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The Arsenal is one of only two buildings in the park that are older than the park itself!
A symmetrical brick building with half octagonal towers and modestly Gothic Revival details, the Arsenal was designed to resemble a medieval fortress. Built between 1847 and 1851 as a munitions supply depot for New York State's National Guard, the project's funding was overseen by state comptroller Millard Fillmore, who later became President of the United States. That original military use would be short-lived, as the building soon become part of Central Park. Over the years, the building had a number of uses: a police precinct, a weather bureau, the first Museum of Natural History, and a makeshift zoo filled with animals on loan from the likes of circus founder P.T. Barnum. Today, it's home to the headquarters of New York City's Department of Parks and Recreation and the Central Park Zoo. The Arsenal survived many calls for demolition over the years and currently, visitors can see two significant pieces of New York City history inside. On the walls of the Arsenal's lobby, 1930s WPA murals depict historic scenes of the 19th century Park as well as soldiers in formation — a nod to the original purpose of the building itself. On the building's third floor, by appointment only, visitors can view the original Park plan, created by architects Olmsted and Vaux. Also on the third floor is the Arsenal Gallery, offering eight to ten exhibitions of fine arts and photography annually, with most focused on the natural environment, urban issues and parks history. The building predates the design and construction of Central Park, only the Blockhouse (1814) is older. Over time the Arsenal has become a parks fixture and in 1967 was designated an official New York City Landmark. Two bronze eagles flanking the first floor entrance are original to the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument in Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn (replaced there by replicas in a 2008 restoration). The Arsenal represents New York's eternal ability to reimage itself.