Harlem Armory boxCourtney Burns, director of the New York State Military Museum, examines the copper box time capsule discovered inside the cornerstone of the original section of the New York National Guard’s historic Harlem Armory during renovation work. The box, which was not known to be in the corner stone, contained documents pertaining to the 369th “Harlem Hell Fighters” or World War I fame, as well as documents of importance to the Black community in 1923 New York City.  

Harlem Armory time messenger reveals snapshot of 1923 

By Eric Durr, New York National Guard
via the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS)

SARATOGA SPRINGS, New York --The replacement of a 99-year-old granite cornerstone plaque of the New York National Guard's Harlem Armory drill floor, exposed a mystery when contractors found a sealed copper box inside the stone on Feb. 19, 2022.

The armory, home of the New York Army National Guard's 369th Sustainment Brigade, was built to house the 369th Infantry Regiment -the drill hall in 1921-24 and the administrative building in the 1930s- made famous during their service in World War I as the Harlem Hell Fighters.

Originally the 15th Infantry, New York National Guard, the regiment comprised of Black Soldiers and commanded mostly by white officers, fought as part of a French division.

Renumbered as the 369th U.S. Infantry, the regiment spent 191 days in combat, never retreated and accumulated 170 French Croix de Guerre awards for heroism.

The mystery box's contents highlighted the pride of Black New Yorkers in their regiment, their culture, and city officials' recognition of the 369th and the black community, according to Courtney Burns, the director of the New York State Military Museum, in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Boxes like this were a way of reaching out to the future, Burns said.

The ceremonial cornerstone was laid on May 27, 1923, by New York City Mayor John Francis Hylan, who had also broken ground for the armory in November 1921.

William Hayward, who had commanded the 369th in France and was then the U.S. attorney for New York, spoke at the ceremony, as did Congressman -later New York City mayor- Fiorello LaGuardia.

The team at the New York State Military Museum couldn't find any mention of the time capsule left in the cornerstone in reports of the event, Burns said.

So, when construction crews took off the decaying granite with 1922 chiseled on it, they were surprised to find a hollowed-out area with the box inside, said Capt. Douglas Peters, the project manager for the Harlem Armory.

Read the entire article on the DVIDS web site.

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