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Kingsbridge Armory, A Place That Matters

kingbridge-armory-new-york-city

The northwest Bronx isn’t the first place you’d go looking for an enormous medieval French castle. But that’s where such a castle—or an early 20th c. American version of a 19th c. French version of a 14th c. French castle—was built to house the Eighth Coastal Artillery in 1912. Its massive towers and crenelated parapets (those notched tops that scream “castle”), was designated a New York City landmark in 1974 for its military architecture.

To get there, take the 4 train to the Kingsbridge Road stop. The site is bounded by Jerome Avenue, West 195th Street, Reservoir Avenue, and East Kingsbridge Road. The National Guard used the Armory until 1996, but today, it is closed off by a chain link fence that hides the enormous drill hall—a major feat of engineering in its time—and the bowling alley, rifle range, gymnasium and auditorium that once were tucked underneath it!

Since the City acquired the Armory, multiple attempts to find a new life for the site have fallen through. The latest plan, for a mixed-use facility with retail, entertainment, and community space recently came to a halt after the developer and community representatives were unable to reach a community benefits agreement (CBA). (The Center for Urban Pedagogy held a public program on the Kingsbridge CBA on September 14.

The Chateau de Pierrefond, the Kingsbridge Armory’s French forebear, was an empty ruin for more than two centuries. Besieged and partially demolished in the early 1600s, it was not rebuilt until the second half of the 19th c. Everybody is hoping that the Kingsbridge Armory’s revitalization won’t take quite so long.

Place Matters, a project of City Lore and the Municipal Art Society, seeks to promote and protect places that connect New Yorkers to the past, host ongoing cultural and community traditions, and keep our city distinctive.