Park Avenue Armory, Board of Officers Room. Photo by James Ewing.
NEW YORK CITY — The Park Avenue Armory has announced that the Thompson Family Foundation has given $65 million to kick-start a programming endowment allowing the Armory to expand the range and number of works in the performing and visual arts it presents, as well as the scale and reach of its arts education initiatives for underserved public school students.
The gift brings the total amount donated by the family to the Armory to nearly $129 million, including seminal support beginning more than two decades ago to save the once-neglected building and revitalize it as a nonprofit arts organization. In recognition of Wade Thompson and his family’s generosity, the spaces within the Armory building dedicated to the institution’s arts programming will be named the Thompson Arts Center at Park Avenue Armory. At the family’s request, the Thompson Arts Center name will last for a period of 50 years.
“Wade is the reason that the Armory building was saved. He was a tireless champion of preservation with a purpose and, when he saw the Armory falling apart, he set himself the task of saving it. From the beginning, he and his family believed in the potential of the Armory to become a major international cultural enterprise unlike any that had come before — and their gifts at critical moments of the Armory’s growth reflect that shared passion,” said Park Avenue Armory President and Executive Producer Rebecca Robertson.
Thompson, who lived across the street from the Armory, became interested in saving it when he first observed its deterioration. Originally constructed between 1877 and 1881 by the elite Seventh Regiment of the National Guard, the Armory houses one of the most important collections of Nineteenth Century interiors in the United States—with 18 rooms designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, Stanford White, the Herter Brothers, and Pottier & Stymus, among other prominent designers from the era.
Among his longtime support to the Armory was his 2008 donation of $31 million to restore the drill hall and put in place the infrastructure needed to enable the Armory to present major artistic productions in the massive 55,000-square-foot, 80-foot high space. In 2014, the foundation jump-started the campaign to restore the famed Veterans Room with a gift of $13.715 million towards an $18 million campaign. The room is one of the few surviving interiors by Louis C. Tiffany and Associated Artists, and considered one of the most important interiors in the country. The restoration and renovation will be complete by the end of the year.