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New Jersey National Guard Armory
678 Montgomery Street and Summit Avenue

Mid-twentieth century postcard of the New Jersey National Guard Armory.
View looking west along Montgomery Street from the intersection of Summit Avenue
Courtesy, RF Smith

New Jersey National Guard Armory
View looking east along Montgomery Street towards the intersection of Jordan Avenue
Photo: P. Shalhoub


The New Jersey National Guard Armory is a headquarters for the state's National Guard, is supervised by the New Jersey Department of Military and Veteran Affairs and is leased to Jersey City.

The New Jersey National Guard Armory was constructed in 1937 as a federal WPA project and replaced the old Fourth Regiment Armory facility. It was designed by the chief architect, General Hugh Kelly, of the Jersey City firm of Kelly and Gruzen, who was a friend of Mayor Frank Hague. Kelly appointed Hugh Clark, a graduate of Cooper Union Institute and a Jersey City resident, to carry out the project with J.K.Harris-Smith, another Jersey City architect. The massive 175,000 square-foot, three-story beaux-arts structure with basement has English Renaissance features with a granite base, brick exterior wall, and terra cotta trim. The main stairway, with an iron fence, faces Summit Avenue; decorative terra cotta panels with military insignias are on the second floor of each of three projecting pavilions. On the Montgomery Street side of the Armory is a stone strip engraved with "New Jersey National Guard."

The Jersey City Armory is an Army National Guard facility used for military training. It has also served the community with exhibits, ethnic festivals, prizefights, and entertainment events. At the Armory's first boxing event on June 24, 1918, Johnny Dundee defeated Mickey Donley. In a first-round knockout, Gene Tunney defeated Young Guerini on July 8, 1918. Chuck Wepner, known as the "Bayonne Bleeder," lost to Sonny Liston, a former heavyweight boxing champion, in the ninth round at a match held on June 29, 1970. Former New Jersey Governor Brendon Byrne and former Jersey City Mayor Thomas F.X. Smith entered the boxing ring at the Armory with Mohammed Ali at a benefit event held for the Jersey City Medical Center in 1972.

The Armory was briefly used by the Metropolitan Football League and as a studio for the movie industry. Local high school and college teams competed in basketball and track and field events in the cavernous space.

In 1987 and again in 1998, the Armory was renovated to share its space with the Jersey City Youth Center in a regional movement for local armories to sponsor youth services. These include an array of educational and self-development programs in a drug-free environment. In 2002, Jersey City received a grant from the New Jersey Department of Human Services to expand the use of the Armory as a recreational center for after-school activities under the city's Recreation Program. The $6 million restoration of the building was completed with a reopening ceremony on January 3, 2006. Among the improvements are a state-of-the-art running track, a new basketball floor, seating, scoreboards and lighting. A second phase of renovations sponsored by the New Jersey Department of Military and Veteran Affairs for $1.7 million began in July 2008. The renovations insure the continued use of the historic structure.

Reference:

Hague. Jim. "Historic Sports Palace Restored." Jersey City Reporter 6 January 2006.
_____. "Ringside: Jersey City's Pugilistic Past." Jersey CITY Magazine Fall & Winter 2006/2007: 47-59.
Thorbourne, Ken. "Makeover Money." Jersey Journal 4 August 2008.

By: Carmela Karnoutsos
Project Administrator: Patrick Shalhoub