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The Arsenal (Central Park)
 

Foundations of America

QU201 Prof. Scott Leone

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Home Stony Creek Granite Sites Public Buildings The Arsenal (Central Park)

The Arsenal (Central Park)

Marijan Jurac

QU201-Prof. Leone

10-13-11

Stony Creek Granite is not only a stone rich in color and texture, but a time vessel rich in history.  The stone, about 600 million years old, brings us back to landmarks, each one with a specific story.  The landmarks all built strong and sturdy with a Stone that was built to last and stand out with its unique and unusual color.  Important landmarks and buildings were and still are built of Stony Creek Granite, weather it be a small portion or a whole monument or building, Stony Creek Granite has found its way into History and still lives on.

One of many important buildings located in New York City that are made with Stony Creek Granite is The Arsenal Building located on 64th St. and 5th Ave. in Central Park.  Currently the headquarters of New York City’s Department of Parks & Recreation and the Central Park Zoo, the building outdates Central Park by about ten years.  Designed by architect Martin E. Thompson, the building was given the look of a medieval fortress built.  Built in 1853 with stucco and crenulated cornice, the building stands out from other buildings in the park.  It greets its visitors with huge cast-iron gates.  Getting the name “The Arsenal”, the building was originally made to serve as a storage supply for ammunitions used by the New York State Militia.  However, the building was seized from the military by the State 3 years later.   Shortly thereafter The City bought The Arsenal for $275,000 and stripped the building of its ammunitions and military equipment.

After the building’s short military term, the only question left was, how would this building serve the city next?  Many New Yorkers questioned the building and often criticized its design. One of many critics was George Templeton Strong, a well known diarist, said in 1859, “I hope this eyesore would soon be destroyed by an accidental fire”.  Despite the critics The Arsenal building went on to serve New York City for decades to come playing several different roles.  The building served as a police precinct in 1857 weather bureau, makeshift zoo in 1871 and most importantly the first National Museum of natural history from 1869-1877.  Animals donated by P.T. Barnum, August Belmont and civil war general William Tecumseh Sherman were held in cages in the basement of the building that could be seen by the public.  The Animal display was also short lived due to a dangerous and unsanitary atmosphere.  In 1870 architect, Jacob Wrey Mold, who was the designer of creations around the park, remodeled the interior of the building.

During the period of 1914-1924 The Arsenal Building was reaching its breaking point as it began to deteriorate.  With missing bricks, broken windows, and too many structural defects The Arsenal was mocked by newspaper headlines as a “Neglected Landmark”.  The building’s last hopes were answered when the city decided to invest $75,000 in The Arsenal’s a restoration process.  Included in the restoration were a clock, extra storage space, and a conference room.  A secret passage and an underground spring were discovered during the reconstruction.  The secret passage way was said to be a secret exit for ammunition and arms if they were need in emergency.  Along with the reconstruction was the insertion of Stony Creek Granite, used for the entrance steps of the front entrance of the building.  Though the Granite was not polished but rough, it made a very appealing staircase to say the least.  While functionally providing traction for pedestrians, the entry steps were expected to be the most used and most worn part of the building.  Could Robert Moses have seen Stony Creek granite as more useful in strength than in appeal since he didn’t use the granite somewhere on the building where it could have been polished and flaunted its unique pink color?

During the last renovation in 1934 done by Robert Moses who was Born in New Haven, CT in 1888.  Robert Moses was the “master builder” during the mid 20th century. In many of his works he used Stony Creek Granite.  Did Robert Moses’s connection with Stony Creek Granite influence him to use it on the renovation of the Arsenal?  It must have, because he used Stony Creek Granite before 1934 in other magnificent works such as the Triborough Bridge, Queens Zoo, Astoria Park, Downing Stadium and many others.  After the reconstruction The Arsenal was the first Park Department Headquarters, which also served as the base for Robert Moses.  Moses became Commissioner of the Parks and Recreation offices held in the Arsenal.  The parks’ acreage tripled and the children’s parks increased by 658.  Today, the Arsenal building is still serving the city.  Although it is not holding ammunitions and arms, helping the city predict the weather, or exhibiting natural history.  The Arsenal is helping New York look forward to new reconstructions of NYC parks to better the community and city.  As the Arsenal still stands strong it can be written and savored in history that Stony Creek Granite contributes to that strength.

Links:

  • http://www.nycgovparks.org/sub_about/parks_history/history_arsenal_brochure/history_arsenal_brochure_pg2.html
  • http://www.centralparknyc.org/visit/things-to-see/south-end/arsenal.html
  • http://www.centralpark.com/guide/attractions/arsenal.html

 

 

 

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Flesh and Stone

Flesh and Stone - Stony Creek and the Age of Granite - buy at Amazon.com
Available on Amazon

Uncirculated: Shrink wrapped in clear plastic from original Italian publisher, 1999. Ships with fresh samples of sparkling Stony Creek pink granite for historians, collectors, geologists and classrooms. Additional samples available upon request.