In an effort to increase the number of small arms for defense of the United States, George Washington established a Federal armory here in 1794. The rivers provided power for the machinery; surrounding mountains provided iron ore for gun barrels and hardwoods for charcoal and gun stocks.
In 60 years, the armory manufactured more than 500,000 muskets, rifles, and rifle-muskets. At its peak in 1850, the armory employed over 400 workers.
In 1861, Southern forces transported the captured armory machinery to Richmond and Fayetteville, where it became the heart and blood of Confederate ordinance. With the armory destroyed, Harpers Ferry's economy and fortunes declined.
In 1892, the railroad covered the armory site with a 14-foot embankment. The monument in front of you marks the site of the fire-engine house, better known as John Brown's Fort.