About the Armory
In 1933, the New Rochelle Armory became the permanent home of the 31st Fleet Division of the New York Naval Militia, serving as a military training ground and meeting place for recruits. Since then thousands of members of the armed services were inducted at the New Rochelle Armory including 300 who died in combat.
In 1997, the City of New Rochelle bought the New Rochelle Armory from New York State for $1 with the provision that the property would be maintained as a public recreation and municipal space. In 2008, the City agreed to a project by Forest City Residential that calls for the armory to be razed as part of its Echo Bay Development plan and replaced by a community center. Veterans groups have vigorously opposed any development plans that include tearing down the building.
The New York Naval Militia is the only federally recognized Naval Militia with continuous, unbroken service dating back to the 1890s.
In the 1880s, a U.S. Navy proposal to organize a national Naval Reserve Force went before Congress. Although the bill was defeated, the organizational plans, prepared by the Navy, formed the basis for numerous Naval Militias which sprang up throughout the States during the following few years.
The New York Naval Militia was organized as a Provisional Naval Battalion in 1889 and was formally mustered into State service as the First Battalion, Naval Reserve Artillery, on 23 June 1891. One year later the New York Naval Militia was called to active duty to protect steam ship passengers during the 1892 cholera quarantine at Fire Island.
Following the sinking of the USS Maine, the Navy Department called up Naval Militia volunteers for duty in the Federal Auxiliary Naval Force; The Spanish American War had begun and the New York Naval Militia was in the thick of it. New York Naval Militiamen manned two auxiliary cruisers that were engaged in the Battle of Santiago and served aboard various other ships including patrol craft tasked with protecting New York Harbor.
During the early 1900′s frequent attempts by Congress to create a National Naval Reserve Failed. In 1914 however, Congress passed the Naval Militia Act which placed the State organizations under the supervision of the Navy Department.
1916 saw the establishment of the United States Naval Reserve Force. Unfortunately, only those persons with prior Naval service could affiliate. This left the Naval Militias as the only avenue for landlubbers to become sailors. The National Defense Act of 1916 resulted in the creation of the National Naval Volunteers, which the New York Naval Militia joined en-masse. 1916 also saw the formation of a Naval Militia Marine Company. The Militia Marine Company was the first in the Nation and predated the United States Marine Corps Reserve program by four months. In addition, the donation of a hydroplane, by patriotic citizens, marked the beginning of the Naval Reserve Aviation Program.
During the next 34 years, the New York Naval Militia (Naval volunteers/Navy and Marine Corps Reserves) were Federally mobilized for both World Wars (100%) and the Korean conflict (75%). It was during the Korean conflict that many of the State Militias began to disappear. The New York Naval Militia recognized the parallel to the Reserve structure and the New York Military Law was changed, making it compulsory for all New York Naval Militia members to be drilling Navy or Marine Corps Reservists.
When the New Rochelle Armory was built it was the most modern and best equipped facility of its kind in New York State featuring a rifle range, radio room and drill deck which doubles as a gymnasium.