Arsenal (Central Park)

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The Arsenal in 1911, at rear
The central block in 2008

The Arsenal is a symmetrical brick building with modestly Gothic Revival details, located in Central Park, New York City, centered on 64th Street off Fifth Avenue. Built between 1847 and 1851 as a storehouse for arms and ammunition for the New York State Militia, the building predates the design and construction of Central Park, where only the Blockhouse (1814) is older.

The Arsenal was designed by Martin E. Thompson (1786–1877),[1] originally trained as a carpenter, who had been a partner of Ithiel Town and went on to become one of the founders of the National Academy of Design. Thompson's symmetrical structure of brick in English bond, with headers every fifth course, presents a central block in the manner of a fortified gatehouse flanked by half-octagonal towers. The carpentry doorframe speaks of its purpose with an American eagle displayed between stacks of cannonballs over the door, and crossed sabers and stacked pikes represented in flanking panels.

The building currently houses the offices of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and the Central Park Wildlife Conservation Center, but it has also served as a zoo and housed a portion of the American Museum of Natural History's collections while its permanent structure was being erected. During the course of its lifetime it has also housed a police precinct, a weather bureau, and an art gallery.

See also


  1. The "other building by Martin Thompson in Central Park"— a trick question— is the façade of the Second Branch Bank of the United States (1824), re-erected in the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Thompson's third public commission was for a Merchants Exchange Building, destroyed in the Great Fire of New York, December 1835. His Greek Revival Colles Mansion (1838), Morristown, New Jersey, is now The Kellogg Club, but Sailors Snug Harbor, Staten Island, is now attributed to Minard Lafever.

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