We first visited the Park Slope Armory on a rainy afternoon in May. I was immediately struck by its details – from the lanterns to the brickwork, the armory seemed like a medieval castle from a different time. Entering through the Park Slope Armory YMCA’s entrance on 15th street, it felt as though we’d gone from night to day.
We returned to the armory in October with architectural historian Francis Morrone and had the opportunity to explore the building further. Sitting in the red bleachers above the old drill floor and walking through the halls where classes are now held, I could sense that the space had a unique presence, as though the history of the building and its various residents live within the walls. Although we never met the armory’s rumored ghost (a veteran who died before he was sent out on WWI), it’s not hard to picture him here.
Early on in the armory’s history, the YMCA sponsored track and field events on the drill floor. Tom Gallagher, an 86-year-old Park Slope resident and member of the Park Slope Armory YMCA, used to play basketball at the armory as a teenager. He still recalls the tanks and canons they used to share the armory with, and the old setup of the bleachers used for games. “Basketball was a big attraction for this neighborhood in those days,” he says.
Tanks and canons may no longer have a place in the armory, but its significance to the neighborhood is clearly intact.
– Michelle Michalos, Producer