The storied past and unknown future of that hulking structure on Bunker Hill Street.
The Charlestown Armory, a three-story, Georgian Revival masonry structure built in 1907, fills an entire block on Bunker Hill Street between Auburn and Baldwin Streets.
It was originally built to provide drill space for four local military companies, including the 182nd Infantry Regiment, the oldest combat regiment in the United States Army. The armory later became a mixed-use venue for the neighborhood.
Its massive floor space of approximately 43,600 gross square feet, arguably the largest meeting space in Charlestown, meant it could be rented out for many different types of functions. St. Catherine’s Drill Team used its wide floors for practice on Saturday mornings. Many different types of neighborhood parties were held there, including Charlestown High School sports banquets and festivities to celebrate the night before the 17th of June parade, when Charlestown residents came to the armory to meet politicians who were running for office in the fall elections.
In 1988 the armory became a book depository for the Boston Public Library, which used the oversized space to house its Jordan Collection, the largest collection of children’s books in the world. In 2006, the Boston Redevelopment Authority announced that a development team would convert the armory into condominiums. There has not yet been any development at the site. In August 2010, the armory was transferred to the jurisdiction of the City of Boston Public Facilities Commission.
- Where is it?
374-398 Bunker Hill Street.
- When was it built?
- Who built it?
The Armory Commission of the Federal Government.
- What was it built for and who was the first occupant?
To provide drill space for local military companies; Massachusetts National Guard.
- Why was it built?
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries a series of violent labor strikes and a fear of urban unrest motivated state and local governments throughout the northeastern states to build armories. Often located in middle- and upper-class neighbor hoods they were also used for social occasions. The Charlestown Armory was one of several built in the northeast in 1907.
- How was it built?
Of brick and granite, in a style to suggest a fortress.
- What are the future plans for the structure?
Plans for its future development are on hold.
Information for this article was compiled through research at the Boston Public Library, by interview and by on-line research.