Workshop of the World

stories of industry in & around Philadelphia

Powder Magazine, rear view (1937).

Powder Magazine (1808-1940)
Magazine Lane near Penrose Ferry Road, Philadelphia PA

Information and photographs from Joseph P. Sims, HABS/HAER (1937)

Materials of Construction: Built of local stone with stone buttresses. Brick trim around the windows and doors, and ventilators in the attic built of brick, as well as brick chimneys. Two barrel vaults about 22' wide and parallel run the length of the building, which is about 70'.

Powder Magazine (1937).

The space in the attic above these barrel vaults is ventilated, and probably there was originally a ventilated basement below, so as to give ventilation above and below the powder storage. The roof is of slate and the entire building is now (1937) fast falling into decay.

Caretaker's House (1937).

There is a Caretaker's house built of brick adjoining the Magazine and of earlier date. It was evidently only half completed as it shows a Gambrel roof cut at the ridge. This building has some remains of nice 18th century panelling and is also in a state of disrepair.

Note: Torn down, Summer 1940.

History: For greater security in storing powder and military stores in Philadelphia, a movement was started as early as 1724 for the erection of a Powder house and magazine. In 1808, the old magazine at Walnut and Ashton Streets was abandoned and this one built for about $5,000. It is believed that it was used in the War of 1812, and it was abandoned by virtue of the Act of Assembly of April 29th, 1874.

"Powder Magazine Philadelphia, Pa." - north, south & east elevations plus details (HABS/HAER, 1937).

"Powder Magazine Philadelphia, Pa." - sections and floor plans (HAER, 1937).

"Powder Magazine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania" - map (HABS/HAER, c. 1937), also showing the 17th century Swedish and Dutch sites and structures in South and Southwest Philadelphia, including the "Swedish Glebe House (1698)," "Replica Wicaco Block House (1669)," "Bleakly Homestead / Canonball House," "Site of Old Pest House," "Swedish Log Farm House," "Old Swedes Mill (1646)," "Site Fort Nyawasa (1645)," "Printz Stockade near site of Dutch Fort Beversreede (1648)", and 18th century structures including the "Penrose Ferry Inn" and "Gallows Lane."


The history of Philadelphia's "Powder Houses and Magazines" is described in Scharf & Westcott's History of Philadelphia, 1609-1884, pp. 998-1016. The 1808 Powder Magazine is mentioned on p. 1001.

Harry D. Paxson, Where Pennsylvania History Began - Sketch and Map of a Trip from Philadelphia to Tinicum Island Delaware County, Pennsylvania (1926).
Photos, drawings and history of the Fort Mifflin Powder Magazine, (1864) HABS/HAER.