I’ve visited Springfield, Massachusetts many times to meet up with my husband’s relatives and to explore some of the many family friendly activities (like the Dr. Seuss Museum and the Basketball Hall of Fame) the city has to offer. However, until recently, I haven’t had the chance to explore the Springfield Armory, part of the National Parks Service. Since my family has been learning a lot about the the beginning of America’s formation (see my posts on Saratoga National Historic Site, Minute Man National Historic Park, and Fort Stanwix), I figured visiting the Armory would be the perfect complement.
Armories were places to create weapons and arsenals were places to store those weapons. After the Revolutionary War, George Washington proposed having armories built on the east coast so that the United States did not have to rely on other countries for production. He designated Springfield in Massachusetts and Harper’s Ferry in West Virginia ideal locations for armories.
The Springfield Armory was built in 1794, but its first major production started with War of 1812 and ended with the Vietnam War. During WWII alone, the armory produced 4.5 million M1 semi automatic rifles, amongst dozens of other weapons. The current museum is housed next to the oldest building on site (now home to the Massachusetts State Police Academy), built in 1808. The Springfield Armory is located on the campus of Springfield Technical Community College. It’s a bit of a maze to get to because of all the construction during summer 2017, but follow the signs to the back of the campus and it’s clearly marked. The museum is self guided on one floor and I would plan to spend about 60-90 minutes exploring.
It’s open from late May through early November. Bonus for little children: the exhibits are enclosed in glass to minimize safety and preservation concerns, and there is plenty of space for children to roam freely without much risk of getting lost or hurt. Lots of space to move strollers, too.
My kids’ top 10 "I Spy" picks:
1. The Junior Ranger booklet (when you complete it, you earn a badge, decal, tattoos and rubber bracelet)
2. Three Passport stamps for your National Parks Passport
3. Kid Zone with puzzles, books, coloring worksheets, trading cards, and period costumes
4. The display of “Mishaped Weapons” as a result of weather related and fluke events
5. The “Organ of Muskets” (it’s really a display of how muskets were stores prior to the Civil War, but legend has it Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s wife compared the display to the pipes of a church organ, and that inspired his poem “Arsenal at Springfield” and the nickname for the display).
6. An operational Blanchard Lathe
7. A WOW (Women Ordnance Workers) bandana (and a really cool explanation of how and why women "took over" for men in the industry during WWI and WWII)
8. Push the Green Hand Ahead exhibit, which explains how the machine gun was created at the Armory
9. An authentic Carpenter’s Tool Chest
10. An eighteen minute video about the Armory and it’s history
There are plenty of family friendly activities in Springfield, Massachusetts and making time to stop at the Armory should definitely be part of your family's plan.