SPRINGFIELD, Mass (WGGB) — I’ve had the chance to visit some interesting places this week as we count down to Springfield’s 375th birthday celebration.
And perhaps the most significant place in our cities long and colorful history is the Springfield Armory.
For nearly 200 years this facility, located on what is now Springfield Technical Community College, was the heartbeat of the Industrial Revolution.
The many innovations developed here are still felt from coast to coast.
“With the American War of Independence the United States government was established and within 9 months of that establishment Springfield becomes a hot bed of activity in support of the Army,” said Richard Colton, a Park Ranger and Armory historian.
“The design and production, particularly its supply of weapons. This is a role Springfield proudly maintains until 1968.”
Two hundred years, from the American Revolution to the Vietnam conflict. From George Washington to LBJ, the Springfield Armory was the nerve center for the nations war effort. It was also in many ways the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution.
The Armory was chosen for its location, its accessability to the Connecticut River, and its defenseability.
The Springfield Armory’s contribution to the history of our country is immeasurable.
“Most national sites you’ll come to, national historic sites, will be important for maybe one particular reason, maybe two,” said Colton.
“Maybe something happened there for one or two days. Maybe one person lived there.”
“This was two centuries, and hundreds of thousands of people.”
And the Springfield Armory’s success and know how expanded exponentially.
From the world renowned Ames Sword Company, to the inventiveness that led to companies that still dot the Connecticut River corridor, they can all trace their beginnings to the Springfield Armory.
“Essentially the core of what becomes the Silicon Valley of the 19th century,” said Colton.
“This is why you still have Hamilton Standard, Pratt & Whitney, up and down the valley. You still have these manufacturing centers, precision manufacturing centers, but they started here.”
And in many ways the areas industrial decline can be traced back to the demise of the Armory.
After 200 years as a mainstay of the U-S Military, production ceased in April 1968.
Heavy manufacturing came to an end up on the hill just like it did for the rest of the country. Never to fully return again.
“When the Army closed the Armory in 1968 the United States was the largest producer and exporter of machine tools.”
“Twenty years later the United States was the largest importer of machine tools.”
“We’ve gone from being a manufacturing nation that made things to a nation that in fact had to purchase things from overseas.”
The Springfield Armory will come alive this weekend with tours and battle reenactments on the Armory Green.