As early as the days of John Harris in the mid-18th Century, Harrisburg has well provided for the storage and distribution of military munitions and supplies. Even prior to the completion of the first state capitol building in 1822, an arsenal was erected in 1817 on Capitol hill just south of where the original brick statehouse would rise. This building served through the end of the Civil War and was particularly important when General Robert E. Lee threatened an invasion of Harrisburg in the summer of 1863. By 1874, the need for a larger facility, removed from the business of the Capitol and on higher and more open land, was satisfied through the construction of the Pennsylvania State Arsenal at this site. The building's central tower, designed in a vibrant castellated and Chateauesque style, is original to the 1874 structure, although its mansard roof was removed some time ago. the two story main portion of the building, flanking the tower, was removed in 1914 and replaced with the present three-story building highlighted with crenellated parapets giving a fortress appearance. The iron fence, which encloses the property, originally bordered the old Capitol and Capitol Park and was moved to its present location after the old Capitol burned in 1897. The building remains operational today as the public works/construction center of the Pennsylvania Department of General Services.
Late 19th Century view of Arsenal revealing original two-story structure.
Circa 1910 postcard view of original structure including mansard roof on central tower.