The Arsenal Tunnels

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This article was written by Jude Wudarczyk. It appeared in the March 2002 issue of Historical Happenings the official newsletter of the Lawrenceville Historical Society. Photos have been added to this webpage that have not appeared in the original article courtesy of Allan Becer.

Ever since I was a boy growing up in Lawrenceville I heard stories about the tunnels that ran parallel to 40th Street. Many speculated that they were part of the old Allegheny Arsenal. Others guessed that their purpose was to smuggle goods or slaves from the riverbank to a safer haven. There were many descriptions of the tunnels. Some had them starting at the Allegheny River and continuing as far as Penn Avenue. Others had reported other starting or ending points.

No one would claim to have actually been in the tunnels themselves. They all knew someone else that made the mysterious underground trek. This led some of us at the Lawrenceville Historical Society to believe that the mysterious Arsenal Tunnels were nothing more than a giant hoax.

However, when two individuals, Frank Novosel and Bill Schivins, reported that the entrance was in the County Maintenance Department Complex under the 40th Street Bridge I decided to make an inquiry at the department office. I spoke with several of the workers and received information that was so similar to that provided by Frank and Bill that I could no longer believe that there was nothing to the legends. After receiving official permission to set up an exploration of the tunnel I made arrangements to have an experienced tunnel and cave explorer, Mark Sachon, co-author of Urban Blight, a Rock Climber’s Guide To Pittsburgh, make a preliminary journey through the Arsenal tunnel and report back his findings. Mark was happy to do this for us, and provided his…

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