Boutez en avant

by Don Friedman on June 14, 2017

Via the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs:

This story might technically count as preservation, but I don’t feel it qualifies. That big brick castle above is the Squadron A Armory, on Madison Avenue between 94th and 95th Streets, constructed in 1895 and mostly demolished in 1971. Nineteenth century armories in the U.S. almost always were designed to look like castles at their street facades, although the big trussed-roof drill halls usually keep the image from really working. It was a weird fad, in my opinion: while there is a historical link between castles and the military, it’s a European link. There are no historical castles in the real sense of the word in the United States, despite the existence of Belvedere and any number of over-inflated mansions.

The title of this blog post is an example of the pseudo-medieval stylings of the armory: it was the squadron’s motto and has been variously translated as “kick your way through,” “push forward,” and simply “charge.” It’s literally graven in stone on the Madison Avenue facade.

The Squadron A Armory and the adjacent Eighth Regiment Armory filled the entire block from Madison to Park Avenues, and as armories in Manhattan fell out of use, the site was designated as the site of a new school. A last-ditch effort saved the front wall of the Squadron A Armory, along Madison Avenue, including the big towers at each corner. The towers have some interior space but the remainder of the wall is simply that, a wall, and thus the saved remnant has never had a use. Here it is now:

The open space on the right is the school yard and the school itself is out of frame off to the right, facing Park Avenue. This bizarre remnant has attracted some attention, most famously as the Red Castle in The Fisher King, simultaneously a rich man’s house and the goal of another man obsessed with Arthurian legend. That use of myth and armory is a good fit: how else to explain the presence of what appears to be the ruin of a medieval castle on Madison Avenue? And why would anyone want a city that did not contain bizarre remnants of fanciful ideas from 120 years ago?

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