Walking East 7th Street: Tompkins Market and Armory
Walking East 7th Street is a collaboration between GVSHP and the students in NYU’s Fall 2011 Intro to Public History course. Each pair of students was tasked with researching the cultural history of one particular block of East 7th Street and sharing with us something fascinating they discovered along the way. All posts below were written by students.
The first of five post in the series, by Sam Adels and Megan Findling, focuses on East 7th Street between 2nd & 3rd Avenues.
In 1857 a consortium of butchers, along with the 7th regiment local militia, commissioned the new Tompkins Market and Armory to be built on the corner of East 7th Street and 3rd Avenue. James Bogardus designed the impressive, Italianate style building using cast iron and brick, so it would be fireproof.
Bogardus was an eminent inventor who developed cast-iron architecture, a boon when fire was a constant threat. He created cast-iron pre-fabricated frames which offered fire resistance, easy assembly, and a variety of style. Debuting in the 1840s, his designs were hugely successful. Today four of his buildings survive, including 254 Canal St.
The three-story Tompkins Market and Armory opened in 1860. The meat market occupied the first floor. Apparently it was not kept clean. A letter published in the New York Times states, “Why should not a public market like this be kept clean inside and out?…May we not hope to see, at least, one public market in this great City to which we can go without having our eyes and our nostrils offended, so that filth is associated with our very dinners?… Pray, have pity upon your disgusted constituents.”
The top two floors belonged to militia regiments and included a drill hall and meeting rooms. From 1860 until 1879 it was the home of 7th regiment, which occupied the Armory during the Civil War. However, the 7th regiment concentrated on local issues of violence in the city during this time. It quelled the Draft Riots of 1863 which erupted among Irish immigrants and African Americans over the first federal draft.
The 69th regiment, a.k.a. the “Irish Brigade” gained fame during the Civil War. It used the armory between 1879 and 1906. The Irish community revered the 69th. Its leader, General Michael Corcoran, was extremely popular and honored after his death in the Civil War. The actions of these two regiments from their bases at the Tompkins Market Armory are important insights into the ethnic, racial, and class tensions plaguing New York City in the 2nd half of the 19th century. The armory was demolished in 1911 when Cooper Union built an art building on the site.