Landmark Status: Designate building exterior
Historic Preservation Commission: Approved Sept 3/03
City Council: Approved September 29/03
I. Background Information
The Armory is located on the east side of Main Street with a municipal address of 901 Main Street (SBL No. 144.70-2-52). The lot is 36,000 sq ft. The property, land and building, is assessed at $ 459,500 (2003 Assessment). The assessed value of the building only is $ 415,100 (2003 Assessment).
The property is zoned C-1 which permits a variety of commercial uses including government offices. The armory is a permitted use.
Ownership and Occupancy
The site and building are owned and occupied by the State of New York as the Niagara Falls Armory.
Most of the buildings surrounding the Armory date from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, although some commercial buildings are of a more recent vintage. Adjacent properties are a mix of residential and commercial uses.
Local Planning Issues
The Armory is located in an older commercial area which is experiencing economic decline typified by vacant commercial buildings and empty lots. The adjacent residential neighborhoods are also experiencing the problems associated with urban blight. A recent planning initiative, The Main Street Business District Revitalization Study (2001) has made a number of recommendations, which would hopefully support the revitalization of Main Street and have positive spill over effects into the adjacent residential areas. There were no specific recommendations in this report for the Armory site.
Physical Description (quoted direct from National Register Registration Form)
The armory consists of a two-story, hip-roofed administration building with attached one-story, gable-roofed drill shed. Both are constructed of load-bearing brick walls resting on raised, battered, random ashlars foundation. Most windows in the building contain one-over-one, double-hung sash and have transom lights and roughly hewn stone lintels and sills. All of the first story windows are covered with iron bars.
The administration building consists of symmetrical, rectangular main block flanked by a three story, northwest corner tower and a four and a half story, southwest corner tower, both of which are round and have brick parapets trimmed with stone coping. The main block contains, a massive, centrally placed, stone-trimmed sally port which is flanked by two groups of three, flat arched windows with protective iron bars. The second story features three groups of three, round-arched, stone trimmed windows. A prominent, centrally placed cross gable containing three round-arched, stone trimmed, double-hung sash distinguishes the roofline.
The drill shed, only the north elevation of which is visible, features a crenellated parapet, a machicolated cornice and regularly spaced, flat-arched windows with iron bars and roughly hewn stone lintels and sills. The rear corner of the drill shed features a one and one-half story, hip-roofed tower containing the locker room balcony. A modern two story, gable-roofed brick wing containing classrooms and garage/ maintenance facilities envelop the remainder of the drill shed, i.e., the east and south elevations, leaving the southwest tower the only portion of the original building visible on the south side.
The 1994 National Register described the interior of the building as follows: the interior survives with a moderately high degree of integrity of design, materials and craftsmanship. Most room configurations survive intact; a few spaces have been subdivided. A variety of oak woodwork survives throughout the facility, including wainscoting, paneled doors with transoms, molded door and window trim, trophy and display cases and elegant over mantels. Most pressed tin ceilings also survive, although many are obscured beneath modern, dropped ceilings. It is believed that this description is still valid.
Historic Development (quoted direct from National Register Registration Form)
The Armory is historically significant for it’s association with American military history and the Army National Guard history in particular. It was built/overseen by Isaac Perry in 1895. This was one of a number of similar armories built in upstate New York. The armory was built for the First Battalion, Third Infantry Regiment. By 1935 the First Battalion had become an element of the 174th Infantry, which was based at the Connecticut Street Armory in Buffalo. By 1961 the Niagara Falls Armory was the headquarters of Battalion A and B of the 209th Field Artillery, which was based at the Masten Avenue (65th Regiment) Armory in Buffalo. The history of the National Guard (and the significance of it’s related armories) is that it has been, and to a large extent still is, the backbone of the American military system since the Colonial era. The Niagara Falls armory, like virtually all other National Guard armories, remains a prominent visual reminder of and monument to the pivotal role-played by the volunteer militia in American military history.
National Register of Historic Places Registration Form – Niagara Falls Armory United States Department of the Interior – National Park Service (1994)
II. Significance of the Property
Historical / Architectural Significance
The Armory is on the National Register and retains a high degree of integrity of design, materials and craftsmanship. The enabling ordinance for landmarks states that the Commission may recommend for designation as a historic structure if the structure:
Criteria For Landmark Designation
Relevance to Application
|Is associated with the life of an individual, or a group of people, or events significant in the national, state or local history||N/A|
|Embodies the distinctive characteristics of an architectural style, a period, or a method of construction||Late Victorian, castellated|
|Represents the work of an acclaimed builder, architect, designer, or landscape architect||Architect, Isaac Perry|
|Represents a significant or distinguished entity but whose physical components may otherwise lack individual or special distinction||N/A|
|Because of unique location or singular physical characteristic, represent an established and familiar visual feature of the neighborhood||Represents an established and familiar visual feature (is visible for some distance along Main street)|
|Site contains a significant historical or cultural association, such as a settlement, battlefield, cemetery, church, birthplace, or former transportation facility||N/A|
|Site may yield information important to area history or provide scientific value due to an archaeological, paleontological, botanical or geological resource||N/A|
The Armory is presently on both the National and State Registers and as such enjoys the benefits and obligations associated with such designation. A local landmark designation would further protect the structure by requiring the issuance of a Certificate of Appropriateness or Economic Hardship by the Historic Preservation Commission for any alteration to those parts of the building, which have been designated.
The interior of the building is generally not open to the Public and as such is ineligible for protection.
Exterior ‘parade ground’ and monuments fronting on Main Street are integral elements to the Armory and as such deserve to be protected.
This report recommends that the Historic Preservation Commission forward a recommendation to City Council that the building be designated as a landmark. Specifically, the exterior and landscape elements fronting along Main Street shall be protected.
IV. Certificate of Appropriateness Review Standards
The following standards shall apply:
1. Exterior features/elements of the landmark shall be preserved.
- Deteriorated architectural features should be repaired rather than replaced. New materials should, whenever possible, match the material being replaced in physical properties, design, color, texture, and appearance. The use of imitation replacement materials is discouraged.
- Surface cleaning of a landmark shall be done by the gentlest possible means. Sandblasting and other cleaning methods that damage exterior architectural features shall not be used.
- Ordinary maintenance and repair of any architectural feature which does not involve a change in design, material, color or outward appearance shall not require a Certificate of Appropriateness.
- Additions shall not destroy significant exterior architectural features and shall not be incongruous to the historic aspects, architectural significance, or distinct character of the landmark, neighborhood, and environment. Additions should be done in a way that if they were to be removed in the future, the essential form and integrity of the landmark should be unimpaired.