Wednesday, October 21st, 2009
New York State put the Glens Falls Armory up for auction today. The minimum bid for these 38,000 square feet of turreted awesomeness is $500,000.
The armory was built in Romanesque Revival style by state architect Isaac Perry in 1894.
The outside of the three story building is brick, slate and metal; inside it is timber construction. The corner tower is 65 feet high with a battlemented parapet. When built, the Drill Hall, located on the first floor, had gas lights. The Mezzanine Floor consists of a wooden locker-room, built at the turn of the century. There are also offices throughout the facility. The Drill Hall, where soldiers gather for formations, has also been used for public functions.
Sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? That’s intentional. According to Michael Aikey, director of the New York State Military Museum, these ponderous structures were built intentionally to convey state power. At the turn of the century, there was a lot of civil unrest. Lots of labour strife, lots of packed tenements, a few very rich people, lots of very poor people. President McKinley was assassinated in Buffalo, New York, just 6 years after the Glens Falls Armory opened its doors.
Now the National Guard does more overseas than in the state, and National Guard units are leaving old timey armories and moving to “readiness centers”. The Glens Falls unit is moving to a suburban industrial park. Boring, but the bathrooms will probably work a lot better.
Like many other New York state armories, the Glens Falls Armory is on the National Register of Historic Places, but that places no limits on what sort of renovations get done*. As charming as the building is, it’s also a huge labyrinthine collection of crappy acoustic tile drop ceilings and linoleum corridors.
Whoever buys it is going to have to invest major money into converting it to some other use. Other decommissioned armories have been converted into community centers, antiquities markets, science museums, even caterers.
Susan and Manfred Phemister spent hundreds of thousands of dollars converting an 1890s armory into their personal home, a bed and breakfast and a meeting venue. They bought it off of eBay, believe it or not, and are now putting it up for sale for almost twice what they paid for it.
I’ve waited all day for the results of the Glens Falls Armory auction, but so far no news on how much it went for. I’ll update when I hear.
UPDATE: John Warren of the New York History blog reports that nobody bid on the armory. I know it’s a lot to take on, especially in this economic climate, but I hope it finds a loving new owner soon.
More pics here (pdf).
* I originally said that being on the register would limit the renovation options to ensure the building remains in keeping with its historical nature, but Brad pointed out in the comments that this is not in fact the case. Sadly, the National Register “no restrictions on the use, treatment, transfer, or disposition of private property.”