Administration and research area collage header

Administration and Research Area

Administration and Research Historic District Sign

Through the Cannon Gate and continuing down Parker Avenue, past the Picatinny Golf Course, one enters the Administration and Research Historic District at Farley Avenue. To the west are officers' quarters, while straight ahead is the imposing façade of the former post headquarters, Building 151. To the east, historic laboratories stretch to the north along Kibler Road. The irregular shape of the district reflects the multiple historic functions. Some of the earliest buildings at Picatinny are here, but their functions have changed over time. Building 114, for example, was built in 1884 as the first administrative headquarters but was converted to officer's quarters in 1912. Building 115, also dating to 1884, was a guard and fire engine house, housed schoolrooms during World War I, and was rebuilt as officer's quarters in 1930. Building 119 started as a shell filling house, was converted to a hospital during the 1917 influenza epidemic, and eventually also became military quarters – today, it houses administrative offices.

It was the massive reconstruction after the Navy depot explosion of 1926, which destroyed or damaged most buildings at Picatinny, that resulted in consolidation of administration and research in this area. The installation's new focus on research and development was signified by the creation of "Chemistry Row," a series of laboratories distinctive for their Colonial Revival style, matching that of the post headquarters building. The administration and research responsibilities of Picatinny ballooned during World War II, requiring the major expansion of existing buildings as well as new construction. This district was long the ceremonial center of Picatinny, and remains so today. The post's official flag staff stood in front of Building 151 from the 1930s through 1981, and now stands in front of Building 1 (former Building 171).

Click Here for Building Inventory

Administrative and Research Overview Map

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

1932 Photo of Building 151

Building 151, Picatinny's Historic Post Headquarters

Maps of Picatinny in 1904 (top) and 1920 (bottom) showing the Administration and Research Historic District, with buildings that are still standing
  • illustrative map showing 1904 buildings still standing in the Adminstration and Research Area
  • illustrative map showing 1920 buildings still standing in the Adminstration and Research Area

Colonial Revival Style

  • Following the explosion at the Navy Depot in 1926, redevelopment of Picatinny led to construction of many new buildings, and the research and administrative core of the installation took on a distinctive look. The main buildings were designed in the Colonial Revival architectural style. This style was popular from the 1890s on, and is readily recognizable today because it was adopted as the Federal government's favored style for public buildings by the early 20th century. Harmony, proportion, and symmetry are important characteristics, along with the use of "classical" elements such as patterned brickwork, pediments, and porticos. Using this style for both the new post headquarters (now Building 151) and the laboratories of Chemistry Row (Buildings 162, 163, 164, 166, 167, and 197) signaled patriotism and symbolized the arsenal's historic background. It also gave this central area of the arsenal the look of an academic institution, appropriate in light of its new role as an Army research and development center. See McAlester 1984, Lowry 1985.

  • Building 197 door detail
  • Building 164 Facade Detail Drawing
  • Original plan drawing for Building 164


The New Deal

  • During the Great Depression, just at the time Picatinny was in the midst of a massive rebuilding, labor was provided through Roosevelt's New Deal agencies. The Civilian Works Administration (CWA) came on in 1933, followed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) from 1935 to 1939. The WPA assigned over 1,000 workers to the arsenal each year, with a peak of 1,903 in 1938, and spent over $2.1 million. They built and repaired roads and railroads, steam lines and sewers, and magazines and factory buildings, meeting real needs as well as providing jobs. The infrastructure improvements made it possible for Picatinny to step up to huge new demands during World War II. WPA teams worked to repair, renovate, and replace several buildings in the Administration and Research Historic District that had been damaged in the 1926 explosion, including Buildings 114, 115, 119, and 1 (former 171). See WPA 1938, Owens 2008.

Click here to open a pdf of a 1938 summary of Picatinny WPA projects [pdf file size 813kb].

WPA Workers repairing railroad tracks

WPA workers repairing railroad tracks,

WPA workers laying steam lines

laying steam lines,

WPA work construction of building 115

and reconstructing Building 115.

Officers' Quarters

Commanding officer's quarters

Building 114, 1884 Post Headquarters and later Officer's Family Quarters (HAER photo)

Col. Nicholls Quarters

Col. Nicholls Quarters, 1913 (Building 113)

Lieut. Col. Odus C. Horney

The Administration and Research Historic District was also the Arsenal's earliest residential district. The first administrative headquarters (Building 114), erected in 1884, was converted to Officer's quarters in 1912 and is now the Colonel's home. This eclectic-style residence, with its stately façade, is one of Picatinny Arsenal's most distinctive historic buildings. Also in this historic district are the Commanding General's Quarters and the General's residence (former Assistant Officer's residence), both built in 1909 (Buildings 112 and 113). The styles and sizes of these dwellings convey the status of their tenants and the hierarchy of post command, and their location along Farley Avenue at the end of the Picatinny golf course (a former parade ground) lends formality to their setting - but they also serve all of the functions of family homes.

Chemistry Row

  • Building on Chemistry Row

    Chemistry Row in 1945. Left to right are the two main wings of Building 162, Building 163, and Building 167.

    As Picatinny rebuilt following the 1926 explosion, it created facilities to support an increasing focus on research and development. The cluster of buildings that housed the new research laboratories, begun in 1928, came to be known as "Chemistry Row." Here, cutting-edge basic research on the chemistry and physics of explosives and propellants was conducted under the direction of Picatinny's top scientific staff. Several buildings were built in 1928-30. "The work of the Research Laboratories of Picatinny Arsenal forms the foundation upon which the entire development of propellants and explosives for the Army depends. Suitable equipment and housing for this equipment is essential for the proper performance of this work." - from a 1928 report on new facilities at Picatinny The large main laboratory, home to the Chemistry Department of the Technical Group (former Technical Division), was prominently sited on Farley Avenue (Building 162). Laboratories performing hazardous operations were housed in separate buildings, including a high explosives lab (facing Kibler Road and later incorporated into Building 162) and, a bit further removed, a stability lab (Building 164) and an explosives preparation and test lab (Building 167). Construction was "on hold" during the 1930s, but more buildings were added during World War II, including Buildings 163 (a chemistry laboratory), 166 (a propellant surveillance lab), and 168 (an ammunition and explosives magazine); Building 197 (a second surveillance lab) was completed shortly after the war’s end.

Picatinny scientist Ira Weber

Picatinny scientist Ira Weber running a cellulose viscosity experiment, 1942

Chemistry Lab

Chemistry lab in Building 162, c.1945

Chemistry department staff in 1937

Chemistry Department staff in 1937

World War II Expansion

Shell loading WWII assembly line workers

Thousands worked on Picatinny assembly lines during World War II

Picatinny News Masthead
  • Picatinny Arsenal underwent a huge expansion during World War II as its experimental and peace-time levels of production ramped up to meet wartime demand. After the US entry into the war, the work force grew to a peak of 17,900 in 1942, and it was highly diversified both in terms of technical skills and demographic profile. Thousands of women, as well as African American and Jamaican workers, worked the production lines. Maintaining and running this large facility and keeping track of its workers vastly increased the arsenal's administrative needs, as reflected in the buildings of this historic district. At the same time, research and training programs were expanded. Picatinny was considered the "West Point" of ordnance because of its role in training engineers and supervisors for the national war effort, with over 20,000 ordnance personnel from all over the country visiting the installation for training. The arsenal also sent its staff far and wide to teach sampling inspection techniques to private industry, which took over the bulk of ordnance production by the middle of the war, and supplied technical plans to the industry nationwide. The arsenal's Chemistry Department concentrated on explosives – including the development of Haleite; a new gasless fuze powder for use in delay detonators; new processes for manufacturing tetryl; flashless non-hygroscopic powder for antiaircraft guns; and many other products – and their work ensured that Picatinny was well-placed to lead basic research following the war.

    During the build-up and early part of the war, the central administration building (Building 151) was considerably enlarged, and the main laboratory (Building 162) was expanded and joined to the adjacent lab with an intervening addition. Building 1 (former 171 - originally a magazine that was destroyed in an explosion and later rebuilt as a lab) was turned into an administration building. Buildings 163, 166, 172, 173, and 174 were constructed in 1942-43; Building 176 went up in 1944; Building 167 was enlarged in early 1945; and Building 183 was completed in July of 1945. See Picatinny News wartime issues; Picatinny maps, 1943, 1944, 1946.

Norman Rockwell Army Ordannce Department

Norman Rockwell, 1942, for Army Ordnance Department (Library of Congress)

Picatinny News marching trainees poster

These marching trainees' coats identify them as a Student Engineer, Student Inspector, Student Instructor, and Student Supervisor.(Picatinny News)

WOWs and other Picatinny Women

  • Picatinny Arsenal employed 10,000 women in 1942, at the height of its World War II expansion. Known as WOWs – Women Ordnance Workers – they were mostly production line workers, though women also took on many more manual jobs at the post that were previously reserved for men. But Picatinny women fulfilled other roles at the arsenal before, during, and after the war, especially in the administration and research areas. They were supervisors, clerks, and typists in the administrative offices; staffed the drawing and specification section, which supplied plans and drawings to ordnance facilities nationwide; ran the technical library for the Chemistry Laboratories; and worked in the research laboratories.

  • The women of the Clerical and Specifications staff, 1937

  • The clerical staff

    Women office workers circa 1945.

Wow poster by Adolph Tredler

Posters by Adolph Treidler, 1942, for Army Ordnance Department

Wow poster by Adolph Tredler
Women assembly line workers

Women on the production line during WW II.