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Iron Building of the U.S. Army Arsenal

Watervliet, New York
Completed 1859

Claim to Fame: Built entirely of cast iron and wrought iron elements, the Iron Building of the US Arsenal is believed to be the oldest all-metal building in the United States.

Iron Building of the U.S. Army Arsenal 
Courtesy Wikipedia

The Watervliet arsenal complex originally was built to house and manufacture weapons for the War of 1812. During the Civil War, it specialized in gun cartridges and artillery carriages. The facility today is a primary site for making state-of-the-art tank cannon, howitzers, mortars, and recoilless rifles.

Perhaps the only building in the United States built almost exclusively of cast iron, the 1859 storehouse at the U.S. Army's Watervliet Arsenal is a unique example of early prefabricated construction technology. Cast iron had been used in Europe for interior elements and in America for exterior storefronts; but self-trained engineer Daniel D. Badger went a step further, designing entire buildings out of the strong, durable and abrasion-resistant material. Cast iron was lighter than masonry, easier to work with than brick and its casting properties allowed designers to add rich classical embellishments. The prefabricated storehouse was erected in just two months, significantly reducing construction costs.

Watervliet is America's oldest continuously active arsenal. Today, the site encompasses 42 acres, 72 buildings and 1.2 million feet of manufacturing space. The storehouse serves as a museum devoted to the history of firearms.

Facts
1. Watervliet is America's oldest continuously active arsenal. Today, the site encompasses 42 acres, 72 buildings and 1.2 million feet of manufacturing space. The storehouse serves as a museum devoted to the history of firearms.
2. Major Alfred Mordecai, who commissioned the storehouse, wanted it to be both fireproof and highly ornamental. Cast iron was the perfect material. While it may weaken when heated, it will support its weight. Easy to cast, it could be used to produce large structural members as well as fine architectural details.
3. The storehouse was prefabricated in New York City by Daniel Badger's Architectural Iron Works, shipped up the Hudson River and erected during two months of 1859. It measures 100 feet by 196 feet and cost $47,360.00 to build.
4. All exterior surfaces except the roof are cast iron. To add tensile strength, interior elements were reinforced with wrought iron.
5. The arsenal was originally built to house and manufacture weapons for the War of 1812. During the Civil War, it specialized in making gun cartridges and artillery carriages. The facility today is a primary site for making state-of-the-art tank cannon, howitzers, mortars and recoilless rifles.