take a look at the armory’s interior here.

In the midst of one the nation’s largest Hasidic Jewish populations in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, sits the Forty-Seventh Regiment Armory at Marcy Ave. between Heyward and Lynch Streets. The juxtaposition between the Yiddish-speaking community, their school buses parked alongside the imposing brick walls of the armory, and the building itself makes for a particularly curious scene. Built in 1884 and expanded in 1899 (thus bringing together two different architectural styles utilized in the form), the space is used for major movie filming. I snuck a glance inside at the construction of sets for Spiderman 3, but again, no luck in a thorough look at the interior. Still owned by the State but promoted by the City as part of its Made in NYC film initiative, there has been talk of late of the sale of building, and the rapidly expanding Hasidic community seems first in line to purchase it for school and community space.

The Fort Washington Avenue Armory, which sits between 168th and 169th streets in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, was constructed in 1911. After the National Guard regiment vacated the space, the city operated a homeless shelter in the drill hall from the late 1980s and early 1990s, as it did with a vast number of armories across the five boroughs. The armory now serves as a track and field center hosting area races as well as Olympic qualifying events, a track and field hall of fame, and community center. Oddly, despite being heavily renovated to accommodate the sloping turf surface of the track, it maintains an interior purpose not unlike that of the old drill sheds. The stands that now host supporters of the athletes racing around the track below may have more modern seats, but they look out from the same vantage point the people of the city would have had when surveying troops in full regalia. Some original flooring, molding, and stairways also remain.

Walking into the 369th Regiment Armory in Harlem on 5th Ave. between 142nd and 143rd, I was promptly sized up by a camo-wearing guardsman. While the drill shed, built in 1924, is now used by the Harlem Children’s Zone, the administrative block, completed in 1933, is still home to the regiment that gives its name to the structure: originally the only black regiment in New York City and nicknamed the Harlem Hell Fighters. Built long after the boom in armory construction in the late 19th century, the 369th has a distinct style, incorporating many art-deco features in its floors and molding. Alas, I was asked to leave before I could snap photos, and the exterior is currently undergoing a restoration, but at the very least the thick, iron-girded doors are something to behold.

Much can be said about the architectural features and styles that define armories across the city, as could be about their changing uses and ownership. Fortunately, they will not likely be going anywhere soon, as most are either landmarked by the City or on the National Register of Historic Places.

To see how we utilize these spaces, designed for an entirely different function but no less useful for our own purposes today, provides a curious case study in adaptive reuse in a time when significant buildings are all too often slated for destruction, victims of real estate money-making schemes, or a lack of creativity in adapting their spaces. Armories also serve as a reminder of the past militarization of cities in a time when our police forces are increasingly equipped with technology and trained in tactics previously reserved for the professional federal military. Which makes me think: we are still building armories and arsenals in the city today. They do not, however, double as a social club relatively open to the outside or treat the eye to an anachronistic image of a castle out of medieval times, situated just around the corner from your local bodega. 
* * *

JONATHAN TARLETON is a State Guide to New York. He was schooled in Georgia and North Carolina before moving on to denser pastures in Brooklyn. He currently helps out at Urban Omnibus where he researches and writes about the policy, art, peculiarities, and movements that make New York City so enticingly combative. He likes to be outside and to make things, preferably concurrently. Follow him on Tumblr at jttarleton.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
CASTLES IN THE CITY - ARMORIES OF NEW YORK, NY

A city as old as New York contains layer upon layer of building types, each exhibiting its own architectural and social histories. Distinctive structures are therefore fairly pedestrian in that they are all around, popping up in the midst of indistinguishable rows of sameness that have their own charm. Turning a corner to see a castle, however, may not seem one of the more likely occurrences, regardless of your location on bustling Park Avenue or a quiet Hasidic Williamsburg block.
Armories and arsenals – generally massive masonry structures fashioned in the medieval Gothic style of fortresses (parapets and turrets included) – are scattered throughout the city. The WPA Guide to New York City mentions many armories briefly, four for their 50-cent badminton rates and others for their resident regiments’ performance in this or that war, though it definitely does not serve as a comprehensive source for the building form. In the 1930s, armories were noted pieces of a community, at once social clubs for men of the upper and upper-middle classes, training grounds for the State’s National Guard divisions, and symbols of government and military might that also sometimes doubled as civic centers. Today, their uses vary widely, as do their states of (dis)repair. In the current economy, one would have a hard time justifying the contemporary construction of such monumental structures on some of the most valuable real estate in the world. But these were quite expensive to construct back in the day as well, which begs the questions of why they were built initially and how these elephant-in-the-city holdovers from a previous era are being used today.

Wanting a bit more information on these behemoths designed to house guns and the people authorized to use them, I stumbled on the NY State Military Museum’s listing of still-existing and long-demolished armories across the state. This resource, coupled with Nancy Todd’s New York’s Historic Armories: An Illustrated History, gave me the bones of a plan to jaunt around the city and visit a few. Todd’s situation of form’s rise in the state within the larger context of the militia in the country’s history is fascinating. To paraphrase greatly, the state militias went from the military force of the colonies and newly minted states to a fairly equal partner with the centralized military, largely focused on domestic unrest, to a group of trained folks that serve overseas and scramble to action when disasters strike at home.

Armories grew in popularity when the state National Guard became a serious force. With industrialization giving rise to class inequality that seems quaint by today’s standards, labor-capital conflicts exploded in the 1870s to the 1890s and the National Guard – rallying out from its urban (and rural) castles – was the group that quashed the riots. The Guard’s consequence among the moneyed classes during that time figured prominently in the construction of more homes for Guard regiments across the city.

The reserve force we know today, which in the City rallied (to name only two instances) post-Sandy and post-9/11 for significant relief efforts, no longer requires structures from which to withstand siege. (Whether the necessity ever truly existed is a very valid question.) Largely beginning in the late 1960s, armories began to fall out of use by the Guard, sometimes due to the cost of upkeep when balanced against the true need for the structures. Ownership of some was transferred to the City, others maintained by the State, some to private groups, and most falling into some sort of disrepair. Many remain in such condition, though some have been repurposed, and plans are in the works for others to be put back to use.

The Central Park Arsenal at 5th Ave. and 64th St. is the oldest of the bunch I visited (constructed in 1848), and one of two structures within Vaux and Olmsted’s great park that predate its creation. As an arsenal, it was largely a warehouse for arms and over time saw many uses, including as a police precinct, a menagerie, the first home of the American Museum of Natural History, and, since Robert Moses assumed its helm in 1934, the City Department of Parks and Recreation.

To bring the regiments off of parade grounds into a weatherized space, the state moved away from the construction of simply arsenals to armories, which generally include an administrative structure, complete with fancy rooms in which cigar smoking would seem a fitting activity, backed by a massive drill shed used for military exercises. Todd calls the Seventh Regiment Armory, known also as the Park Avenue Armory, the “flagship of the building type” and dedicates a whole chapter in her book to its history. Sitting on Park Ave. between 66th and 67th, the 1880 building strikes a powerful image, thanks in part to its rehabilitation as the performance arts space it is today. The massive drill shed, the roof of which is held up by eleven wrought-iron arches, now hosts a range of performances. The space is so large as to permit feats like the reconstruction of an entire four-story theater in the round for a run of performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2011 (with ample space left over). The building’s management was not too keen on allowing me to take photos, so take a look at the armory’s interior here.

In the midst of one the nation’s largest Hasidic Jewish populations in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, sits the Forty-Seventh Regiment Armory at Marcy Ave. between Heyward and Lynch Streets. The juxtaposition between the Yiddish-speaking community, their school buses parked alongside the imposing brick walls of the armory, and the building itself makes for a particularly curious scene. Built in 1884 and expanded in 1899 (thus bringing together two different architectural styles utilized in the form), the space is used for major movie filming. I snuck a glance inside at the construction of sets for Spiderman 3, but again, no luck in a thorough look at the interior. Still owned by the State but promoted by the City as part of its Made in NYC film initiative, there has been talk of late of the sale of building, and the rapidly expanding Hasidic community seems first in line to purchase it for school and community space.

The Fort Washington Avenue Armory, which sits between 168th and 169th streets in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, was constructed in 1911. After the National Guard regiment vacated the space, the city operated a homeless shelter in the drill hall from the late 1980s and early 1990s, as it did with a vast number of armories across the five boroughs. The armory now serves as a track and field center hosting area races as well as Olympic qualifying events, a track and field hall of fame, and community center. Oddly, despite being heavily renovated to accommodate the sloping turf surface of the track, it maintains an interior purpose not unlike that of the old drill sheds. The stands that now host supporters of the athletes racing around the track below may have more modern seats, but they look out from the same vantage point the people of the city would have had when surveying troops in full regalia. Some original flooring, molding, and stairways also remain.

Walking into the 369th Regiment Armory in Harlem on 5th Ave. between 142nd and 143rd, I was promptly sized up by a camo-wearing guardsman. While the drill shed, built in 1924, is now used by the Harlem Children’s Zone, the administrative block, completed in 1933, is still home to the regiment that gives its name to the structure: originally the only black regiment in New York City and nicknamed the Harlem Hell Fighters. Built long after the boom in armory construction in the late 19th century, the 369th has a distinct style, incorporating many art-deco features in its floors and molding. Alas, I was asked to leave before I could snap photos, and the exterior is currently undergoing a restoration, but at the very least the thick, iron-girded doors are something to behold.

Much can be said about the architectural features and styles that define armories across the city, as could be about their changing uses and ownership. Fortunately, they will not likely be going anywhere soon, as most are either landmarked by the City or on the National Register of Historic Places.

To see how we utilize these spaces, designed for an entirely different function but no less useful for our own purposes today, provides a curious case study in adaptive reuse in a time when significant buildings are all too often slated for destruction, victims of real estate money-making schemes, or a lack of creativity in adapting their spaces. Armories also serve as a reminder of the past militarization of cities in a time when our police forces are increasingly equipped with technology and trained in tactics previously reserved for the professional federal military. Which makes me think: we are still building armories and arsenals in the city today. They do not, however, double as a social club relatively open to the outside or treat the eye to an anachronistic image of a castle out of medieval times, situated just around the corner from your local bodega. 
* * *

JONATHAN TARLETON is a State Guide to New York. He was schooled in Georgia and North Carolina before moving on to denser pastures in Brooklyn. He currently helps out at Urban Omnibus where he researches and writes about the policy, art, peculiarities, and movements that make New York City so enticingly combative. He likes to be outside and to make things, preferably concurrently. Follow him on Tumblr at jttarleton.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
CASTLES IN THE CITY - ARMORIES OF NEW YORK, NY

A city as old as New York contains layer upon layer of building types, each exhibiting its own architectural and social histories. Distinctive structures are therefore fairly pedestrian in that they are all around, popping up in the midst of indistinguishable rows of sameness that have their own charm. Turning a corner to see a castle, however, may not seem one of the more likely occurrences, regardless of your location on bustling Park Avenue or a quiet Hasidic Williamsburg block.
Armories and arsenals – generally massive masonry structures fashioned in the medieval Gothic style of fortresses (parapets and turrets included) – are scattered throughout the city. The WPA Guide to New York City mentions many armories briefly, four for their 50-cent badminton rates and others for their resident regiments’ performance in this or that war, though it definitely does not serve as a comprehensive source for the building form. In the 1930s, armories were noted pieces of a community, at once social clubs for men of the upper and upper-middle classes, training grounds for the State’s National Guard divisions, and symbols of government and military might that also sometimes doubled as civic centers. Today, their uses vary widely, as do their states of (dis)repair. In the current economy, one would have a hard time justifying the contemporary construction of such monumental structures on some of the most valuable real estate in the world. But these were quite expensive to construct back in the day as well, which begs the questions of why they were built initially and how these elephant-in-the-city holdovers from a previous era are being used today.

Wanting a bit more information on these behemoths designed to house guns and the people authorized to use them, I stumbled on the NY State Military Museum’s listing of still-existing and long-demolished armories across the state. This resource, coupled with Nancy Todd’s New York’s Historic Armories: An Illustrated History, gave me the bones of a plan to jaunt around the city and visit a few. Todd’s situation of form’s rise in the state within the larger context of the militia in the country’s history is fascinating. To paraphrase greatly, the state militias went from the military force of the colonies and newly minted states to a fairly equal partner with the centralized military, largely focused on domestic unrest, to a group of trained folks that serve overseas and scramble to action when disasters strike at home.

Armories grew in popularity when the state National Guard became a serious force. With industrialization giving rise to class inequality that seems quaint by today’s standards, labor-capital conflicts exploded in the 1870s to the 1890s and the National Guard – rallying out from its urban (and rural) castles – was the group that quashed the riots. The Guard’s consequence among the moneyed classes during that time figured prominently in the construction of more homes for Guard regiments across the city.

The reserve force we know today, which in the City rallied (to name only two instances) post-Sandy and post-9/11 for significant relief efforts, no longer requires structures from which to withstand siege. (Whether the necessity ever truly existed is a very valid question.) Largely beginning in the late 1960s, armories began to fall out of use by the Guard, sometimes due to the cost of upkeep when balanced against the true need for the structures. Ownership of some was transferred to the City, others maintained by the State, some to private groups, and most falling into some sort of disrepair. Many remain in such condition, though some have been repurposed, and plans are in the works for others to be put back to use.

The Central Park Arsenal at 5th Ave. and 64th St. is the oldest of the bunch I visited (constructed in 1848), and one of two structures within Vaux and Olmsted’s great park that predate its creation. As an arsenal, it was largely a warehouse for arms and over time saw many uses, including as a police precinct, a menagerie, the first home of the American Museum of Natural History, and, since Robert Moses assumed its helm in 1934, the City Department of Parks and Recreation.

To bring the regiments off of parade grounds into a weatherized space, the state moved away from the construction of simply arsenals to armories, which generally include an administrative structure, complete with fancy rooms in which cigar smoking would seem a fitting activity, backed by a massive drill shed used for military exercises. Todd calls the Seventh Regiment Armory, known also as the Park Avenue Armory, the “flagship of the building type” and dedicates a whole chapter in her book to its history. Sitting on Park Ave. between 66th and 67th, the 1880 building strikes a powerful image, thanks in part to its rehabilitation as the performance arts space it is today. The massive drill shed, the roof of which is held up by eleven wrought-iron arches, now hosts a range of performances. The space is so large as to permit feats like the reconstruction of an entire four-story theater in the round for a run of performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2011 (with ample space left over). The building’s management was not too keen on allowing me to take photos, so take a look at the armory’s interior here.

In the midst of one the nation’s largest Hasidic Jewish populations in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, sits the Forty-Seventh Regiment Armory at Marcy Ave. between Heyward and Lynch Streets. The juxtaposition between the Yiddish-speaking community, their school buses parked alongside the imposing brick walls of the armory, and the building itself makes for a particularly curious scene. Built in 1884 and expanded in 1899 (thus bringing together two different architectural styles utilized in the form), the space is used for major movie filming. I snuck a glance inside at the construction of sets for Spiderman 3, but again, no luck in a thorough look at the interior. Still owned by the State but promoted by the City as part of its Made in NYC film initiative, there has been talk of late of the sale of building, and the rapidly expanding Hasidic community seems first in line to purchase it for school and community space.

The Fort Washington Avenue Armory, which sits between 168th and 169th streets in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, was constructed in 1911. After the National Guard regiment vacated the space, the city operated a homeless shelter in the drill hall from the late 1980s and early 1990s, as it did with a vast number of armories across the five boroughs. The armory now serves as a track and field center hosting area races as well as Olympic qualifying events, a track and field hall of fame, and community center. Oddly, despite being heavily renovated to accommodate the sloping turf surface of the track, it maintains an interior purpose not unlike that of the old drill sheds. The stands that now host supporters of the athletes racing around the track below may have more modern seats, but they look out from the same vantage point the people of the city would have had when surveying troops in full regalia. Some original flooring, molding, and stairways also remain.

Walking into the 369th Regiment Armory in Harlem on 5th Ave. between 142nd and 143rd, I was promptly sized up by a camo-wearing guardsman. While the drill shed, built in 1924, is now used by the Harlem Children’s Zone, the administrative block, completed in 1933, is still home to the regiment that gives its name to the structure: originally the only black regiment in New York City and nicknamed the Harlem Hell Fighters. Built long after the boom in armory construction in the late 19th century, the 369th has a distinct style, incorporating many art-deco features in its floors and molding. Alas, I was asked to leave before I could snap photos, and the exterior is currently undergoing a restoration, but at the very least the thick, iron-girded doors are something to behold.

Much can be said about the architectural features and styles that define armories across the city, as could be about their changing uses and ownership. Fortunately, they will not likely be going anywhere soon, as most are either landmarked by the City or on the National Register of Historic Places.

To see how we utilize these spaces, designed for an entirely different function but no less useful for our own purposes today, provides a curious case study in adaptive reuse in a time when significant buildings are all too often slated for destruction, victims of real estate money-making schemes, or a lack of creativity in adapting their spaces. Armories also serve as a reminder of the past militarization of cities in a time when our police forces are increasingly equipped with technology and trained in tactics previously reserved for the professional federal military. Which makes me think: we are still building armories and arsenals in the city today. They do not, however, double as a social club relatively open to the outside or treat the eye to an anachronistic image of a castle out of medieval times, situated just around the corner from your local bodega. 
* * *

JONATHAN TARLETON is a State Guide to New York. He was schooled in Georgia and North Carolina before moving on to denser pastures in Brooklyn. He currently helps out at Urban Omnibus where he researches and writes about the policy, art, peculiarities, and movements that make New York City so enticingly combative. He likes to be outside and to make things, preferably concurrently. Follow him on Tumblr at jttarleton.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
CASTLES IN THE CITY - ARMORIES OF NEW YORK, NY

A city as old as New York contains layer upon layer of building types, each exhibiting its own architectural and social histories. Distinctive structures are therefore fairly pedestrian in that they are all around, popping up in the midst of indistinguishable rows of sameness that have their own charm. Turning a corner to see a castle, however, may not seem one of the more likely occurrences, regardless of your location on bustling Park Avenue or a quiet Hasidic Williamsburg block.
Armories and arsenals – generally massive masonry structures fashioned in the medieval Gothic style of fortresses (parapets and turrets included) – are scattered throughout the city. The WPA Guide to New York City mentions many armories briefly, four for their 50-cent badminton rates and others for their resident regiments’ performance in this or that war, though it definitely does not serve as a comprehensive source for the building form. In the 1930s, armories were noted pieces of a community, at once social clubs for men of the upper and upper-middle classes, training grounds for the State’s National Guard divisions, and symbols of government and military might that also sometimes doubled as civic centers. Today, their uses vary widely, as do their states of (dis)repair. In the current economy, one would have a hard time justifying the contemporary construction of such monumental structures on some of the most valuable real estate in the world. But these were quite expensive to construct back in the day as well, which begs the questions of why they were built initially and how these elephant-in-the-city holdovers from a previous era are being used today.

Wanting a bit more information on these behemoths designed to house guns and the people authorized to use them, I stumbled on the NY State Military Museum’s listing of still-existing and long-demolished armories across the state. This resource, coupled with Nancy Todd’s New York’s Historic Armories: An Illustrated History, gave me the bones of a plan to jaunt around the city and visit a few. Todd’s situation of form’s rise in the state within the larger context of the militia in the country’s history is fascinating. To paraphrase greatly, the state militias went from the military force of the colonies and newly minted states to a fairly equal partner with the centralized military, largely focused on domestic unrest, to a group of trained folks that serve overseas and scramble to action when disasters strike at home.

Armories grew in popularity when the state National Guard became a serious force. With industrialization giving rise to class inequality that seems quaint by today’s standards, labor-capital conflicts exploded in the 1870s to the 1890s and the National Guard – rallying out from its urban (and rural) castles – was the group that quashed the riots. The Guard’s consequence among the moneyed classes during that time figured prominently in the construction of more homes for Guard regiments across the city.

The reserve force we know today, which in the City rallied (to name only two instances) post-Sandy and post-9/11 for significant relief efforts, no longer requires structures from which to withstand siege. (Whether the necessity ever truly existed is a very valid question.) Largely beginning in the late 1960s, armories began to fall out of use by the Guard, sometimes due to the cost of upkeep when balanced against the true need for the structures. Ownership of some was transferred to the City, others maintained by the State, some to private groups, and most falling into some sort of disrepair. Many remain in such condition, though some have been repurposed, and plans are in the works for others to be put back to use.

The Central Park Arsenal at 5th Ave. and 64th St. is the oldest of the bunch I visited (constructed in 1848), and one of two structures within Vaux and Olmsted’s great park that predate its creation. As an arsenal, it was largely a warehouse for arms and over time saw many uses, including as a police precinct, a menagerie, the first home of the American Museum of Natural History, and, since Robert Moses assumed its helm in 1934, the City Department of Parks and Recreation.

To bring the regiments off of parade grounds into a weatherized space, the state moved away from the construction of simply arsenals to armories, which generally include an administrative structure, complete with fancy rooms in which cigar smoking would seem a fitting activity, backed by a massive drill shed used for military exercises. Todd calls the Seventh Regiment Armory, known also as the Park Avenue Armory, the “flagship of the building type” and dedicates a whole chapter in her book to its history. Sitting on Park Ave. between 66th and 67th, the 1880 building strikes a powerful image, thanks in part to its rehabilitation as the performance arts space it is today. The massive drill shed, the roof of which is held up by eleven wrought-iron arches, now hosts a range of performances. The space is so large as to permit feats like the reconstruction of an entire four-story theater in the round for a run of performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2011 (with ample space left over). The building’s management was not too keen on allowing me to take photos, so take a look at the armory’s interior here.

In the midst of one the nation’s largest Hasidic Jewish populations in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, sits the Forty-Seventh Regiment Armory at Marcy Ave. between Heyward and Lynch Streets. The juxtaposition between the Yiddish-speaking community, their school buses parked alongside the imposing brick walls of the armory, and the building itself makes for a particularly curious scene. Built in 1884 and expanded in 1899 (thus bringing together two different architectural styles utilized in the form), the space is used for major movie filming. I snuck a glance inside at the construction of sets for Spiderman 3, but again, no luck in a thorough look at the interior. Still owned by the State but promoted by the City as part of its Made in NYC film initiative, there has been talk of late of the sale of building, and the rapidly expanding Hasidic community seems first in line to purchase it for school and community space.

The Fort Washington Avenue Armory, which sits between 168th and 169th streets in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, was constructed in 1911. After the National Guard regiment vacated the space, the city operated a homeless shelter in the drill hall from the late 1980s and early 1990s, as it did with a vast number of armories across the five boroughs. The armory now serves as a track and field center hosting area races as well as Olympic qualifying events, a track and field hall of fame, and community center. Oddly, despite being heavily renovated to accommodate the sloping turf surface of the track, it maintains an interior purpose not unlike that of the old drill sheds. The stands that now host supporters of the athletes racing around the track below may have more modern seats, but they look out from the same vantage point the people of the city would have had when surveying troops in full regalia. Some original flooring, molding, and stairways also remain.

Walking into the 369th Regiment Armory in Harlem on 5th Ave. between 142nd and 143rd, I was promptly sized up by a camo-wearing guardsman. While the drill shed, built in 1924, is now used by the Harlem Children’s Zone, the administrative block, completed in 1933, is still home to the regiment that gives its name to the structure: originally the only black regiment in New York City and nicknamed the Harlem Hell Fighters. Built long after the boom in armory construction in the late 19th century, the 369th has a distinct style, incorporating many art-deco features in its floors and molding. Alas, I was asked to leave before I could snap photos, and the exterior is currently undergoing a restoration, but at the very least the thick, iron-girded doors are something to behold.

Much can be said about the architectural features and styles that define armories across the city, as could be about their changing uses and ownership. Fortunately, they will not likely be going anywhere soon, as most are either landmarked by the City or on the National Register of Historic Places.

To see how we utilize these spaces, designed for an entirely different function but no less useful for our own purposes today, provides a curious case study in adaptive reuse in a time when significant buildings are all too often slated for destruction, victims of real estate money-making schemes, or a lack of creativity in adapting their spaces. Armories also serve as a reminder of the past militarization of cities in a time when our police forces are increasingly equipped with technology and trained in tactics previously reserved for the professional federal military. Which makes me think: we are still building armories and arsenals in the city today. They do not, however, double as a social club relatively open to the outside or treat the eye to an anachronistic image of a castle out of medieval times, situated just around the corner from your local bodega. 
* * *

JONATHAN TARLETON is a State Guide to New York. He was schooled in Georgia and North Carolina before moving on to denser pastures in Brooklyn. He currently helps out at Urban Omnibus where he researches and writes about the policy, art, peculiarities, and movements that make New York City so enticingly combative. He likes to be outside and to make things, preferably concurrently. Follow him on Tumblr at jttarleton.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
CASTLES IN THE CITY - ARMORIES OF NEW YORK, NY

A city as old as New York contains layer upon layer of building types, each exhibiting its own architectural and social histories. Distinctive structures are therefore fairly pedestrian in that they are all around, popping up in the midst of indistinguishable rows of sameness that have their own charm. Turning a corner to see a castle, however, may not seem one of the more likely occurrences, regardless of your location on bustling Park Avenue or a quiet Hasidic Williamsburg block.
Armories and arsenals – generally massive masonry structures fashioned in the medieval Gothic style of fortresses (parapets and turrets included) – are scattered throughout the city. The WPA Guide to New York City mentions many armories briefly, four for their 50-cent badminton rates and others for their resident regiments’ performance in this or that war, though it definitely does not serve as a comprehensive source for the building form. In the 1930s, armories were noted pieces of a community, at once social clubs for men of the upper and upper-middle classes, training grounds for the State’s National Guard divisions, and symbols of government and military might that also sometimes doubled as civic centers. Today, their uses vary widely, as do their states of (dis)repair. In the current economy, one would have a hard time justifying the contemporary construction of such monumental structures on some of the most valuable real estate in the world. But these were quite expensive to construct back in the day as well, which begs the questions of why they were built initially and how these elephant-in-the-city holdovers from a previous era are being used today.

Wanting a bit more information on these behemoths designed to house guns and the people authorized to use them, I stumbled on the NY State Military Museum’s listing of still-existing and long-demolished armories across the state. This resource, coupled with Nancy Todd’s New York’s Historic Armories: An Illustrated History, gave me the bones of a plan to jaunt around the city and visit a few. Todd’s situation of form’s rise in the state within the larger context of the militia in the country’s history is fascinating. To paraphrase greatly, the state militias went from the military force of the colonies and newly minted states to a fairly equal partner with the centralized military, largely focused on domestic unrest, to a group of trained folks that serve overseas and scramble to action when disasters strike at home.

Armories grew in popularity when the state National Guard became a serious force. With industrialization giving rise to class inequality that seems quaint by today’s standards, labor-capital conflicts exploded in the 1870s to the 1890s and the National Guard – rallying out from its urban (and rural) castles – was the group that quashed the riots. The Guard’s consequence among the moneyed classes during that time figured prominently in the construction of more homes for Guard regiments across the city.

The reserve force we know today, which in the City rallied (to name only two instances) post-Sandy and post-9/11 for significant relief efforts, no longer requires structures from which to withstand siege. (Whether the necessity ever truly existed is a very valid question.) Largely beginning in the late 1960s, armories began to fall out of use by the Guard, sometimes due to the cost of upkeep when balanced against the true need for the structures. Ownership of some was transferred to the City, others maintained by the State, some to private groups, and most falling into some sort of disrepair. Many remain in such condition, though some have been repurposed, and plans are in the works for others to be put back to use.

The Central Park Arsenal at 5th Ave. and 64th St. is the oldest of the bunch I visited (constructed in 1848), and one of two structures within Vaux and Olmsted’s great park that predate its creation. As an arsenal, it was largely a warehouse for arms and over time saw many uses, including as a police precinct, a menagerie, the first home of the American Museum of Natural History, and, since Robert Moses assumed its helm in 1934, the City Department of Parks and Recreation.

To bring the regiments off of parade grounds into a weatherized space, the state moved away from the construction of simply arsenals to armories, which generally include an administrative structure, complete with fancy rooms in which cigar smoking would seem a fitting activity, backed by a massive drill shed used for military exercises. Todd calls the Seventh Regiment Armory, known also as the Park Avenue Armory, the “flagship of the building type” and dedicates a whole chapter in her book to its history. Sitting on Park Ave. between 66th and 67th, the 1880 building strikes a powerful image, thanks in part to its rehabilitation as the performance arts space it is today. The massive drill shed, the roof of which is held up by eleven wrought-iron arches, now hosts a range of performances. The space is so large as to permit feats like the reconstruction of an entire four-story theater in the round for a run of performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2011 (with ample space left over). The building’s management was not too keen on allowing me to take photos, so take a look at the armory’s interior here.

In the midst of one the nation’s largest Hasidic Jewish populations in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, sits the Forty-Seventh Regiment Armory at Marcy Ave. between Heyward and Lynch Streets. The juxtaposition between the Yiddish-speaking community, their school buses parked alongside the imposing brick walls of the armory, and the building itself makes for a particularly curious scene. Built in 1884 and expanded in 1899 (thus bringing together two different architectural styles utilized in the form), the space is used for major movie filming. I snuck a glance inside at the construction of sets for Spiderman 3, but again, no luck in a thorough look at the interior. Still owned by the State but promoted by the City as part of its Made in NYC film initiative, there has been talk of late of the sale of building, and the rapidly expanding Hasidic community seems first in line to purchase it for school and community space.

The Fort Washington Avenue Armory, which sits between 168th and 169th streets in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, was constructed in 1911. After the National Guard regiment vacated the space, the city operated a homeless shelter in the drill hall from the late 1980s and early 1990s, as it did with a vast number of armories across the five boroughs. The armory now serves as a track and field center hosting area races as well as Olympic qualifying events, a track and field hall of fame, and community center. Oddly, despite being heavily renovated to accommodate the sloping turf surface of the track, it maintains an interior purpose not unlike that of the old drill sheds. The stands that now host supporters of the athletes racing around the track below may have more modern seats, but they look out from the same vantage point the people of the city would have had when surveying troops in full regalia. Some original flooring, molding, and stairways also remain.

Walking into the 369th Regiment Armory in Harlem on 5th Ave. between 142nd and 143rd, I was promptly sized up by a camo-wearing guardsman. While the drill shed, built in 1924, is now used by the Harlem Children’s Zone, the administrative block, completed in 1933, is still home to the regiment that gives its name to the structure: originally the only black regiment in New York City and nicknamed the Harlem Hell Fighters. Built long after the boom in armory construction in the late 19th century, the 369th has a distinct style, incorporating many art-deco features in its floors and molding. Alas, I was asked to leave before I could snap photos, and the exterior is currently undergoing a restoration, but at the very least the thick, iron-girded doors are something to behold.

Much can be said about the architectural features and styles that define armories across the city, as could be about their changing uses and ownership. Fortunately, they will not likely be going anywhere soon, as most are either landmarked by the City or on the National Register of Historic Places.

To see how we utilize these spaces, designed for an entirely different function but no less useful for our own purposes today, provides a curious case study in adaptive reuse in a time when significant buildings are all too often slated for destruction, victims of real estate money-making schemes, or a lack of creativity in adapting their spaces. Armories also serve as a reminder of the past militarization of cities in a time when our police forces are increasingly equipped with technology and trained in tactics previously reserved for the professional federal military. Which makes me think: we are still building armories and arsenals in the city today. They do not, however, double as a social club relatively open to the outside or treat the eye to an anachronistic image of a castle out of medieval times, situated just around the corner from your local bodega. 
* * *

JONATHAN TARLETON is a State Guide to New York. He was schooled in Georgia and North Carolina before moving on to denser pastures in Brooklyn. He currently helps out at Urban Omnibus where he researches and writes about the policy, art, peculiarities, and movements that make New York City so enticingly combative. He likes to be outside and to make things, preferably concurrently. Follow him on Tumblr at jttarleton.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
CASTLES IN THE CITY - ARMORIES OF NEW YORK, NY

A city as old as New York contains layer upon layer of building types, each exhibiting its own architectural and social histories. Distinctive structures are therefore fairly pedestrian in that they are all around, popping up in the midst of indistinguishable rows of sameness that have their own charm. Turning a corner to see a castle, however, may not seem one of the more likely occurrences, regardless of your location on bustling Park Avenue or a quiet Hasidic Williamsburg block.
Armories and arsenals – generally massive masonry structures fashioned in the medieval Gothic style of fortresses (parapets and turrets included) – are scattered throughout the city. The WPA Guide to New York City mentions many armories briefly, four for their 50-cent badminton rates and others for their resident regiments’ performance in this or that war, though it definitely does not serve as a comprehensive source for the building form. In the 1930s, armories were noted pieces of a community, at once social clubs for men of the upper and upper-middle classes, training grounds for the State’s National Guard divisions, and symbols of government and military might that also sometimes doubled as civic centers. Today, their uses vary widely, as do their states of (dis)repair. In the current economy, one would have a hard time justifying the contemporary construction of such monumental structures on some of the most valuable real estate in the world. But these were quite expensive to construct back in the day as well, which begs the questions of why they were built initially and how these elephant-in-the-city holdovers from a previous era are being used today.

Wanting a bit more information on these behemoths designed to house guns and the people authorized to use them, I stumbled on the NY State Military Museum’s listing of still-existing and long-demolished armories across the state. This resource, coupled with Nancy Todd’s New York’s Historic Armories: An Illustrated History, gave me the bones of a plan to jaunt around the city and visit a few. Todd’s situation of form’s rise in the state within the larger context of the militia in the country’s history is fascinating. To paraphrase greatly, the state militias went from the military force of the colonies and newly minted states to a fairly equal partner with the centralized military, largely focused on domestic unrest, to a group of trained folks that serve overseas and scramble to action when disasters strike at home.

Armories grew in popularity when the state National Guard became a serious force. With industrialization giving rise to class inequality that seems quaint by today’s standards, labor-capital conflicts exploded in the 1870s to the 1890s and the National Guard – rallying out from its urban (and rural) castles – was the group that quashed the riots. The Guard’s consequence among the moneyed classes during that time figured prominently in the construction of more homes for Guard regiments across the city.

The reserve force we know today, which in the City rallied (to name only two instances) post-Sandy and post-9/11 for significant relief efforts, no longer requires structures from which to withstand siege. (Whether the necessity ever truly existed is a very valid question.) Largely beginning in the late 1960s, armories began to fall out of use by the Guard, sometimes due to the cost of upkeep when balanced against the true need for the structures. Ownership of some was transferred to the City, others maintained by the State, some to private groups, and most falling into some sort of disrepair. Many remain in such condition, though some have been repurposed, and plans are in the works for others to be put back to use.

The Central Park Arsenal at 5th Ave. and 64th St. is the oldest of the bunch I visited (constructed in 1848), and one of two structures within Vaux and Olmsted’s great park that predate its creation. As an arsenal, it was largely a warehouse for arms and over time saw many uses, including as a police precinct, a menagerie, the first home of the American Museum of Natural History, and, since Robert Moses assumed its helm in 1934, the City Department of Parks and Recreation.

To bring the regiments off of parade grounds into a weatherized space, the state moved away from the construction of simply arsenals to armories, which generally include an administrative structure, complete with fancy rooms in which cigar smoking would seem a fitting activity, backed by a massive drill shed used for military exercises. Todd calls the Seventh Regiment Armory, known also as the Park Avenue Armory, the “flagship of the building type” and dedicates a whole chapter in her book to its history. Sitting on Park Ave. between 66th and 67th, the 1880 building strikes a powerful image, thanks in part to its rehabilitation as the performance arts space it is today. The massive drill shed, the roof of which is held up by eleven wrought-iron arches, now hosts a range of performances. The space is so large as to permit feats like the reconstruction of an entire four-story theater in the round for a run of performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2011 (with ample space left over). The building’s management was not too keen on allowing me to take photos, so take a look at the armory’s interior here.

In the midst of one the nation’s largest Hasidic Jewish populations in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, sits the Forty-Seventh Regiment Armory at Marcy Ave. between Heyward and Lynch Streets. The juxtaposition between the Yiddish-speaking community, their school buses parked alongside the imposing brick walls of the armory, and the building itself makes for a particularly curious scene. Built in 1884 and expanded in 1899 (thus bringing together two different architectural styles utilized in the form), the space is used for major movie filming. I snuck a glance inside at the construction of sets for Spiderman 3, but again, no luck in a thorough look at the interior. Still owned by the State but promoted by the City as part of its Made in NYC film initiative, there has been talk of late of the sale of building, and the rapidly expanding Hasidic community seems first in line to purchase it for school and community space.

The Fort Washington Avenue Armory, which sits between 168th and 169th streets in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, was constructed in 1911. After the National Guard regiment vacated the space, the city operated a homeless shelter in the drill hall from the late 1980s and early 1990s, as it did with a vast number of armories across the five boroughs. The armory now serves as a track and field center hosting area races as well as Olympic qualifying events, a track and field hall of fame, and community center. Oddly, despite being heavily renovated to accommodate the sloping turf surface of the track, it maintains an interior purpose not unlike that of the old drill sheds. The stands that now host supporters of the athletes racing around the track below may have more modern seats, but they look out from the same vantage point the people of the city would have had when surveying troops in full regalia. Some original flooring, molding, and stairways also remain.

Walking into the 369th Regiment Armory in Harlem on 5th Ave. between 142nd and 143rd, I was promptly sized up by a camo-wearing guardsman. While the drill shed, built in 1924, is now used by the Harlem Children’s Zone, the administrative block, completed in 1933, is still home to the regiment that gives its name to the structure: originally the only black regiment in New York City and nicknamed the Harlem Hell Fighters. Built long after the boom in armory construction in the late 19th century, the 369th has a distinct style, incorporating many art-deco features in its floors and molding. Alas, I was asked to leave before I could snap photos, and the exterior is currently undergoing a restoration, but at the very least the thick, iron-girded doors are something to behold.

Much can be said about the architectural features and styles that define armories across the city, as could be about their changing uses and ownership. Fortunately, they will not likely be going anywhere soon, as most are either landmarked by the City or on the National Register of Historic Places.

To see how we utilize these spaces, designed for an entirely different function but no less useful for our own purposes today, provides a curious case study in adaptive reuse in a time when significant buildings are all too often slated for destruction, victims of real estate money-making schemes, or a lack of creativity in adapting their spaces. Armories also serve as a reminder of the past militarization of cities in a time when our police forces are increasingly equipped with technology and trained in tactics previously reserved for the professional federal military. Which makes me think: we are still building armories and arsenals in the city today. They do not, however, double as a social club relatively open to the outside or treat the eye to an anachronistic image of a castle out of medieval times, situated just around the corner from your local bodega. 
* * *

JONATHAN TARLETON is a State Guide to New York. He was schooled in Georgia and North Carolina before moving on to denser pastures in Brooklyn. He currently helps out at Urban Omnibus where he researches and writes about the policy, art, peculiarities, and movements that make New York City so enticingly combative. He likes to be outside and to make things, preferably concurrently. Follow him on Tumblr at jttarleton.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
CASTLES IN THE CITY - ARMORIES OF NEW YORK, NY

A city as old as New York contains layer upon layer of building types, each exhibiting its own architectural and social histories. Distinctive structures are therefore fairly pedestrian in that they are all around, popping up in the midst of indistinguishable rows of sameness that have their own charm. Turning a corner to see a castle, however, may not seem one of the more likely occurrences, regardless of your location on bustling Park Avenue or a quiet Hasidic Williamsburg block.
Armories and arsenals – generally massive masonry structures fashioned in the medieval Gothic style of fortresses (parapets and turrets included) – are scattered throughout the city. The WPA Guide to New York City mentions many armories briefly, four for their 50-cent badminton rates and others for their resident regiments’ performance in this or that war, though it definitely does not serve as a comprehensive source for the building form. In the 1930s, armories were noted pieces of a community, at once social clubs for men of the upper and upper-middle classes, training grounds for the State’s National Guard divisions, and symbols of government and military might that also sometimes doubled as civic centers. Today, their uses vary widely, as do their states of (dis)repair. In the current economy, one would have a hard time justifying the contemporary construction of such monumental structures on some of the most valuable real estate in the world. But these were quite expensive to construct back in the day as well, which begs the questions of why they were built initially and how these elephant-in-the-city holdovers from a previous era are being used today.

Wanting a bit more information on these behemoths designed to house guns and the people authorized to use them, I stumbled on the NY State Military Museum’s listing of still-existing and long-demolished armories across the state. This resource, coupled with Nancy Todd’s New York’s Historic Armories: An Illustrated History, gave me the bones of a plan to jaunt around the city and visit a few. Todd’s situation of form’s rise in the state within the larger context of the militia in the country’s history is fascinating. To paraphrase greatly, the state militias went from the military force of the colonies and newly minted states to a fairly equal partner with the centralized military, largely focused on domestic unrest, to a group of trained folks that serve overseas and scramble to action when disasters strike at home.

Armories grew in popularity when the state National Guard became a serious force. With industrialization giving rise to class inequality that seems quaint by today’s standards, labor-capital conflicts exploded in the 1870s to the 1890s and the National Guard – rallying out from its urban (and rural) castles – was the group that quashed the riots. The Guard’s consequence among the moneyed classes during that time figured prominently in the construction of more homes for Guard regiments across the city.

The reserve force we know today, which in the City rallied (to name only two instances) post-Sandy and post-9/11 for significant relief efforts, no longer requires structures from which to withstand siege. (Whether the necessity ever truly existed is a very valid question.) Largely beginning in the late 1960s, armories began to fall out of use by the Guard, sometimes due to the cost of upkeep when balanced against the true need for the structures. Ownership of some was transferred to the City, others maintained by the State, some to private groups, and most falling into some sort of disrepair. Many remain in such condition, though some have been repurposed, and plans are in the works for others to be put back to use.

The Central Park Arsenal at 5th Ave. and 64th St. is the oldest of the bunch I visited (constructed in 1848), and one of two structures within Vaux and Olmsted’s great park that predate its creation. As an arsenal, it was largely a warehouse for arms and over time saw many uses, including as a police precinct, a menagerie, the first home of the American Museum of Natural History, and, since Robert Moses assumed its helm in 1934, the City Department of Parks and Recreation.

To bring the regiments off of parade grounds into a weatherized space, the state moved away from the construction of simply arsenals to armories, which generally include an administrative structure, complete with fancy rooms in which cigar smoking would seem a fitting activity, backed by a massive drill shed used for military exercises. Todd calls the Seventh Regiment Armory, known also as the Park Avenue Armory, the “flagship of the building type” and dedicates a whole chapter in her book to its history. Sitting on Park Ave. between 66th and 67th, the 1880 building strikes a powerful image, thanks in part to its rehabilitation as the performance arts space it is today. The massive drill shed, the roof of which is held up by eleven wrought-iron arches, now hosts a range of performances. The space is so large as to permit feats like the reconstruction of an entire four-story theater in the round for a run of performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2011 (with ample space left over). The building’s management was not too keen on allowing me to take photos, so take a look at the armory’s interior here.

In the midst of one the nation’s largest Hasidic Jewish populations in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, sits the Forty-Seventh Regiment Armory at Marcy Ave. between Heyward and Lynch Streets. The juxtaposition between the Yiddish-speaking community, their school buses parked alongside the imposing brick walls of the armory, and the building itself makes for a particularly curious scene. Built in 1884 and expanded in 1899 (thus bringing together two different architectural styles utilized in the form), the space is used for major movie filming. I snuck a glance inside at the construction of sets for Spiderman 3, but again, no luck in a thorough look at the interior. Still owned by the State but promoted by the City as part of its Made in NYC film initiative, there has been talk of late of the sale of building, and the rapidly expanding Hasidic community seems first in line to purchase it for school and community space.

The Fort Washington Avenue Armory, which sits between 168th and 169th streets in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, was constructed in 1911. After the National Guard regiment vacated the space, the city operated a homeless shelter in the drill hall from the late 1980s and early 1990s, as it did with a vast number of armories across the five boroughs. The armory now serves as a track and field center hosting area races as well as Olympic qualifying events, a track and field hall of fame, and community center. Oddly, despite being heavily renovated to accommodate the sloping turf surface of the track, it maintains an interior purpose not unlike that of the old drill sheds. The stands that now host supporters of the athletes racing around the track below may have more modern seats, but they look out from the same vantage point the people of the city would have had when surveying troops in full regalia. Some original flooring, molding, and stairways also remain.

Walking into the 369th Regiment Armory in Harlem on 5th Ave. between 142nd and 143rd, I was promptly sized up by a camo-wearing guardsman. While the drill shed, built in 1924, is now used by the Harlem Children’s Zone, the administrative block, completed in 1933, is still home to the regiment that gives its name to the structure: originally the only black regiment in New York City and nicknamed the Harlem Hell Fighters. Built long after the boom in armory construction in the late 19th century, the 369th has a distinct style, incorporating many art-deco features in its floors and molding. Alas, I was asked to leave before I could snap photos, and the exterior is currently undergoing a restoration, but at the very least the thick, iron-girded doors are something to behold.

Much can be said about the architectural features and styles that define armories across the city, as could be about their changing uses and ownership. Fortunately, they will not likely be going anywhere soon, as most are either landmarked by the City or on the National Register of Historic Places.

To see how we utilize these spaces, designed for an entirely different function but no less useful for our own purposes today, provides a curious case study in adaptive reuse in a time when significant buildings are all too often slated for destruction, victims of real estate money-making schemes, or a lack of creativity in adapting their spaces. Armories also serve as a reminder of the past militarization of cities in a time when our police forces are increasingly equipped with technology and trained in tactics previously reserved for the professional federal military. Which makes me think: we are still building armories and arsenals in the city today. They do not, however, double as a social club relatively open to the outside or treat the eye to an anachronistic image of a castle out of medieval times, situated just around the corner from your local bodega. 
* * *

JONATHAN TARLETON is a State Guide to New York. He was schooled in Georgia and North Carolina before moving on to denser pastures in Brooklyn. He currently helps out at Urban Omnibus where he researches and writes about the policy, art, peculiarities, and movements that make New York City so enticingly combative. He likes to be outside and to make things, preferably concurrently. Follow him on Tumblr at jttarleton.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
CASTLES IN THE CITY - ARMORIES OF NEW YORK, NY

A city as old as New York contains layer upon layer of building types, each exhibiting its own architectural and social histories. Distinctive structures are therefore fairly pedestrian in that they are all around, popping up in the midst of indistinguishable rows of sameness that have their own charm. Turning a corner to see a castle, however, may not seem one of the more likely occurrences, regardless of your location on bustling Park Avenue or a quiet Hasidic Williamsburg block.
Armories and arsenals – generally massive masonry structures fashioned in the medieval Gothic style of fortresses (parapets and turrets included) – are scattered throughout the city. The WPA Guide to New York City mentions many armories briefly, four for their 50-cent badminton rates and others for their resident regiments’ performance in this or that war, though it definitely does not serve as a comprehensive source for the building form. In the 1930s, armories were noted pieces of a community, at once social clubs for men of the upper and upper-middle classes, training grounds for the State’s National Guard divisions, and symbols of government and military might that also sometimes doubled as civic centers. Today, their uses vary widely, as do their states of (dis)repair. In the current economy, one would have a hard time justifying the contemporary construction of such monumental structures on some of the most valuable real estate in the world. But these were quite expensive to construct back in the day as well, which begs the questions of why they were built initially and how these elephant-in-the-city holdovers from a previous era are being used today.

Wanting a bit more information on these behemoths designed to house guns and the people authorized to use them, I stumbled on the NY State Military Museum’s listing of still-existing and long-demolished armories across the state. This resource, coupled with Nancy Todd’s New York’s Historic Armories: An Illustrated History, gave me the bones of a plan to jaunt around the city and visit a few. Todd’s situation of form’s rise in the state within the larger context of the militia in the country’s history is fascinating. To paraphrase greatly, the state militias went from the military force of the colonies and newly minted states to a fairly equal partner with the centralized military, largely focused on domestic unrest, to a group of trained folks that serve overseas and scramble to action when disasters strike at home.

Armories grew in popularity when the state National Guard became a serious force. With industrialization giving rise to class inequality that seems quaint by today’s standards, labor-capital conflicts exploded in the 1870s to the 1890s and the National Guard – rallying out from its urban (and rural) castles – was the group that quashed the riots. The Guard’s consequence among the moneyed classes during that time figured prominently in the construction of more homes for Guard regiments across the city.

The reserve force we know today, which in the City rallied (to name only two instances) post-Sandy and post-9/11 for significant relief efforts, no longer requires structures from which to withstand siege. (Whether the necessity ever truly existed is a very valid question.) Largely beginning in the late 1960s, armories began to fall out of use by the Guard, sometimes due to the cost of upkeep when balanced against the true need for the structures. Ownership of some was transferred to the City, others maintained by the State, some to private groups, and most falling into some sort of disrepair. Many remain in such condition, though some have been repurposed, and plans are in the works for others to be put back to use.

The Central Park Arsenal at 5th Ave. and 64th St. is the oldest of the bunch I visited (constructed in 1848), and one of two structures within Vaux and Olmsted’s great park that predate its creation. As an arsenal, it was largely a warehouse for arms and over time saw many uses, including as a police precinct, a menagerie, the first home of the American Museum of Natural History, and, since Robert Moses assumed its helm in 1934, the City Department of Parks and Recreation.

To bring the regiments off of parade grounds into a weatherized space, the state moved away from the construction of simply arsenals to armories, which generally include an administrative structure, complete with fancy rooms in which cigar smoking would seem a fitting activity, backed by a massive drill shed used for military exercises. Todd calls the Seventh Regiment Armory, known also as the Park Avenue Armory, the “flagship of the building type” and dedicates a whole chapter in her book to its history. Sitting on Park Ave. between 66th and 67th, the 1880 building strikes a powerful image, thanks in part to its rehabilitation as the performance arts space it is today. The massive drill shed, the roof of which is held up by eleven wrought-iron arches, now hosts a range of performances. The space is so large as to permit feats like the reconstruction of an entire four-story theater in the round for a run of performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2011 (with ample space left over). The building’s management was not too keen on allowing me to take photos, so take a look at the armory’s interior here.

In the midst of one the nation’s largest Hasidic Jewish populations in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, sits the Forty-Seventh Regiment Armory at Marcy Ave. between Heyward and Lynch Streets. The juxtaposition between the Yiddish-speaking community, their school buses parked alongside the imposing brick walls of the armory, and the building itself makes for a particularly curious scene. Built in 1884 and expanded in 1899 (thus bringing together two different architectural styles utilized in the form), the space is used for major movie filming. I snuck a glance inside at the construction of sets for Spiderman 3, but again, no luck in a thorough look at the interior. Still owned by the State but promoted by the City as part of its Made in NYC film initiative, there has been talk of late of the sale of building, and the rapidly expanding Hasidic community seems first in line to purchase it for school and community space.

The Fort Washington Avenue Armory, which sits between 168th and 169th streets in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, was constructed in 1911. After the National Guard regiment vacated the space, the city operated a homeless shelter in the drill hall from the late 1980s and early 1990s, as it did with a vast number of armories across the five boroughs. The armory now serves as a track and field center hosting area races as well as Olympic qualifying events, a track and field hall of fame, and community center. Oddly, despite being heavily renovated to accommodate the sloping turf surface of the track, it maintains an interior purpose not unlike that of the old drill sheds. The stands that now host supporters of the athletes racing around the track below may have more modern seats, but they look out from the same vantage point the people of the city would have had when surveying troops in full regalia. Some original flooring, molding, and stairways also remain.

Walking into the 369th Regiment Armory in Harlem on 5th Ave. between 142nd and 143rd, I was promptly sized up by a camo-wearing guardsman. While the drill shed, built in 1924, is now used by the Harlem Children’s Zone, the administrative block, completed in 1933, is still home to the regiment that gives its name to the structure: originally the only black regiment in New York City and nicknamed the Harlem Hell Fighters. Built long after the boom in armory construction in the late 19th century, the 369th has a distinct style, incorporating many art-deco features in its floors and molding. Alas, I was asked to leave before I could snap photos, and the exterior is currently undergoing a restoration, but at the very least the thick, iron-girded doors are something to behold.

Much can be said about the architectural features and styles that define armories across the city, as could be about their changing uses and ownership. Fortunately, they will not likely be going anywhere soon, as most are either landmarked by the City or on the National Register of Historic Places.

To see how we utilize these spaces, designed for an entirely different function but no less useful for our own purposes today, provides a curious case study in adaptive reuse in a time when significant buildings are all too often slated for destruction, victims of real estate money-making schemes, or a lack of creativity in adapting their spaces. Armories also serve as a reminder of the past militarization of cities in a time when our police forces are increasingly equipped with technology and trained in tactics previously reserved for the professional federal military. Which makes me think: we are still building armories and arsenals in the city today. They do not, however, double as a social club relatively open to the outside or treat the eye to an anachronistic image of a castle out of medieval times, situated just around the corner from your local bodega. 
* * *

JONATHAN TARLETON is a State Guide to New York. He was schooled in Georgia and North Carolina before moving on to denser pastures in Brooklyn. He currently helps out at Urban Omnibus where he researches and writes about the policy, art, peculiarities, and movements that make New York City so enticingly combative. He likes to be outside and to make things, preferably concurrently. Follow him on Tumblr at jttarleton.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info

CASTLES IN THE CITY - ARMORIES OF NEW YORK, NY

A city as old as New York contains layer upon layer of building types, each exhibiting its own architectural and social histories. Distinctive structures are therefore fairly pedestrian in that they are all around, popping up in the midst of indistinguishable rows of sameness that have their own charm. Turning a corner to see a castle, however, may not seem one of the more likely occurrences, regardless of your location on bustling Park Avenue or a quiet Hasidic Williamsburg block.

Armories and arsenals – generally massive masonry structures fashioned in the medieval Gothic style of fortresses (parapets and turrets included) – are scattered throughout the city. The WPA Guide to New York City mentions many armories briefly, four for their 50-cent badminton rates and others for their resident regiments’ performance in this or that war, though it definitely does not serve as a comprehensive source for the building form. In the 1930s, armories were noted pieces of a community, at once social clubs for men of the upper and upper-middle classes, training grounds for the State’s National Guard divisions, and symbols of government and military might that also sometimes doubled as civic centers. Today, their uses vary widely, as do their states of (dis)repair. In the current economy, one would have a hard time justifying the contemporary construction of such monumental structures on some of the most valuable real estate in the world. But these were quite expensive to construct back in the day as well, which begs the questions of why they were built initially and how these elephant-in-the-city holdovers from a previous era are being used today.

Wanting a bit more information on these behemoths designed to house guns and the people authorized to use them, I stumbled on the NY State Military Museum’s listing of still-existing and long-demolished armories across the state. This resource, coupled with Nancy Todd’s New York’s Historic Armories: An Illustrated History, gave me the bones of a plan to jaunt around the city and visit a few. Todd’s situation of form’s rise in the state within the larger context of the militia in the country’s history is fascinating. To paraphrase greatly, the state militias went from the military force of the colonies and newly minted states to a fairly equal partner with the centralized military, largely focused on domestic unrest, to a group of trained folks that serve overseas and scramble to action when disasters strike at home.

Armories grew in popularity when the state National Guard became a serious force. With industrialization giving rise to class inequality that seems quaint by today’s standards, labor-capital conflicts exploded in the 1870s to the 1890s and the National Guard – rallying out from its urban (and rural) castles – was the group that quashed the riots. The Guard’s consequence among the moneyed classes during that time figured prominently in the construction of more homes for Guard regiments across the city.

The reserve force we know today, which in the City rallied (to name only two instances) post-Sandy and post-9/11 for significant relief efforts, no longer requires structures from which to withstand siege. (Whether the necessity ever truly existed is a very valid question.) Largely beginning in the late 1960s, armories began to fall out of use by the Guard, sometimes due to the cost of upkeep when balanced against the true need for the structures. Ownership of some was transferred to the City, others maintained by the State, some to private groups, and most falling into some sort of disrepair. Many remain in such condition, though some have been repurposed, and plans are in the works for others to be put back to use.

The Central Park Arsenal at 5th Ave. and 64th St. is the oldest of the bunch I visited (constructed in 1848), and one of two structures within Vaux and Olmsted’s great park that predate its creation. As an arsenal, it was largely a warehouse for arms and over time saw many uses, including as a police precinct, a menagerie, the first home of the American Museum of Natural History, and, since Robert Moses assumed its helm in 1934, the City Department of Parks and Recreation.

To bring the regiments off of parade grounds into a weatherized space, the state moved away from the construction of simply arsenals to armories, which generally include an administrative structure, complete with fancy rooms in which cigar smoking would seem a fitting activity, backed by a massive drill shed used for military exercises. Todd calls the Seventh Regiment Armory, known also as the Park Avenue Armory, the “flagship of the building type” and dedicates a whole chapter in her book to its history. Sitting on Park Ave. between 66th and 67th, the 1880 building strikes a powerful image, thanks in part to its rehabilitation as the performance arts space it is today. The massive drill shed, the roof of which is held up by eleven wrought-iron arches, now hosts a range of performances. The space is so large as to permit feats like the reconstruction of an entire four-story theater in the round for a run of performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2011 (with ample space left over). The building’s management was not too keen on allowing me to take photos, so take a look at the armory’s interior here.

In the midst of one the nation’s largest Hasidic Jewish populations in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, sits the Forty-Seventh Regiment Armory at Marcy Ave. between Heyward and Lynch Streets. The juxtaposition between the Yiddish-speaking community, their school buses parked alongside the imposing brick walls of the armory, and the building itself makes for a particularly curious scene. Built in 1884 and expanded in 1899 (thus bringing together two different architectural styles utilized in the form), the space is used for major movie filming. I snuck a glance inside at the construction of sets for Spiderman 3, but again, no luck in a thorough look at the interior. Still owned by the State but promoted by the City as part of its Made in NYC film initiative, there has been talk of late of the sale of building, and the rapidly expanding Hasidic community seems first in line to purchase it for school and community space.

The Fort Washington Avenue Armory, which sits between 168th and 169th streets in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, was constructed in 1911. After the National Guard regiment vacated the space, the city operated a homeless shelter in the drill hall from the late 1980s and early 1990s, as it did with a vast number of armories across the five boroughs. The armory now serves as a track and field center hosting area races as well as Olympic qualifying events, a track and field hall of fame, and community center. Oddly, despite being heavily renovated to accommodate the sloping turf surface of the track, it maintains an interior purpose not unlike that of the old drill sheds. The stands that now host supporters of the athletes racing around the track below may have more modern seats, but they look out from the same vantage point the people of the city would have had when surveying troops in full regalia. Some original flooring, molding, and stairways also remain.

Walking into the 369th Regiment Armory in Harlem on 5th Ave. between 142nd and 143rd, I was promptly sized up by a camo-wearing guardsman. While the drill shed, built in 1924, is now used by the Harlem Children’s Zone, the administrative block, completed in 1933, is still home to the regiment that gives its name to the structure: originally the only black regiment in New York City and nicknamed the Harlem Hell Fighters. Built long after the boom in armory construction in the late 19th century, the 369th has a distinct style, incorporating many art-deco features in its floors and molding. Alas, I was asked to leave before I could snap photos, and the exterior is currently undergoing a restoration, but at the very least the thick, iron-girded doors are something to behold.

Much can be said about the architectural features and styles that define armories across the city, as could be about their changing uses and ownership. Fortunately, they will not likely be going anywhere soon, as most are either landmarked by the City or on the National Register of Historic Places.

To see how we utilize these spaces, designed for an entirely different function but no less useful for our own purposes today, provides a curious case study in adaptive reuse in a time when significant buildings are all too often slated for destruction, victims of real estate money-making schemes, or a lack of creativity in adapting their spaces. Armories also serve as a reminder of the past militarization of cities in a time when our police forces are increasingly equipped with technology and trained in tactics previously reserved for the professional federal military. Which makes me think: we are still building armories and arsenals in the city today. They do not, however, double as a social club relatively open to the outside or treat the eye to an anachronistic image of a castle out of medieval times, situated just around the corner from your local bodega. 

* * *

JONATHAN TARLETON is a State Guide to New York. He was schooled in Georgia and North Carolina before moving on to denser pastures in Brooklyn. He currently helps out at Urban Omnibus where he researches and writes about the policy, art, peculiarities, and movements that make New York City so enticingly combative. He likes to be outside and to make things, preferably concurrently. Follow him on Tumblr at jttarleton.tumblr.com.

BROOKLYN NAVY YARD - NEW YORK

“The United States Navy Yard, Navy Street, Flushing and Clinton Avenues, better known as the Brooklyn Navy Yard, skirts Wallabout Bay, a semicircular elbow of the East River opposite Corlear’s Hook, Manhattan. This busy naval city covers a total of 197 acres, 118 on land, 79 on water, and is surrounded by forbidding brick walls with massive iron gateways.” – New York City Guide (WPA, 1939)

Biking down Flushing Avenue, dubbed the Hipster Highway for its convenient bike connection between the neighborhoods of DUMBO, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint, any sense of neighborhood evades you. Warehouses and auto parts stores are countered by an expanse of quiet industrialism along the East River waterfront. The district now seems to lack the pulsating energy of intensive production in the Navy Yard’s past: from 1801 to 1966, the Navy Yard was one of the foremost shipbuilding and provisioning centers in the nation with a workforce upwards of 70,000 employees during World War II. Now owned by the city and operated as an industrial park, the gates remain and entry is restricted - an anomaly of the street grid with a smattering of competing building styles and orientations, punctuated by half empty parking lots that give the impression of just another industrial waterfront awaiting redevelopment.

“The yard (…) contains four drydocks ranging in length from 326 to 700 feet, two huge steel shipways, and six big pontoons and cylindrical floats for salvage work (…) numerous foundries, machine shops, and warehouses (…) barracks for marines, a power plant, a large radio station, and a railroad spur. (…) Beyond the dull waters of the East River looms the New York sky line, like the backdrop of a stage set.” – New York City Guide (WPA, 1939)

Despite its guarded, dulling presentation to the outside, the Navy Yard thrives. Now one of the fastest growing green manufacturing centers in the nation, the Yard also houses artists, an urban farm, the city’s oldest current operating whiskey distillery (a few years old), woodworkers, architects, a pioneering modular construction firm, and remnants of its ship-centric past operating the gargantuan dry docks reaching inland. The steel hull of Building 128 - just months ago a bygone shipbuilding factory shrouded in caution tape and rust - is slowly shaping into a Collaborative Design and Fabrication Center. Steiner Studios, the largest film studio complex outside of Hollywood and home to the largest sound stage on the East Coast, provides a backdrop ripe for the silver screen: the Empire State Building, the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges, and the new World Trade Center building all rise in the distance.

“At the south end, facing Flushing Avenue are the officer’s quarters, two-story buildings of painted brick, scrupulously neat despite their age (some were built before the Civil War), and bordered by gardens, tennis courts, and carefully kept walks.” – New York City Guide (WPA, 1939)

The past and the present meet frequently in New York, but rarely do the past and the future coalesce so nearly as they do in the Navy Yard. Bordered by the crumbling facades of Admiral’s Row and the regally decrepit former hospital, industry is adapting to the constraints and needs of the current environment. The nonprofit development corporation that manages the site has made the rich history of the Navy Yard’s past and present available through BLDG 92, a museum, job placement center, and community space housed in the adaptively reused Marine Commandant’s Residence. It may not look like much from the outside, but the Navy Yard stands in stark contrast to an economy founded on real estate booms and the fluctuations of Wall Street, and is much more impressive and intriguing for it.
Guide Note: While admission to BLDG 92 is free, tours of the Navy Yard itself run to at least $20. I highly suggest a visit to the distillery followed by some slightly illicit exploration of the grounds, by bike if possible.
* * *
JONATHAN TARLETON is a State Guide to New York. He was schooled in Georgia and North Carolina before moving on to denser pastures in Brooklyn. He currently helps out at Urban Omnibus where he researches and writes about the policy, art, peculiarities, and movements that make New York City so enticingly combative. He likes to be outside and to make things, preferably concurrently. 
Follow him on Tumblr at jttarleton.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
BROOKLYN NAVY YARD - NEW YORK

“The United States Navy Yard, Navy Street, Flushing and Clinton Avenues, better known as the Brooklyn Navy Yard, skirts Wallabout Bay, a semicircular elbow of the East River opposite Corlear’s Hook, Manhattan. This busy naval city covers a total of 197 acres, 118 on land, 79 on water, and is surrounded by forbidding brick walls with massive iron gateways.” – New York City Guide (WPA, 1939)

Biking down Flushing Avenue, dubbed the Hipster Highway for its convenient bike connection between the neighborhoods of DUMBO, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint, any sense of neighborhood evades you. Warehouses and auto parts stores are countered by an expanse of quiet industrialism along the East River waterfront. The district now seems to lack the pulsating energy of intensive production in the Navy Yard’s past: from 1801 to 1966, the Navy Yard was one of the foremost shipbuilding and provisioning centers in the nation with a workforce upwards of 70,000 employees during World War II. Now owned by the city and operated as an industrial park, the gates remain and entry is restricted - an anomaly of the street grid with a smattering of competing building styles and orientations, punctuated by half empty parking lots that give the impression of just another industrial waterfront awaiting redevelopment.

“The yard (…) contains four drydocks ranging in length from 326 to 700 feet, two huge steel shipways, and six big pontoons and cylindrical floats for salvage work (…) numerous foundries, machine shops, and warehouses (…) barracks for marines, a power plant, a large radio station, and a railroad spur. (…) Beyond the dull waters of the East River looms the New York sky line, like the backdrop of a stage set.” – New York City Guide (WPA, 1939)

Despite its guarded, dulling presentation to the outside, the Navy Yard thrives. Now one of the fastest growing green manufacturing centers in the nation, the Yard also houses artists, an urban farm, the city’s oldest current operating whiskey distillery (a few years old), woodworkers, architects, a pioneering modular construction firm, and remnants of its ship-centric past operating the gargantuan dry docks reaching inland. The steel hull of Building 128 - just months ago a bygone shipbuilding factory shrouded in caution tape and rust - is slowly shaping into a Collaborative Design and Fabrication Center. Steiner Studios, the largest film studio complex outside of Hollywood and home to the largest sound stage on the East Coast, provides a backdrop ripe for the silver screen: the Empire State Building, the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges, and the new World Trade Center building all rise in the distance.

“At the south end, facing Flushing Avenue are the officer’s quarters, two-story buildings of painted brick, scrupulously neat despite their age (some were built before the Civil War), and bordered by gardens, tennis courts, and carefully kept walks.” – New York City Guide (WPA, 1939)

The past and the present meet frequently in New York, but rarely do the past and the future coalesce so nearly as they do in the Navy Yard. Bordered by the crumbling facades of Admiral’s Row and the regally decrepit former hospital, industry is adapting to the constraints and needs of the current environment. The nonprofit development corporation that manages the site has made the rich history of the Navy Yard’s past and present available through BLDG 92, a museum, job placement center, and community space housed in the adaptively reused Marine Commandant’s Residence. It may not look like much from the outside, but the Navy Yard stands in stark contrast to an economy founded on real estate booms and the fluctuations of Wall Street, and is much more impressive and intriguing for it.
Guide Note: While admission to BLDG 92 is free, tours of the Navy Yard itself run to at least $20. I highly suggest a visit to the distillery followed by some slightly illicit exploration of the grounds, by bike if possible.
* * *
JONATHAN TARLETON is a State Guide to New York. He was schooled in Georgia and North Carolina before moving on to denser pastures in Brooklyn. He currently helps out at Urban Omnibus where he researches and writes about the policy, art, peculiarities, and movements that make New York City so enticingly combative. He likes to be outside and to make things, preferably concurrently. 
Follow him on Tumblr at jttarleton.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info
BROOKLYN NAVY YARD - NEW YORK

“The United States Navy Yard, Navy Street, Flushing and Clinton Avenues, better known as the Brooklyn Navy Yard, skirts Wallabout Bay, a semicircular elbow of the East River opposite Corlear’s Hook, Manhattan. This busy naval city covers a total of 197 acres, 118 on land, 79 on water, and is surrounded by forbidding brick walls with massive iron gateways.” – New York City Guide (WPA, 1939)

Biking down Flushing Avenue, dubbed the Hipster Highway for its convenient bike connection between the neighborhoods of DUMBO, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint, any sense of neighborhood evades you. Warehouses and auto parts stores are countered by an expanse of quiet industrialism along the East River waterfront. The district now seems to lack the pulsating energy of intensive production in the Navy Yard’s past: from 1801 to 1966, the Navy Yard was one of the foremost shipbuilding and provisioning centers in the nation with a workforce upwards of 70,000 employees during World War II. Now owned by the city and operated as an industrial park, the gates remain and entry is restricted - an anomaly of the street grid with a smattering of competing building styles and orientations, punctuated by half empty parking lots that give the impression of just another industrial waterfront awaiting redevelopment.

“The yard (…) contains four drydocks ranging in length from 326 to 700 feet, two huge steel shipways, and six big pontoons and cylindrical floats for salvage work (…) numerous foundries, machine shops, and warehouses (…) barracks for marines, a power plant, a large radio station, and a railroad spur. (…) Beyond the dull waters of the East River looms the New York sky line, like the backdrop of a stage set.” – New York City Guide (WPA, 1939)

Despite its guarded, dulling presentation to the outside, the Navy Yard thrives. Now one of the fastest growing green manufacturing centers in the nation, the Yard also houses artists, an urban farm, the city’s oldest current operating whiskey distillery (a few years old), woodworkers, architects, a pioneering modular construction firm, and remnants of its ship-centric past operating the gargantuan dry docks reaching inland. The steel hull of Building 128 - just months ago a bygone shipbuilding factory shrouded in caution tape and rust - is slowly shaping into a Collaborative Design and Fabrication Center. Steiner Studios, the largest film studio complex outside of Hollywood and home to the largest sound stage on the East Coast, provides a backdrop ripe for the silver screen: the Empire State Building, the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges, and the new World Trade Center building all rise in the distance.

“At the south end, facing Flushing Avenue are the officer’s quarters, two-story buildings of painted brick, scrupulously neat despite their age (some were built before the Civil War), and bordered by gardens, tennis courts, and carefully kept walks.” – New York City Guide (WPA, 1939)

The past and the present meet frequently in New York, but rarely do the past and the future coalesce so nearly as they do in the Navy Yard. Bordered by the crumbling facades of Admiral’s Row and the regally decrepit former hospital, industry is adapting to the constraints and needs of the current environment. The nonprofit development corporation that manages the site has made the rich history of the Navy Yard’s past and present available through BLDG 92, a museum, job placement center, and community space housed in the adaptively reused Marine Commandant’s Residence. It may not look like much from the outside, but the Navy Yard stands in stark contrast to an economy founded on real estate booms and the fluctuations of Wall Street, and is much more impressive and intriguing for it.
Guide Note: While admission to BLDG 92 is free, tours of the Navy Yard itself run to at least $20. I highly suggest a visit to the distillery followed by some slightly illicit exploration of the grounds, by bike if possible.
* * *
JONATHAN TARLETON is a State Guide to New York. He was schooled in Georgia and North Carolina before moving on to denser pastures in Brooklyn. He currently helps out at Urban Omnibus where he researches and writes about the policy, art, peculiarities, and movements that make New York City so enticingly combative. He likes to be outside and to make things, preferably concurrently. 
Follow him on Tumblr at jttarleton.tumblr.com.
Zoom Info

BROOKLYN NAVY YARD - NEW YORK

“The United States Navy Yard, Navy Street, Flushing and Clinton Avenues, better known as the Brooklyn Navy Yard, skirts Wallabout Bay, a semicircular elbow of the East River opposite Corlear’s Hook, Manhattan. This busy naval city covers a total of 197 acres, 118 on land, 79 on water, and is surrounded by forbidding brick walls with massive iron gateways.” New York City Guide (WPA, 1939)

Biking down Flushing Avenue, dubbed the Hipster Highway for its convenient bike connection between the neighborhoods of DUMBO, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint, any sense of neighborhood evades you. Warehouses and auto parts stores are countered by an expanse of quiet industrialism along the East River waterfront. The district now seems to lack the pulsating energy of intensive production in the Navy Yard’s past: from 1801 to 1966, the Navy Yard was one of the foremost shipbuilding and provisioning centers in the nation with a workforce upwards of 70,000 employees during World War II. Now owned by the city and operated as an industrial park, the gates remain and entry is restricted - an anomaly of the street grid with a smattering of competing building styles and orientations, punctuated by half empty parking lots that give the impression of just another industrial waterfront awaiting redevelopment.

“The yard (…) contains four drydocks ranging in length from 326 to 700 feet, two huge steel shipways, and six big pontoons and cylindrical floats for salvage work (…) numerous foundries, machine shops, and warehouses (…) barracks for marines, a power plant, a large radio station, and a railroad spur. (…) Beyond the dull waters of the East River looms the New York sky line, like the backdrop of a stage set.” – New York City Guide (WPA, 1939)

Despite its guarded, dulling presentation to the outside, the Navy Yard thrives. Now one of the fastest growing green manufacturing centers in the nation, the Yard also houses artists, an urban farm, the city’s oldest current operating whiskey distillery (a few years old), woodworkers, architects, a pioneering modular construction firm, and remnants of its ship-centric past operating the gargantuan dry docks reaching inland. The steel hull of Building 128 - just months ago a bygone shipbuilding factory shrouded in caution tape and rust - is slowly shaping into a Collaborative Design and Fabrication Center. Steiner Studios, the largest film studio complex outside of Hollywood and home to the largest sound stage on the East Coast, provides a backdrop ripe for the silver screen: the Empire State Building, the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges, and the new World Trade Center building all rise in the distance.

“At the south end, facing Flushing Avenue are the officer’s quarters, two-story buildings of painted brick, scrupulously neat despite their age (some were built before the Civil War), and bordered by gardens, tennis courts, and carefully kept walks.” – New York City Guide (WPA, 1939)

The past and the present meet frequently in New York, but rarely do the past and the future coalesce so nearly as they do in the Navy Yard. Bordered by the crumbling facades of Admiral’s Row and the regally decrepit former hospital, industry is adapting to the constraints and needs of the current environment. The nonprofit development corporation that manages the site has made the rich history of the Navy Yard’s past and present available through BLDG 92, a museum, job placement center, and community space housed in the adaptively reused Marine Commandant’s Residence. It may not look like much from the outside, but the Navy Yard stands in stark contrast to an economy founded on real estate booms and the fluctuations of Wall Street, and is much more impressive and intriguing for it.

Guide Note: While admission to BLDG 92 is free, tours of the Navy Yard itself run to at least $20. I highly suggest a visit to the distillery followed by some slightly illicit exploration of the grounds, by bike if possible.

* * *

JONATHAN TARLETON is a State Guide to New York. He was schooled in Georgia and North Carolina before moving on to denser pastures in Brooklyn. He currently helps out at Urban Omnibus where he researches and writes about the policy, art, peculiarities, and movements that make New York City so enticingly combative. He likes to be outside and to make things, preferably concurrently.

Follow him on Tumblr at jttarleton.tumblr.com.