Fort Washington Avenue Armory

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Fort Washington Avenue Armory
A large brick building with a big central arched entrance and red, white and blue banners hanging from the front
West entrance, 2009
Location New York, NY
Coordinates 40°50′31.68″N 73°56′28.82″W / 40.8421333°N 73.9413389°W / 40.8421333; -73.9413389Coordinates: 40°50′31.68″N 73°56′28.82″W / 40.8421333°N 73.9413389°W / 40.8421333; -73.9413389
Area 1.9 acres (7,700 m2)[1]
Built 1911[1]
Architect Walker & Morris
Architectural style Classical Revival
Governing body Armory Foundation
MPS Army National Guard Armories in New York State
NRHP Reference # 95000085
Added to NRHP 1995

The Fort Washington Avenue Armory is located on the street of that name, between 168th and 169th streets, in the neighborhood of Washington Heights in New York City's borough of Manhattan. It is a brick Classical Revival building currently home to the National Track and Field Hall of Fame and other organizations including the Police Athletic League of New York City.

The spacious third floor is home to the New Balance Track and Field Center: A 200 meter, six-lane banked mondo track, two mondo runways and sand pits, a pole vault pit, and a throws cage. The Center is widely regarded as one of the premier indoor track and field facilities on the East Coast, as well as in the United States. The Center plays host to a number of meets at the high school, college, and professional/open/masters level each year, including the NSIC indoor national meet, the Big East and Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference conference meets, and the New Balance games. A number of college programs call it their home indoor track, such as Columbia University, New York University, Saint John's University, St. Francis College, City College of New York and Iona College. In May 2011 the President of the Millrose Games announced that, starting January 2012, the prestigious event would be moved from Madison Square Garden, its home since 1914, to the Fort Washington Avenue Armory, with a new all-day Saturday schedule replacing the previous Friday evening format.[2]

When built in the early 20th century it was one of the first armories in New York City in that style, instead of the Gothic Revival mode favored during the 19th century. It was home to the 22nd Regiment of the Army Corps of Engineers, and later used as a homeless shelter. In 1995 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


The armory occupies the entire block north-south between 168th & 169th and over half the block east-west with Fort Washington Avenue as its western border and residential buildings to its east leading toward Broadway. The block is almost rectangular save for a diagonal edge created by Fort Washington Avenue, with which the building's western wall runs parallel, taking that wall out of alignment with the rectangular layout of the rest of the building to the east. The surrounding area is urban and heavily developed, with the neighborhood dominated by the buildings of Columbia University Medical Center to the south. The land is generally flat, elevated above the Hudson River to the west.[1]

Three stories high, the building itself is of brick on a raised foundation with limestone and terra cotta trim. The administration building is on a fully exposed basement; the drill shed only partially. Iron bars protect the windows on the basement and first floor. The roofline is marked by a corbeled cornice and parapet with terra cotta trim.[1]

The west (front) facade features a three-part projecting entrance pavilion flanked by four-bay sides. At the corners are square bastions with crenelated parapets in terra cotta. The entrance pavilion has octagonal bastions flanking smooth rusticated limestone voussoirs around a large sally port.[1]

Both side elevations have nine asymmetrical bays, with round-arched windows in the second and third stories and double-hung casement windows at street level. Some on both sets have been filled in.[1]

Behind a wooden portcullis at the rear of the sally port is the entrance, three wooden doors inside a segmentally arched stone architrave capped with a console-style keystone. It is inscribed with "22ND REGIMENT CORPS OF ENGINEERS NGNY". Above it is a multi-pane transom.[1]

The interior retains much of its original finish. Rooms have terrazzo floors, glazed brick walls trimmed in terracotta. The cross-vaulted ceilings are sheathed in tiles laid in chevron patterns and have glazed terra cotta architraves at their entrances. There are bronze sconces throughout the building. A double-width staircase in fireproof steel and concrete has a curving rail. Its hallway is encircled with a wide frieze on which there are two remaining Works Progress Administration (WPA) murals.[1]

At the north and south ends of the administration building are two large company meeting rooms. The south one features a paneled dado, beamed ceilings, hardwood floors and an intricately carved mantel flanked by two Doric columns. The north meeting room features paneled mahogany wainscoting, built-in trophy cases and a glazed brick fireplace with wooden overmantel.[1]

The drill shed is a large barrel vaulted space with balcony on all sides allowing seating for 2,300. It has massive arched trusses and is lit and ventilated via a clerestory.[1]


West entrance of the building and the National Track & Field Hall of Fame is located.

The 22nd Regiment traces its origins to the Union Grays, who stayed behind in Manhattan when the city's other units left for the Civil War. They helped suppress the New York City Draft Riots in 1863 and later saw some action on the front lines. They were one of the first units to have their own armory devoted solely to military purposes. It was located originally on West 14th Street near Sixth Avenue.[1]

In 1890 they moved to another armory on Broadway at Columbus Street in the Upper West Side. It was designed by one of the unit's members, Capt. John Leo. In 1907 the city's Armory Board held a competition for another new armory for the 22nd, to be located in the growing Washington Heights section of the city. The firm of Richard Walker and Charles Morris, whose works also included the South Ferry Building and several branch libraries in Brooklyn, won. The building was completed four years later, in 1911, at a cost of $1.16 million ($29.4 million in contemporary dollars[3]).[1]

Sometime after World War II the 22nd was merged into the 42nd Division as the 102nd Engineering Battalion. It was moved around and downsized within the city's National Guard units several times until it was disbanded sometime in the late 20th century. Only two of the units survive; both are now attached to the 369th Regiment and based at its armory in Harlem.[1]

The armory remained under the jusridiction of the New York State Division of Military & Naval Affairs. It was used as a homeless shelter late in the 20th century.[4] A plan was developed to modify and expand it for that purpose that would have compromised its historical integrity.[1][5] Those ended when the armory was chosen as the permanent home of the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 2002,[6] in recognition of the drill shed's current use as the largest site of indoor college and high school invitationals in the world. [7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Todd, Nancy (December 1994). "National Register of Historic Places nomination, Fort Washington Avenue Armory". New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Retrieved November 13, 2009. 
  2. ^ Armory Track and Field Foundation press release
  3. ^ Inflated values automatically calculated.
  4. ^ Gonzalez, David (July 17, 1992). "For Some, Shelters Mean Chaos and Home". The New York Times. Retrieved November 17, 2009. 
  5. ^ Bernstein, Emily (October 3, 1993). "Neighborhood Report: Washington Heights; From Armory to Homeless Shelter to Social Center". The New York Times. Retrieved November 17, 2009. 
  6. ^ Benyo, Richard; Henderson, Joe (2002). Running Encyclopedia. Human Kinetics. p. 133. 
  7. ^ "National Track & Field Hall of Fame". MileSplit US. Retrieved 2009-04-01. 

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