Armory and City

view of THE ARMORY AND THE CITY exhibit
This exhibit area displays images and text detailing the nearly two centuries of this historic site's existence from the Revolutionary War until closing in 1968.

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

 
exhibit display
The diplays, with text and images, are placed on facets of several standing pillars.

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

THE ARMORY AND THE CITY

For more than a hundred and fifty years the complex of Federal buildings on the hill in Springfield grew in size, importance, and influence over the city. The skilled craftsmen who made muskets and rifles at the armory came from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, a heterogeneous population that helped make Springfield a city noted for religious toleration with churches representing many denominations. Much of the city's high and low social life also was focused on Federal Hill. Fashionable homes flanked the armory grounds at the same time that workers' taverns thrived within an easy walk of the shops.

Today the hilltop remains an active center of community life as the buildings that once housed workshops now provide classrooms for Springfield Technical Community College.

 
Displayed are early images of the Continental Magazine [blt. 1782] and two early maps.
Displayed are images of the Continental Magazine, blt. 1782, and two early 1800's maps of the site.

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

THE EARLY YEARS, 1782-1824

Situated on a major river yet beyond the reach of ocean going warships, and centrally located for the northern states the government established a magazine for the storage of powder during the Revolutionary War. These qualities and the proximity of tributaries capable of supplying plentiful water power led the Federal government to select Springfield as the site for its northen armory in 1794.

An incident in these early years had an effect far beyond the manufacture or storage of military arms. It was to this site, belonging to the Continental Congress, that Daniel Shays and his band of farmers, protesting the State's tax and land policies, headed intending to seize arms to support their cause. Shays's Rebellion was an important factor in demonstrating the weakness of the Continental Congress and the need for a stronger central government. It was a demonstration that helped the States to adopt our Federal Constitution.

 
Displayed are images of Superintendent Roswell Lee, early buildings, and maps.
The Armory was divided into two areas: (1) the Hill Shops where assembly and administration was to be found [and where the Springfield Armory NHS is today], and (2) the Water Shops where water power was found.

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

THE ARMORY 1830

In 1825 Lt. Col. Roswell Lee, the Armory superintendent from 1815 to 1833, reported to the Secretary of the Army that it required 194 separate operations to manufacture a flintlock musket at Springfield. Exactly one half of these steps were performed with the aid of water-powered machinery. The three sets of workshops shown on the maps of the armory at that time emphasize the importance of water power.

 
Displayed are images of Superintendent James Ripley, and of the mid-19thC Armory Hill Shops.
The mid-19thC witnessed great expansion in Armory operations. The Civil War allowed the Armory to demonstrate the value in the government's investment in interchangeable manufacturing.

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

SPRINGFIELD ARMORY IN THE CIVIL WAR

By the time of the Civil War the armory was a major manufacturing center. Power driven machinery, standardized gauges, and interchangeable parts gave the facility the ability to turn out great numbers of identical weapons. Where once it took one man ten hours to make a musket stock, with machines 450 could be produced in a single ten hour shift.

The armory was a magnet, attracting skilled workers of diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds who gave to the city a cosmopolitan outlook. The armory was also a center of both high and low social life. Bars and taverns, catering to the workers' thirst, lined Armory Street, called "Toddy Road" at the time; while elegant houses rose along State, Pearl, and Walnut Streets.

 
By 1880, the Armory was producing breech-loading metallic cartridge rifles.
Displayed are images and maps of the Armory in the decades following the Civil War.

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

HILL AND WATER SHOPS, 1880
 
Displayed are maps of the Armory & a view of the Water Shops between the World Wars.
The period between the World Wars saw the development and production of the semi-automatic M1 Rifle, the so-called Garand.

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

SPRINGFIELD ARMORY, 1930s

 
The Armory was flourishing when it was unexpectedly ordered to close by 1968.
Displayed are aerial views of the Armory's Hill Shops and the Water Shops in the mid-1900's.

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

THE ARMORY'S LAST YEARS
 
The Springfield Armory crest is adapted from the US Ordnance Department crest.

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

RURAL COMMUNITY TO INDUSTRIAL CENTER
 
The Armory was rich in social life.

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

SOCIAL ACTIVITIES
 
Armory employees and administration supported many community institutions.

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS

Last updated: February 26, 2015

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Springfield Armory National Historic Site
One Armory Square
Suite 2

Springfield, MA 01105

Phone:

(413) 734-8551

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