Nov. 14, 1927: Two of the world’s largest gas storage tanks dominated the North Side. On a dreary Monday morning, workers with acetylene torches climbed atop one tank to make repairs. Though the tank had been emptied, a faulty valve had allowed the entry of a dangerous mix of gas and oxygen.
At 8:43, one 20-story-tall tank was propelled into the air, then exploded. The concussion devastated the immediate area. Houses collapsed on Reedsdale Street. A block-long section of the Pittsburgh Clay Pot Co. was reduced to a pile of bricks. Windows shattered throughout the North Side, the Golden Triangle and the West End. Across the Ohio River, commuters heading from McKees Rocks to Downtown were left bloody and shocked when windows on a trolly burst into thousands of pieces of flying glass.
Later that day, a Pittsburgh Press photographer took this aerial photograph, which reveals the extent of the damage. Most of the 28 killed were working atop the tank or in the nearby Pittsburgh Clay Pot building. A portion of that collapsed building is seen at the bottom of the picture, which we found broken and deteriorating in our files. Busted water lines flooded the district.
The tanks were never rebuilt. Today, the Rivers Casino occupies the site.
Learn more about the 1927 gas tank explosion in this installment of the Post-Gazette’s “Pittsburgh History” video series.