The Central Park Arsenal
, built 1847-51. It served only briefly as
an actual arsenal; after 1853 it was a police precinct house, the American
Museum of Natural History, a menagerie, an art gallery, the Municipal
Weather Bureau, a restaurant, and finally in 1914, the Manhattan Parks
Department. In 1934, the five boroughs' Parks Departments were consolidated
into a unified City-wide Parks Department and the Arsenal was completely
renovated by Depression-era relief labor (i.e. the New Deal) and the lobby
walls literally covered from floor to ceiling with murals by the WPA's
Director of Murals for the NYC Parks Department, Allen Saalburg
. The WPA also made a new main
entrance with miltary-motif decorations (next
). The architect for the project was Aymar Embury II
who was the chief designer of an almost endless series of NYC New-Deal
creations (as the Wikipedia article just cited says, "it is possible that
Embury supervised the design of over six hundred public projects"). When
Embury took on the Arsenal, it was covered with ugly gray stucco; he had it
"blasted off to reveal the handsome red bricks" and then designed the
Central Park Zoo
to harmonize with it.
More about Embury in the footnotes section of this
Report of the Department of Parks to August 1934: Memorandum on 1935
Budget Request of the Department of Parks, NYC Department of Parks archive:
“When the Arsenal became part of the new Zoo group, the walls were
sandblasted, and the original brick repointed. The conical roofs topping
the eight towere were removed; the towers raised and concrete ramparts
placed as copings. The restoration of the building to substantially its
original character has brought out the naive excellence of its architecture,
and as restored it is one of ths handsomest public buildings in the
Park Arsenal History, NY Department of Parks Website.
Jefferson Play Center, Landmarks Preservation Commission, July 24, 2007
Designation List 394 LP-2236: ”When Moses took over the Parks
Department, it was already employing 69,000 relief workers funded mainly by
the federal Civil Works Administration (CWA) and the Temporary Emergency
Relief Administration (TERA).” This is the best explanation I have
found so far of how the Arsenal was renovated for the new unifed Parks
1851 Central Park Arsenal
Daytonian in Manhattan
website (historic images).
Joan, The Central Park Zoo, Arcadia Publishing (2002), p.45.
- Gray, Christopher, "From Armory
to Zoo to Museum to Offices",
New York Times, November 18, 2007: "At that time  a designer
installed the military touches that can still be seen at the front door,
with cannon balls, military drums and, as stair balusters, cast-iron
muskets. Adrian Benepe, commissioner of parks and recreation, said he was
sure the designer must have been Aymar Embury II, a staff architect for the
department in the 1930s and 1940s, because 'he was such a historicist.'"
Embry worked for Moses but he was paid by the New Deal (CWA and then WPA).