Allegheny Arsenal: Exploding Myths

Date & Time
Friday, Oct. 28, 2022
6:30 PM - 8:00 PM
Location Heinz History Center 1212 Smallman Street
Pittsburgh PA, 15222
Ticketing $5 for general admission
Free for History Center members
Tickets available in advance or at the door. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

On Halloween weekend, uncover the story behind one of Pittsburgh’s most chilling unsolved mysteries.

Discover the legends, lore, and myths surrounding Pittsburgh’s famous Allegheny Arsenal as part of an evening of spooky storytelling featuring History Center President and CEO Andy Masich and authors Tom Powers and James Wudarczyk of the Lawrenceville Historical Society.

The new book “The Allegheny Arsenal Handbook,” written by Powers and Wudarczyk, commemorates the 160th anniversary of the Arsenal explosion, which rocked Pittsburgh on Sept. 17, 1862, and tragically claimed the lives of 78 civilians.

Located in Lawrenceville, the Arsenal employed more than 1,100 workers who helped manufacture harnesses, assemble small weapons, and fill musket cartridges for the Union Army. Arsenal workers carried out their daily routine on Sept. 17, 1862, when something went terribly wrong. A series of massive explosions erupted near the arsenal’s primary laboratory, destroying the building and its surrounding structures. The blasts instantly killed 78 civilians — mostly young women and girls.

To this day, the cause of the Allegheny Arsenal explosion remains a mystery.

As part of the History Center’s book talk, Masich, Powers, and Wudarczyk will reveal new findings – including maps, photographs, and illustrations – that explore the real story behind the Arsenal explosion.

Masich will bring the story up to present-day with recent discoveries of thousands of Civil War cannonballs at 40th and Butler Streets in Lawrenceville. Some cannonball specimens will be on hand for visitors to examine.

A book signing will follow the discussion.

This event is held in partnership with the Lawrenceville Historical Society.

About Tom Powers

Tom Powers is the president of the Lawrenceville Historical Society and editor of its newsletter. He holds an M.F.A. from Penn State University and is the principal author of the book “Portrait of an American Community: O’Hara Township, PA” (2008).

About Jim Wudarczyk

Jim Wudarczyk is a board member and the former president of the Lawrenceville Historical Society. His first book on this subject, “Pittsburgh’s Forgotten Allegheny Arsenal,” was published in 1999. He writes widely on history and is the co-author of the Lawrenceville Historical Society’s three books.

Tom Powers (left) and Jim Wudarczyk at the Stone Magazine (photo by Sue Powers).

Cover of “The Allegheny Arsenal Handbook,” written by Powers and Wudarczyk.