Kingsbridge Armory: from the world’s largest armory to the world’s largest ice rink

Nikola Petrovski
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Known by its sobriquet of Eighth Regiment Armory, is a structure that in part resembles a castle and in part a massive train station. Officially built at the beginning of the 20th century following the design of Lewis Pilcher, the Kingsbridge Armory housed the National Guard’s Eighth Coastal Artillery Regiment unit. And once finished, it was among the largest armories in the world.

The building itself stands on top of 2,000 square meters of land, bound to the south by West Kingsbridge Road, to the east by Jerome Avenue; the Reservoir Avenue stands on its west side and the north is reserved for the West 195th Street. If one takes the subway’s 4 train, the west side of the armory is clearly visible.

The structure itself spreads across nine stories with its visage done in typical for the period red brick, and with metal roof with glass on both ends of the building. Alongside the brickwork – considered to be among the finest in the city of New York – is a stone that is used around the windows. The corbels are also done in stone and run right underneath the parapet roof following the length of the whole building. The facade is further extended with turrets.

Close-up of the facade. Author: Jim.henderson

Following the south elevation, in the middle of it is an office wing that towers two stories above street level as well as the main entrance, or what is known otherwise as the “headhouse.” The frontal part of the building is further enriched by two towers with cone-shaped roofs, as well as another set of square towers.

View from the subway station. Author: Daniel Case CC BY 2.0

Truth be told, the whole building is constructed lavishly. For instance, the main entrance: following stone steps with red brick walls on either side will take the visitor to a set of doors where the first layer is iron gates that protect the paneled double doors. On top of these doors is a round arch that clearly proclaims “258th Field Artillery,” on top of which is a stone eagle with outstretched wings.

Main entrance. Author: Jim.henderson

The inside of this armory is as breathtaking as its exterior, and its 17,000 square meter drill hall, as well as the auditorium with 800 seats, add to the overall awe surrounding the place. Beneath this armory are two more stories that once housed military vehicles, a number of fitness rooms and lecture halls, as well as the shooting range and basketball court.

General view of the armoryAuthor: Jim.henderson

Needless to say, the armory played a major role during the Second World War. It was here that Herbert Lehman, the 45th Governor of New York, in a ceremony that took place during an event in 1942, reviewed around 10,000 soldiers. The armory also served as a registration place where immigrants from an enemy state were processed.

One of the armory’s walls. Author: Jim.henderson

Once World War Two was over, New York city offered it to the United Nations General Assembly as a place that they could use until their building was completed. At the middle of the 20th century, the armory was further extended with two new buildings. During the mid-70s it was designated as a landmark. A couple years later, the armory was converted to a shelter for the homeless, but over time the armory became fully abandoned. There was a proposal in 1994 for the armoury to be converted to school but to no avail.

Photograph from street level alternative view. Author: Jim.henderson

Next followed a number of proposals that suffered the same faith. The was another one in 2012 that included Deutsche Bank whose idea was to convert this place to an indoor ice rink. They even came up with a name for it: the Kingsbridge National Ice Center. Mark Messier from the New York Rangers and Sarah Hughes, an Olympic gold medalist, both served as spokespersons for this campaign.

The plan to convert this armory to an ice rink remains and for now, a couple of hundred million dollars has been gathered though no work officially has begun. What will happen with the Kingsbridge Armory remains to be seen.