At the Springfield Armory National Historic Site, located 90 miles west of Boston, visitors can see a piece of United States history. This was the location of the Springfield Arsenal, which later became the Springfield Armory. Established in 1777, the arsenal manufactured ammunition for the Continental forces in the Revolutionary War and served as a storage facility for various types of weaponry. It was from here that many of the small arms, cannons and other weapons went out to the forces of the fledgling nation. After the war Springfield Arsenal continued to function as one of the Army’s main weaponry depots.
The history of Springfield Arsenal has its footnotes. In 1786, a band of local citizens, protesting court decisions that allowed moneylenders to seize their farms for unpaid debts, attempted to take the arsenal. The farmers intended to take the weapons and shut down the state and county courts, an attempt that was foiled by the state militia. There was fear that the rebellion would grow into a full-fledged uprising, which encouraged support for the federal Constitution and a stronger central government.
The importance of Springfield grew in 1794, when the new government decided to end its dependence on foreign arms manufacturers by establishing two Armories, one at Springfield and the other at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. The Springfield facility went into production the following year, producing 220 flintlock muskets. When the Harpers Ferry Armory was destroyed in the Civil War, Springfield was the nation’s only small arms manufactory until the 20th century.
The Springfield Armory was a pioneer of modern manufacturing techniques. Many of the innovative production methods started here were later adapted to other American industries, contributing significantly to the economic growth of the nation.
The firearms produced at Springfield Armory have a special place in American history. Springfield rifles were state-of-the-art technology in their day, and are still revered by gun enthusiasts. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Springfield weaponry literally helped to shape the growing America.
The facility closed down in 1968, but was resurrected in 1978 as the Springfield Armory National Historic Site. Today the site is set in a beautiful park and includes a museum boasting the world’s largest collection of US weapons. Visitors can watch an 18-minute film introducing them to the site, and then learn more from twelve video kiosks.
The museum offers various activities for kids and adults, including the Junior Ranger program. Visitors can use a model of a Springfield flintlock to learn how to “prime and load.” There are fun, educational programs for students and teachers at all grade levels.
Springfield Armory National Historic Site is open 9am to 5pm seven days a week. It is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Occasionally the park may be closed due to bad weather or construction. Those wishing to visit the site are requested to call ahead and make sure it is open.
Admission to both the park and the museum is free, as is parking. The entire site is wheelchair-accessible. There are restrooms, but there is no cafeteria and no food is allowed in the museum. Pets are not allowed in the museum, but may enter the park as long as they are on leashes. Visitors are asked not to bring pets to ranger-led activities.