Watertown Arsenal

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Watertown Arsenal Historic District
Watertown Arsenal, building -71 (Watertown, MA).jpg
Building #71
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Location Watertown, Massachusetts
Coordinates 42°21′44″N71°9′58″W / 42.36222°N 71.16611°W / 42.36222; -71.16611 Coordinates: 42°21′44″N71°9′58″W / 42.36222°N 71.16611°W / 42.36222; -71.16611
NRHP reference # 99000498 [1]
Added to NRHPMay 14, 1999

Watertown Arsenal c. 1847. Watertown Arsenal Cir 1847.png
Watertown Arsenal c. 1847.
General plan, 1919. Watertown Arsenal (Watertown, MA) - Olmsted landscaping plan.jpg
General plan, 1919.

The Watertown Arsenal was a major American arsenal located on the northern shore of the Charles River in Watertown, Massachusetts. The site is now registered on the ASCE's List of Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks and on the U.S.'s National Register of Historic Places, and it is home to a park, restaurants, mixed use office space, and currently serves as the national headquarters for athenahealth.

Arsenal place for arms and ammunition

An arsenal is a place where arms and ammunition are made, maintained and repaired, stored, or issued, in any combination, whether privately or publicly owned. Arsenal and armoury or armory are mostly regarded as synonyms, although subtle differences in usage exist.

Charles River river in Massachusetts, United States

The Charles River is an 80-mile-long (129 km) long river in eastern Massachusetts. From its source in Hopkinton the river flows in a northeasterly direction, traveling through 23 cities and towns before reaching the Atlantic Ocean at Boston. The Native-American name for the Charles River was Quinobequin, meaning "meandering".

Watertown, Massachusetts City in Massachusetts, United States

Watertown is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, and is part of the Greater Boston area. The population was 31,915 in the 2010 census. Its neighborhoods include Bemis, Coolidge Square, East Watertown, Watertown Square, and the West End. It is one of thirteen Massachusetts municipalities that retain the title of “town” while functioning under state law as cities.



The arsenal was established in 1816, on 40 acres (160,000 m2) of land, by the United States Army for the receipt, storage, and issuance of ordnance. In this role, it replaced the earlier Charlestown Arsenal. The arsenal's earliest plan incorporated 12 buildings aligned along a north-south axis overlooking the river. Alexander Parris, later designer of Quincy Market, was architect. Buildings included a military store and arsenal, as well as shops and housing for officers and men. All were made of brick with slate roofs in the Federal style, and a high wall enclosed the compound. By 1819 all buildings were completed and occupied.

United States Army Land warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Army (USA) is the land warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States, and is designated as the Army of the United States in the United States Constitution. As the oldest and most senior branch of the U.S. military in order of precedence, the modern U.S. Army has its roots in the Continental Army, which was formed to fight the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783)—before the United States of America was established as a country. After the Revolutionary War, the Congress of the Confederation created the United States Army on 3 June 1784 to replace the disbanded Continental Army. The United States Army considers itself descended from the Continental Army, and dates its institutional inception from the origin of that armed force in 1775.

Ammunition General term for a wide range of weapon items such as bombs, missiles, mines and projectiles

Ammunition is the material fired, scattered, dropped or detonated from any weapon. Ammunition is both expendable weapons and the component parts of other weapons that create the effect on a target. Nearly all mechanical weapons require some form of ammunition to operate.

The Charlestown Arsenal was an arsenal of the United States Army that existed from 1794 to 1816 in Charlestown, Boston. Abandoned at the end of the War of 1812, the land was turned over to the United States Navy, which then built the Charlestown Navy Yard beginning in 1816.

The arsenal's site, duties, and buildings grew gradually until the American Civil War, enlarging beyond the original quadrangle. During the war it greatly expanded to produce field and coastal gun carriages, and the war's impetus led to the quick construction of a large machine shop and smith shop built as contemporary factories, as well as a number of smaller buildings.

American Civil War Civil war in the United States from 1861 to 1865

The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States from 1861 to 1865, between the North and the South. The most studied and written about episode in U.S. history, the Civil War began primarily as a result of the long-standing controversy over the enslavement of black people. War broke out in April 1861 when secessionist forces attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina shortly after Abraham Lincoln had been inaugurated as the President of the United States. The loyalists of the Union in the North proclaimed support for the Constitution. They faced secessionists of the Confederate States in the South, who advocated for states' rights to uphold slavery.

During the Civil War, a new commander's quarters was commissioned by then-Capt. Thomas J. Rodman, inventor of the Rodman gun. The lavish, 12,700 sq ft (1,180 m2), quarters would ultimately become one of the largest commander's quarters on any U.S. military installation. This mansion is now on the National Register of Historic Places. The expense ($63,478.65) was considered wasteful and excessive and drew a stern rebuke from Congress, who then promoted Rodman to Brigadier General and sent him to command Rock Island Arsenal on the frontier in Illinois, where he built an even larger commander's quarters.

Thomas Jackson Rodman American artillerist, inventor, ordnance specialist, and career United States Army officer

Thomas Jackson Rodman was an American artillerist, inventor, ordnance specialist, and career United States Army officer. He served as a Union Army officer during the American Civil War, in which he was noted for his many improvements and innovations concerning the artillery used by the Union forces.

Rodman gun

The Rodman gun is any of a series of American Civil War–era columbiads designed by Union artilleryman Thomas Jackson Rodman (1815–1871). The guns were designed to fire both shot and shell. These heavy guns were intended to be mounted in seacoast fortifications. They were built in 8-inch, 10-inch, 13-inch, 15-inch, and 20-inch bore. Other than size, the guns were all nearly identical in design, with a curving bottle shape, large flat cascabels with ratchets or sockets for the elevating mechanism. Rodman guns were true guns that did not have a howitzer-like powder chamber, as did many earlier columbiads. Rodman guns differed from all previous artillery because they were hollow cast, a new technology that Rodman developed that resulted in cast-iron guns that were much stronger than their predecessors.

Commanding Officers Quarters, Watertown Arsenal building in Massachusetts, United States

The Commanding Officer's Quarters, Watertown Arsenal is a historic house at 443 Arsenal Street in Watertown, Massachusetts. During the American Civil War, a new commander's quarters was commissioned by then-Capt. Thomas J. Rodman, inventor of the Rodman gun, for the Watertown Arsenal. The lavish, 12,700 sq ft (1,180 m2), quarters would ultimately become one of the largest commander's quarters on any U.S. military installation. The expense ($63,478.65) was considered wasteful and excessive and drew a stern rebuke from Congress, who then promoted Rodman to Brigadier General and sent him to command Rock Island Arsenal on the frontier in Illinois, where he built an even larger commander's quarters. The Watertown commander's quarters house now houses offices and a museum about the arsenal.

Activities and new construction at the Watertown Arsenal continued to gradually expand until the early 1890s.

Activities changed decisively in 1892 when Congress authorized modernization to gun carriage manufacturing. At this point the arsenal became a manufacturing complex rather than storage depot. A number of major buildings were constructed, which over time began to reflect typical industrial facilities rather than the earlier arsenal styles. In 1897 an additional 44 acres (180,000 m2) were purchased, and a hospital built.

Scientific management was implemented at the arsenal between 1908 and 1915. It was considered by the War Department as successful in saving money over the alternatives; but it was so hated by the work force that the Congress eventually overturned its use. [2] [3]

Scientific management theory

Scientific management is a theory of management that analyzes and synthesizes workflows. Its main objective is improving economic efficiency, especially labor productivity. It was one of the earliest attempts to apply science to the engineering of processes and to management. Scientific management is sometimes known as Taylorism after its founder, Frederick Winslow Taylor.

During World War I the arsenal nearly tripled in size. Building #311 was then reported to be one of the largest steel-frame structures in the United States, sized to accommodate both very large gun carriages and the equipment used to construct them. Railroad tracks ran throughout the arsenal complex. World War II brought an additional 7 acres (28,000 m2) with existing industrial buildings, as the arsenal produced steel artillery pieces. In 1959–1960, the Horace Hardy Lester Reactor was constructed on site, for material research programs, and operated there until 1970.

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

In 1968 the Army ceased operations at the arsenal; 45 acres (180,000 m2) were sold to the Watertown Redevelopment Authority, while the remaining 48 acres (190,000 m2) were converted to the United States Army Materials and Mechanics Research Center (AMMRC), renamed the United States Army Materials Technology Laboratory (MTL) in 1985. In 1995 all Army activity ceased and the remainder of the site was converted to civilian use.

The Armory site was formerly included on US EPA's National Priorities List of highly contaminated sites, more widely known as Superfund. The site was removed from the NPL in 2006.

See also

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  1. National Park Service (2008-04-15). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places . National Park Service.
  2. Drury 1915, pp. 138–141.
  3. Aitken 1985.