Veteran Association of the First Corps of Cadets
Monstrat Viam!

VAFCC history

      

THIS WAS ACTUALLY AN AGE OF ARMORY CONSTRUCTION IN POST-CIVIL WAR AMERICA AND ARMORIES WERE LARGELY MEDIEVAL IN DESIGN. ARMORIES FOR STATE MILITIAS AROSE IN NEW YORK CITY, PORTSMOUTH, VIRGINIA, PROVIDENCE, R.I., CHICAGO, SAVANNAH, GA, AND OTHER CITIES.  THE AUTHORS OF THE ARMORY, FIRST CORPS OF CADETS, 1887-1973, SUGGEST THAT THE FUNCTION OF THE MEDIEVAL ARMORY WAS TWOFOLD:

          "IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY, THE EPITOME OF PATRIOTISM WAS TO VOLUNTEER FOR THE MILITIA. ARMORIES IN MEDIEVAL TRAPPINGS SPRANG UP ACROSS THE NATION, PROVIDING ITS CITIES WITH SYMBOLIC ACCESS TO THE DIGNITY OF HISTORY" (P. 5)

SECONDLY, IN BOSTON, THERE WAS A VERY PRACTICAL CIVIC FUNCTION FOR AN IMPOSING ARMORY. THE POPULATION OF THE CITY WAS GROWING AT AN ALARMING RATE WITH AN INFLUX OF IMMIGRANTS FROM ITALY, HUNGARY, RUSSIA, AUSTRIA, AND ESPECIALLY IRELAND. THE POPULATION GREW FROM 363,000 IN 1880 TO 450,000 IN 1890 AND THERE WAS PLENTY OF LABOR AGITATION FROM THE “KNIGHTS OF LABOR” AND THE “AMERICAN FEDERATION OF LABOR” OVER WORKING CONDITIONS, PAY, AND HOUSING.  BOTH ORGANIZATIONS WERE HOUSED IN BOSTON. THEIR POWER WAS EXEMPLIFIED BY THE GREAT LABOR PARADE OF 1886 AND A PARALYZING RAILWAY STRIKE IN 1887. LOCAL FEARS LOOMED OVER THE “RECKLESS BRAVADO AND THREATS OF MISGUIDED LABORING MEN”; FROM THE WILD-EYED IDEALISM OF “SOCIALISTIC AND COMMUNISTIC THEORIES” HELD BY OTHERWISE “SENSIBLE AND PEACEFUL CITIZENS”; AND FROM THE ANARCHISTS WHO RAISED THEIR “BRAZEN STANDARD OF REVOLT, AGAINST THE PROSPERITY AND STABILITY OF OUR  . . . INSTITUTIONS.”

THE ARMORY WAS TO BE A STRONG SIGNAL TO THE POPULATION THAT THE NATIONAL GUARD WAS AVAILABLE TO ENFORCE CIVIL PEACE.

THE ARMORY WAS LOCATED IN BOSTON AT THE PRESENT SITE OF THE SMITH AND WOLLENSKY STEAKHOUSE BECAUSE IT PROVIDED A COMMANDING VIEW OF THE STATE HOUSE, WHICH HEARKENS BACK TO THE FUNCTION OF THE CADETS AS THE GOVERNOR’S ESCORT AND NOW  STILL UNDER THE CONTROL OF THE GOVERNOR AS A UNIT OF THE NATIONAL GUARD.

PRACTICALLY SPEAKING, HOWEVER, HOW WAS THE VETERAN’S ASSOCIATION GOING TO RAISE THE $687,000 NEEDED TO BUILD THE NEW ARMORY? $687,000 IS OVER $16,000,000 IN TODAY’S DOLLARS.

THE ANSWER WAS WHOLLY UNIQUE TO BOSTON. HALF WAS DERIVED FROM PRIVATE DONATIONS OF THE CITY’S  WEALTHY BRAHMINS AND HALF WAS FROM THE PROFITS OF CADET MUSICALS! MANY OF THE NEW CADETS RECRUITED BY LTC EDMANDS HAD ATTENDED HARVARD UNIVERSITY AND HAD PARTICIPATED IN THE HASTY PUDDING CLUB. THEY WERE THUS ENTIRELY CONGENIAL WITH PUTTING ON A SHOW AND PERFORMING IN WHATEVER OUTRAGEOUS VENUE PRESENTED ITSELF AS A MUSICAL OR A FARCE. THEY COULD PERFORM AS ANIMALS, TREES, COQUETTES, OLD LADIES, WITH OR WITHOUT BLACKFACE, WHATEVER WAS REQUIRED. ROBERT BARNET, A MEMBER OF THE FCC, WITH THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF LTC EDMANDS, WROTE AND PRODUCED A SERIES OF SILLY MUSICALS THAT PROVED TO BE WILDLY POPULAR WITH BOSTON’S AVID THEATER GOERS.

ONE OF THE MORE POPULAR AND FINANCIALLY SUCCESSFUL MUSICALS WAS ENTITLED THE INJURED INNOCENTS, WHICH WAS A LAMPOON ON THE FAMILIAR EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY GERMAN WORK THE BABES IN THE WOODS. IT IS A STORY OF A WICKED UNCLE WHO ARRANGED TO HAVE HIS YOUNG NIECE AND NEPHEW KILLED BY HIRED MURDERERS SO THAT HE COULD COLLECT THEIR INHERITANCE. IT WAS THE KIND OF SENTIMENTAL STORY THAT WAS MEANT TO DRIVE THE READER TO TEARS, BUT IN THE FARCE-TRAGEDY PRODUCED BY BARNET EVERYTHING IS TOPSY-TURVY: THE CHILDREN ARE BRATS WHO DESERVE THEIR FATE; THE KILLERS ARE BIG-HEARTED AND SILLY; AND THE EVIL UNCLE NAMED MCALLISTER AND HIS WIFE MRS. MCALLISTER, WHO PROVED A VERY GENTLEMANLY LADY ACCORDING TO ONE REVIEWER, ARE RATHER INEPT.

THIS PRODUCTION YIELDED OVER $2300 IN PROFITS. OR SOMETHING LIKE $65,000 IN TODAY’S DOLLARS.

WITH A BANKROLL OF OVER $16 MILLION DOLLARS, THE ARCHITECT WILLIAM GIBBONS PRESTON, WHO WAS ALSO A MEMBER OF THE FCC, CREATED QUITE A FORTRESS, WITH ITS SIX-STORY HEAD HOUSE, A 200 FOOT LONG DRILL HALL, AND ITS MANY UNIQUE DETAILS: TRIPLE DOORS TO PROTECT AGAINST MOB ATTACKS, A DRAWBRIDGE, WINDOWS WITH IRON SHUTTERS, AND A FLAG TO FLY OVER ITS CRENELLATED ROOFLINE AT THE CORNER OF COLUMBUS AND ARLINGTON WITH A FLAGPOLE HELD BY A STONE GRIFFIN WITH WINGS OUTSPREAD.

THE CASTLE REMAINED IN THE OWNERSHIP OF THE VAFCC UNTIL 1965, WHEN THE BUILDING WAS SOLD BECAUSE THE VAFCC COULD NOT PAY THE $50,000 IN TAXES OWED THE CITY OF BOSTON. THE VAFCC PURCHASED A FIVE STORY BROWNSTONE ON COMMONWEALTH AVENUE WITH ITS PROFITS FROM THE SALE, WHERE IT PRESENTLY HOUSES THE MUSEUM OF THE FCC .