Springfield Armory National Historic Site | PARK AT A GLANCE

Arsenal Building at Springfield Armory

Arsenal Building at Springfield Armory


No longer wanting to rely on foreign weapons as he did during the American Revolution, in 1794 President George Washington authorized the construction of armories in Springfield, Massachusetts, and Harpers Ferry, Virginia, thus giving the United States government its own weapons manufacturing plants. Springfield was a logical choice for an armory because it was the site of an arsenal (a weapons and ammunition storage facility) since the start of the Revolution, and the nearby Mill River could provide ample water power to run the machines needed for production. It is here that some of the most iconic firearms of the United States military were designed and produced, including the Springfield Trapdoor, the Springfield 1903, the M1 Garand, and the M14. The armory was also licensed to manufacture foreign-designed firearms such as the Krag-Jørgensen, the Army’s shoulder weapon from 1894 to 1904.

The Springfield Armory was spread out over two locations. The two-block site now occupied by Springfield Armory National Historic Site and Springfield Technical Community College was known as the Hillshops. The complex consisted of 22 buildings that were used as warehouses, offices, barracks, officers’ quarters, and finishing and assembly facilities. The actual parts manufacturing plants, known as the Watershops, were situated on the Mill River. Though not part of the National Historic Site, visitors are welcome to view the exterior of the Watershops at 1 Allen Street.

Starting in the late 1950s, the AR-15 (later renamed the M16) was being tested, and by the early 1960s it started replacing the M14. The new gun had many synthetic parts, and it would have been too expensive to re-tool the Springfield Armory to make them, so the military determined that it could obtain the gun cheaper from private manufacturers (Colt got the contract). Convinced that the outsourcing of weapons was the future, the federal government closed the armory for good in 1968. Most of the buildings were immediately re-purposed for use by Springfield Technical Community College.

In 1974, Congress authorized the creation of Springfield Armory National Historic Site, though only the Main Arsenal Building (c. 1848) and the Commanding Officer’s Quarters were included in the park. Today the Arsenal Building houses the world’s largest collection of U. S. military firearms, and nearly the entire visitor experience to the park revolves around the museum (the Commanding Officer’s Quarters is closed to the public). Military and firearm enthusiasts should plan to spend at least two hours at the museum, while an hour will suffice for those with only a passing interest in weapons.


Main Arsenal Building (Visitor Center and Museum)

  • 9 AM to 5 PM
  • Daily from Memorial Day weekend through October 31st
  • Open Wednesday through Sunday the rest of the year
  • Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day

The grounds of the park are open from 7 AM to 10 PM year-round.

Times can always change, so before making travel plans be sure to get the latest schedule on the National Park Service’s official Operating Hours and Seasons web page for Springfield Armory National Historic Site.


There are no fees associated with a visit to Springfield Armory National Historic Site.


Springfield Armory Museum
allow up to 2 hours

Park Grounds
allow 30 minutes

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Last updated on June 15, 2020
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