If you've ever driven down Mason Street, you've probably seen a "ruddy" building with a "CNG" on the front at 230 Mason Street. This is the Connecticut National Guard Armory. I decided to research it and came up with a very storied history!
Armory on Mason Street. COURTESY: Historical Society
Ever since colonial days, militias have played a very important role in this country's history. The Minutemen - noted for dropping everything at a minute's notice to take up arms and defend their towns - were actually a militia. In 1672 Greenwich formed a militia, primarily to defend itself from Indians (Native-Americans). By 1739 it reorganized and became the 9th Regiment of Militia, with companies from Greenwich, Norwalk, Stamford and Ridgefield. During the Revolutionary War (1775-1783), it participated in the Battle of Saratoga (1777), the Danbury Raid and other battles in New York State. In 1865, the General Court decided that the militia would be called The Connecticut National Guard.
The building on Mason Street was dedicated on April 26, 1911. It cost the State $45,000 for the land and building - a bargain today. It was the social event of the year! Over 600 people, including women in gowns, attended the event. The governor even attended. The Armory served as military housing for men who fought in Aisne-Marne and Meuse-Argonne (France) in World War I. Then in World War II, it provided shelter for soldiers who fought in Guadalcanal and New Guinea. Once again, the militia was reorganized in the spring of 1942 and was redesignated as the 211th Coast Artillery Battallion, and later Battery B, 2nd Battallion, 192nd Artillery of the Connecticut National Guard. It became known as the "Gypsy Artillery" since it fought in France on four different front lines. After the war, the CNG held regular drills at the Armory. The building is listed on the National and State Register of Historic Places. At one time the building housed Howitzer guns, trucks, jeeps and other military equipment.
The Armory was closed in 1971. Remaining units of the CNG transferred to a new $1.3 million structure in Norwalk. Since that time, the Armory has served in a number of capacities. A dance studio and martial arts studio has been there for several years. In 1994 it was used as a training location for paramedics and GEMs personnel. In September 2002, the BET released $50,000 to study the feasibility of moving the GPD to The Armory. Miller Motor Cars held an auto show there in February 2003. In June 2003, the Town bought the Armory for $4.5 million. This was the going to be the location for a new Safety Complex to house emergency personnel. Then in October of 2003, the Nitkin Group - a real estate development company- bought the CBS building on Fawcett Place as well as the Armory for $26.66 million. Permission was sought form Planning and Zoning to knock down the Armory building, but it as met with stiff opposition from from those who pointed out its historic value.
The building continued to be rented out for various fundraising purposes. In March of 2004, the space was rented out for a "talk, sip wine and view paintings" program for The Juvenile Diabetes Reserach Fund. The following summer (July/August) the JDRF held a luncheon and fashion show fundraiser there titled "SoHo in Greenwich". In 2007 the Christmas Antiques Bazaar used the Armory. This would later become the Greenwich Art Show.
In 2007 plans were submitted to turn the Armory into 9 luxury 3-story townhouses. It would be "green". Twenty 600-foot wells would tap hydrothermal energy for heat and air conditioning. Underground parking would be offered as well as private, lush gardens. The front facade would be saved for its historic value. Since it's located near Greenwich Avenue, it's one of the best locations for shopping. As you probably know, a new Public Safety Center was built adjacent to the Central Fire House on Benedict Place. Well-know architect Robert A.M. Stern was selected to design the condominium complex.
Unfortunately, the financial meltdown of 2008 derailed the plan. Plans to demolish all of the walls, except the historical front facade, have temporarily been abandoned. The Nitkin Group has moved some of its offices from the Financial Center of Greenwich on Fawcett Place to the Armory at 230 Mason Street. The Group is waiting for the economy to turn around before it turns the once historic Armory into upscale, glamorous condominiums.
Special thanks to: Anne Young, Chairman, Historic District Commission
SOURCE: Greenwich Time. Hearst Corp.
Greenwich Before 2000. Richardson, S.; Great Britain, 2000.