Benicia Arsenal (1851-1964) - A U.S. Army arsenal established in 1851 by 2nd Lt. (Bvt. Captain) Charles P. Stone (Cullum 1237), Ordnance Department, in present day Benicia, Solano County, California. Closed in 1964.
Established by 2nd Lt. (Bvt. Captain) Charles P. Stone, Ordnance Department, on 19 Aug 1851 for the storage and issuance of military materials; it was the first Ordnance Supply Depot in the West. In 1852, the US government designated the Benicia Arsenal as one of the country's five permanent arsenals.
Permanent arsenal buildings were initially built in two locations. At the north end of the reservation two large stone storage/ammunition shop buildings (1855), a guardhouse/laboratory (1856), a magazine (1855) and a large stone magazine (1857) were constructed. Further south in the central portion of the reservation two sets of quarters were built, one for the arsenal commandant (1861) and one for his adjutant (1862). Also built at this location was a main arsenal building (1859) with a distinctive clock tower. All of these buildings remain today although some of them have suffered damage over the years and have been restored.
Construction continued through the 1860s and 1870s that added additional quarters, barracks and three large stone shop buildings at the southern end of the reservation. Many of these buildings remain today but have been repurposed as private quarters and commercial enterprises.
During World War I and World War II construction further expanded the post on the south side with shops, storage and quarters. In 1942 a new headquarters building was built near the main entrance. On the north side additional magazines were built.
Personnel employed by the Arsenal naturally surged during major conflicts and in World War II civilian employment went from 85 civilian employees prewar to 4,545 at the end of October 1942. The Korean War saw 6,700 civilians employed at the arsenal.
In 1859 Fort Tejon received 28 camels as a part of an experiment to determine their usefulness in the southwest. The camels were transferred from Fort Tejon to Drum Barracks and then finally to Benicia Arsenal. At Benicia Arsenal the camels were housed in two large storage buildings built in 1855 that are now known as the "Camel Barns". The Camel Corps was disbanded in 1863.
From the beginning of the Endicott Period through the end of World War II Benicia Arsenal provided support for the large caliber gun batteries of the west coast harbor defenses. These fortifications guarded the harbors at San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, the Columbia River and Seattle. Guns as large as 16" and the ammunition for them processed through Benicia Arsenal.
At the start of World War II, in the first 24 hours after the Pearl Harbor attack, the Arsenal loaded up 125 separate truck convoys with arms, ammunition and supplies and dispatched them to coastal fortifications and defensive positions. The arsenal completely exhausted its supply of ammunition, small arms and high explosives in this initial effort. The arsenal continued to support the coastal fortifications throughout the war including the World War II upgrade program.
Closed in 1964 and privatized.
Some of the original (1850s) arsenal buildings now part of a city Park and museum complex in Benicia, Solano County, California. Later arsenal buildings on the south side of the reservation have been repurposed and house private residences and commercial businesses. Most of the old arsenal buildings on the south side are accessible externally but internal access is restricted.
Visited: 16 Nov 2013