By U.S. ArmyApril 5, 2019
From 'War's Greatest Workshop' (1922)
"Much additional shop room was needed, and, all told, the additions to the plant amounted to more than one and one-half millions of feet of floor space, costing more than seven millions of dollars. Chief among the new structures built for manufacturing uses were the artillery vehicle plant and the artillery ammunition assembling plant. The latter is 360x400 feet, in three sections, one three stories, one two, and the other one story in height. There were, during the period of hostilities 167,195 155 mm howitzer shells loaded, without adapters and boosters."
Building 250, originally known as Shop L, was constructed in 1917 to fulfill the role of an ammunition plant. Workers here mixed and filled 155mm cartridges, which were then sent on to be assembled with fuses in another building to the south. The completed ammunition was stored in warehouses south of the present-day Beck Drive and east of Building 299. The warehouses were served by rails, where trains would load up with cargo and transport war material off of the island.
World War I served as the only time when ammunition was manufactured and assembled at Rock Island Arsenal. Building 250 and its adjacent contemporary buildings were the only locations where ammunition production was carried out.
World War I also served as the first time in the arsenal's history that it employed women to conduct work that was not secretarial. Female employees were tasked with mixing TNT into 155mm cartridges ahead of the fuse setting process. Handling the mixture was extremely dangerous, and the building was designed to withstand explosions from shells. Three explosions were known to have occurred during World War I, but no deaths were reported due to the nature of the building. The large quantity of windows allowed explosions to blow out of the building rather than to stay confined, allowing for a better chance of survival of materiel and personnel within the building.
Over 160,000 155mm shells were manufactured, mixed, and set at Rock Island Arsenal in 1918. In later years, it was decided to keep ammunition separate from materiel to reduce potential loss.
Ammo Plant Facts
Cost: $2.1 million
Material: Reinforced Concrete and Glass
Parent: Shop M (Manufacturing)
Storage: 30 External Houses
Shell Type: 155 MM, Artillery
Number Produced: 167,195 shells
Current Use: Unoccupied, Storage