It is older than Central Park itself and represents New York's eternal ability to reimage itself. Begun initially to store arms and ammunition of the New York State Militia in 1848, the Arsenal has proven itself a chameleon building in serving the City in a vast array of ways.
Located at 64th Street off Fifth Avenue, this brick structure has additionally served as a police station, a museum, a weather bureau and a zoo. Today it offers a free treat to visitors with an ever-changing art gallery located on its third floor.
Now designated an official New York City Landmark, the Arsenal's massive half octagonal tower and other medieval fortress-like Gothic details, combined with a cast iron American eagle over the doorway, was not always to everyone's liking. One resident in 1859 wrote that he wished the Arsenal could be destroyed by an accidental fire. The objections increased when live caged birds joined dinosaurs' skeletons during the late 19th century at a time when the American Museum of Natural History was first housed there.
Its usefulness has always been the Arsenal's savior. During the Great Depression it became the headquarters for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, which it continues to be along with housing numerous other agencies like the Central Park Administration, the New York Wildlife Conservation Society and The Parks Library.
Inside the lobby, a multi-story mural created by 1930's WPA artist Allen Saalburg depicts the Arsenal's early history through colorful vignettes of soldiers in formation.
With an advanced reservation, history buffs can see the original Greensward Plan which is the blueprint designed by Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux for Central Park.
More than 160 years later, the Arsenal is still an important warehouse for New York.
Public Information: (212) 360-1311
Arsenal Gallery Exhibitions: (212) 360-8163
— Linda J. Bottjer