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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