Chemistry Laboratory
Building number 178

Building 178 was apparently a pre-1926 structure that was reconstructed in 1938, doubtless with the help of WPA workers. It started its life as a magazine and continued in that use after reconstruction. The reconstruction of the building took place in 2 main phases: the southern 3 bays were done in 1938, and the 2 matching northern bays were added in 1944-45. The result was a long, rectangular, hollow-tile building, windowless, with metal double doors on both the east and west elevations of each bay. The doors opened onto interior rooms numbered 1 through 5 from south to north. During World War II the building was the Master Sample Magazine, but in 1950, as Picatinny Arsenal ramped up its Cold War research and development work, the building was repurposed as a research laboratory. Square industrial windows were added to each bay on the east side, and new equipment was installed in all five rooms. Small shed additions were built in 1950 and 1955 at the north and south ends.

Building Information

Year Built

pre-1926; reconstructed 1938


Concrete foundation, hollow tile walls, corrugated galvanized iron roof


22' x 86'


Reconstructed 1938; 2 bays added circa 1945; south shed addition and windows installed 1950; north shed addition 1955

History Lost and Found

Building 178 was once not considered to be a contributing part of the Administration and Research Historic District. A notation suggesting a construction date of 1956 was found in the building records, which would have made the structure too recent to be considered historic at the time of the original architectural survey. But Picatinny's cultural resources staff suspected that the building was earlier, and research brought to light how it actually embodied key themes in the Arsenal's story. A 1920s magazine, it was severely damaged in the 1926 Lake Denmark explosion. Reconstruction had to wait until 1938, when over 1,900 WPA workers were employed at Picatinny; at least 65 tile magazines were completely rehabilitated or rebuilt by the WPA. The magazine was next substantially enlarged as part of the World War II expansion of production at the base. Finally, as the Arsenal turned in 1950 to Cold War-era research and development, Building 178 was converted into a physics and chemistry laboratory. Windows were added to make human occupancy possible, and new equipment outfitted each lab room. In 1952, a 10-ton hydraulic press was installed.

Building 167

Circa 1940 magazine

Additional Building Photographs

Building No 178Building No 178
building No. 178

Building 178 Plans (click on the image for a separate close-up view)

  • Building 178 Piping Diagram