Armory of the 65th and 74th Regiments viewed from Potter (now called Nash) Street. photo taken between 1858 and 1884. Image source: Picture Book Earlier Buffalo

Buffalo's two national guard units, the 65th and 74th, were established 1848 and 1854 respectively.They shared a "ramshackle building" at Court and Pearl Streets. New York state provided $45,000 for construction of an armory for the city, which provided the land and on May 5, 1858, the new armory on Batavia Street (now Broadway) opened. Designed by Calvin N. Otis (see Hertiage Magazine, Spring 2009), the handsome building served both regiments until the 74th moved into its own armory on Elmwood Avenue in 1885.

65th Regimental Armory after the 1884 drillshed addition. Image source: private colleciton.

In 1884, the 65th sought state funds to construct a drillshed addition on the land between the stone armory (seen in the above photo at the rear after the addition) and its Broadway boundary. Asked for was approximately $50,000 for construction of a 278 feet long , 175 feet wide addition with stone walls 20 feet hight and an iron arch roof with the crown about 50 feet above the ground. They claimed that the current drill-room in the arsenal was too small for a battalion drill and marches in quick time rattled the walls "seriously." After objections by taxpayer groups, the addition was built. All agreed that the drillshed "marred the beauty of the fine old armory, but it was a great practical. convenience"

By 1907, the 65th had a new home on Masten Avenue. The roof of the Broadway armory was leaking and the plaster crumbling. The land and building reverted to the city and there was some talk of building a technical high school on the land. The Buffalo Illustrated Express commented, "Although may people might feel inclined to preserve the old building for the sake of its historical interest, it is really not fit for preservation, but is merely a mass of decay. So, sentiment aside, the old arsenal must go; and soon its place will be filled by something else - something new and up-to-date..."

Broadway Auditorium after city repair and remodeling. date approximately 1915. Image source: private collection.

But that was not to be the fate of the former Broadway arsenal. It was rented out to organizations like a national bowling tournament that was held in February, 1911. Eighteen bowling alleys were constructed in the drillshed, as well as grandstands, palm gardens, booths for exhibits, etc. Later that year, the city determined to repaint and reconstruct the old armory at a cost of $112,000 to equip it as an convention hall. It had seating for 8,500 people. The above image is after the remodeling.

The Broadway "Audtiorium" was used for six-day bicycle races for which a steep-banked wooden track was constructed, and attracted some of the best bicycle racers from around the world. The "Better Homes" expositions were held annually at the auditorium in the 1920s. And ice-making equipment was installed to served the Buffalo Majors ice hockey club. Boxing and basketball also took place in the auditorium.

Broadway Auditorium c 1935 before WPA improvements. Image source: private collection.

When the Depression hit in the 1930's, the city had difficulty renting the facility. The WPA funded $100,000 in repairs and improvements to the faciltity, including a new roof and painting. Despite lowering the nightly rental from $75 to $50, the facility continued to lose money ($38,770 in 1938). Discussion raged as to whether the building should be closed, converted to a bus terminal, turned over to the Board of Education as a storage facility.

When World War II began, the U.S. Army was granted possession of the building to serve a new anti-aircraft regiment. Even during the war, discussions continued about the fate of the building. The Common Council approved a plan to demolish the building after the Army was finished with it and build a "Negro housing tract," an plan which Mayor Holling vetoed.

2009 view of the Buffalo Broadway Garage facility.

In 1947, the Army transferred the building back to the city. Ideas to use it for recreation for young people were rejected as economically impractical. Instead the Common Council decided to give the structure to the streets department. In 1952, after years of political wrangling, a $1,400,000 addition to the building was complete and the Broadway "depot" or barn as it is now called, had a new life. A remnant of the original stone armory remains in the back wall today.

1894 City Atlas

2009 Google Photo

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