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.