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Watervliet Arsenal Museum

Back in the day, we once attended a couple of house parties in the shadows of the Watervliet Arsenal. Right behind the cozy, middle-class, one-family home loomed a tall building that, our host explained, was illuminated 24 hours a day. And no sound ever came out of it.

The Watervliet Arsenal, which occupies 142 acres of land in the middle of Watervliet, is by its nature a deeply impressive and slightly scary place; it’s the “oldest continually active arsenal in the United States, and,” the Wikipedia entry continues, “today produces much of the artillery for the army.” Back in the dark days of the Cold War, folks around these parts used to joke about it being a nuclear target for the Soviets. Not whether the Arsenal was a target, but how many warheads were aimed at little Watervliet.

It was built to serve the nation during the War of 1812, when those pesky lobsterbacks tried to reclaim their former colonies, and has served our armed forces ever since. And the Watervliet Arsenal Museum, located on the grounds (1 Burlington Ave., Watervliet) in the 1859 Iron Building, tells this story.

For most of its existence, the Arsenal manufactured cannons—and there are plenty on display, including the original “bunker buster.” There are a wide variety of weapons, leather goods, and gun carriages to examine, plus a turn-of-the-20th-century belt-driven machine shop. And the collection isn’t limited to items manufactured on site there are many “one-of-a-kind guns” dating back 400 years.

The museum staff provides tours for individuals or groups. For more info about hours and accessibility, call 266-5111.

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