UES090-02.jpg (74968 bytes) New York Architecture Images-Upper East Side

Squadron A Armory Façade


John R. Thomas


Madison Avenue between East 94th and 95th Streets










Intermediate School 29 
(now Hunter College Campus Schools)
Park Avenue between East 94th and 95th Streets
Date Completed: 1969
Builder: New York City Board of Education
Architect: Morris Ketchum, Jr. & Associates

In 1966, the 1895 Squadron A Armory was partially demolished to make 
way for a new junior high school. The project was not realized, 
however, because the newly formed New York City Landmarks Preservation 
Commission intervened and halted the armory’s demolition, designating 
the remaining Madison Avenue facade. Morris Ketchum’s school is an 
early example of contextual design, echoing the spirit of the 
castellated armory by employing adaptations of medieval crenelations, 
corner towers, and slit windows. The school is linked to the old armory 
via an outdoor recreation area. 

Only the ruins of the Madison Avenue façade of the Squadron A Armory remain between 94th and 95th Streets.

Robert A. M. Stern, Thomas Mellins and David Fishman, "New York 1880, 
Architecture and Urbanism in the Gilden Age" (The Monacelli Press, 

"The Eighth Regiment acquired a new building designed by John R. Thomas 
in 1888-90. It too faced Park Avenue but was far uptown from the 
Seventh's home, on the west side of the avenue between Ninety-fourth 
and Ninety-fifth Streets. Thomas had been chosen in a competition held 
in 1884. the participating architects including Charles W. Clinton, 
Hugo Kafka &Co., Lamb & Rich, and A.B. Jones. According to the Real 
Estate Record and Buildings' Guide, the winning scheme showed; a free 
treatment of the style that flourished in Scotland in the twelvth and 
thirteenth centuries, giving means of offense and defense, as well as 
habitation. The plans originally called for an armory filling the 
entire block west to Madison Avenue. The design was scaled back, 
however, and in 1887 Thomas had to replan the building to fit only that 
part of the block extending three hundred feet west of Park Avenue, 
leaving room for a future armory on the west end of the site, which 
Thomas would design for Calvary Squadron A in 1894-95. A 
180-by-300-foot drill room built in the first wave of construction 
served both units and lay between the two administration buildings, 
because it served a calvary unit, this room provided stables and had a 
dirt floor. The cornerstone of the Eighth Regiment Armory was laid in 
October, 1888, with the regiment marching to the construction site of 
its new home from its old Armory on Twenty-third Street, which had been 
ravaged by fire on Fburary 17, 1878. Like the construction of the 
Twenty-seond Regiment armory, that of the Eighth was plagued by 
problems, not the least of which was the destruction by gale-force 
winds of a high wall in November, 1888. The editors of the Real Estate 
Record and Builders' Guide deemed Thomas's design the best of the batch 
of armories following that of the Seventh Regiment, all of which they 
deemed superior to Clinton's, 'the front of which already looks 
antiquated, though in fact it is so nearly new.' While they found fault 
with Thomas's drill hall, which they believed, as in all other similar 
cases, to suffer form being too low for its size, they took pleasure 
inthe overall exteior effect: 'The material is baked clay, and is 
almost entirely common bricks, selected for their color, which is 
excellent and deep. Terra cotta is used in the crenellated copings that 
crown walls and towers while a brown sandstone is introduced very 
sparingly indeed, the sills of the openings and the water-table being 
composed of it.' The New York Times wen ton to priase it as a model 
public building: 'To the citizen and taxpayer it possesses an interest 
beyond its commanding position, its formidable proportions, its 
straetegic importance, and its evident adaptability ot the purposes for 
which it is designed. for it is that rara avis on these days of 
official shortsightedness and shortcomings in high places, an 'honest' 
building, a structure built within the amount of the original 
appropriation and pronounced by experts, after painstaking critical 
inspection, to be comlete and substantial as a whole and in detail.' 
With its massive crenellated round towers at the Two park Avenue 
corers, its smaller turrets, its flights of stairs leading to the 
elevated main floor, its altogether articulated composition, and the 
predominance of wall over window, Thomas's design unquestionably used 
in a new phase of armory design: bold massing and simplicity replaced 
the sketchily picturesque effects of the Gilden Age, reflecting the 
calm authority of a new era dedicated to scholarly composition and 
monumental civisism."

Robert A. M. Stern, Thomas Mellins and David Fishman, "New York 1960, Architecure and Urbanism between The Second World War and the Bicentennial"(The Monacelli Press, 

"The monumentally scaled brick building, which resembled a 
fourteenth-century French fortress, complete with square towers, round 
turrets and a crenellated parapet, had originally been used by a 
volunteeer unit called the first New York Hussars or the First Dragoons 
and later by a National Guard unit; after being used during World War I 
by the 101st Machine Gun Batallion, it served as one of New York's most 
unusual recreational facilities: indoor polo grounds. In the early 
1960s the building was targeted as the site of a school and subsidized 
housing. Although the mixed-use project was subsequently abandoned as 
economically unviable, the armory building was given to the Board of 
Education for use as the Intermediate School 29. The board concluded 
that the building could not be structurally transformed to suit the 
school's functional requirements and rejected proposals by the 
Municipal Art Society and the New York Chapter of the American 
Institute of Architects that it be used as a sports center or that a 
new school building be built within its shell. Late in 1968, after 
significant portions of the armory had already been torn down to make 
way for a new building to be designed by Morris Ketchum Jr. & 
Associates, public protest succeeded in halting the demolition and 
drawing the attention of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which 
designated the remaining western facade, facing Madison Avenue, a 
landmark on October 19, 1966. Ketchum, who would later serve as a 
member oif the Landmarks Preservation Commission (1972-79), designed a 
fortresslike building for Intermediate School 29, with castellated 
brick facades. He retained the one remaining facade of the former 
armory as a dramatic backdrop for the school's playground. The 
Citizens' Housing and Planning Council, which had not favored the 
designation of the armory facade, dismisssed it as looking 'like a sand 
castle built partly beyond the reach of the biggest waves.' As for the 
decision to incorporate the facade into a the new building design, the 
counil said, it was the result of a 'a moment of bemused 
sentimentality' and was based on questionable motives:....Although most 
preservationists welcomed the commission's shift in emphasis toward 
less obvious designations, the transformation of the building into what 
amounted to be a monumental sculpture took the concept of adaptive 
resuse to an almost absurd extreme.'"