High Temperature Surveillance Magazine/Test Conditioning Chamber
Building number 178

Building 197 was designed in 1941 but was not built until 1945.  It was essentially identical to Building 166 except for its shingle roof.  Like its earlier neighbors at “Chemistry Row,” Building 197 was designed in the Colonial Revival Style (though somewhat simpler overall), featuring a symmetrical façade; Georgian door surrounds on both the front and rear doors; Flemish bond brickwork; and a hipped roof.   The front and rear façades had central doorways with windows to each side, and the longer side walls had four windows each.  The interior consisted of control rooms at front and rear connected by a narrow passageway with four windows along one side of the building, and a large central space containing four self-contained, double-walled circular surveillance chambers with reinforced concrete ceilings, each with its own entrance.  See Building 166 for a description of the work done in these buildings and an interview with Millie D’Augustine.

Building Information

Year Built



Concrete foundation; brick bearing walls; shingle roof


One story, 45’ x 57’



A Contained Conflagration

In 1976 a sample exploded in Building 197, and the resulting fire caused the chamber to crack around the ceiling. Because of how the building was constructed, with each of the four chambers self-contained, double-walled, and with reinforced ceilings, damage did not spread to the rest of the building and even the roof remained intact. See Building 166 for plan drawings.

Building 197

The crack along the top of the wall shows the limited extent of structural damage

I Worked Here

Millie D'Augustine

Millie D'Augustine

Millie D'Augustine, who worked in Buildings 166 and 197, explains here how the construction of the test chambers ensured their safety even in this central district of Picatinny Arsenal.

Building 197 Chamber Detail

Detail of plan showing chamber wall construction

Additional Building Photographs

Building No 197
building No. 197