Golden Memories – Gas Explosion of 1927

Jul 13, 2016 | | 3 comments
Manchester native, Sam Cammarata age 96 felt the impact from the giant gas tank explosion in 1927.  The impact from the blast knocked him down as he walked up the steps to enter  Manchester Elementary (old 4th Ward School).  There are many stories  in old newspapers and online, but there are very few 1st hand accounts left.  This makes Sam a very unique stitch in the Northside fabric of time.

Manchester native, Sam Cammarata age 96 felt the impact from the giant gas tank explosion in 1927. The impact from the blast knocked him down as he walked up the steps to enter Manchester Elementary (old 4th Ward School). There are many stories in old newspapers and online, but there are very few 1st hand accounts left. This makes Sam a very unique stitch in the Northside fabric of time.

28 Killed, Hundreds Injured in Blast!

Have you ever heard of the Gas Explosion of 1927?  There was a huge gas tank explosion on the Northside in Manchester that year.

Equitable Gas owned 3 large natural gas storage tanks that sat right near the river.  The one closest to the Ohio River was the largest tank in the world.  It stood at a height of 300 feet.  As many of you know, old Manchester was densely populated and filled with homes and businesses.

The morning November 14, 1927 started off just like every other day in this busy Northside neighborhood.  Around 8 a.m., 13 workers climbed upon the largest tank to make repairs, because it developed leaks.  The tank was emptied 2 weeks earlier, so they were using acetylene torches to make the repairs.   At this same time  school bells were ringing at Conroy, Manchester and Daniel Webster Elementary Schools.

At 8:45 am there was the sound of a huge explosion.  From the Manchester Bridge, some see the giant tank rise hundreds of feet and explode in mid-air. The scene was very chaotic after the blast and hundreds scrambled into office buildings hallways and children huddled in the corners of their classrooms.  Dark smoke fill the streets.  In the aftermath 28 people were killed and hundreds were injured.

Devastation in Manchester.  A look at 1212-1218 Reedsdale Street looking west from Fontella 1927.  Photo source University of Pittsburgh Archives.

Devastation in Manchester. A look at 1212-1218 Reedsdale Street looking west from Fontella 1927. Photo source University of Pittsburgh Archives.

96 year-old Northsider, Sam Cammarata was attending Manchester school that day.  He was nearly killed by the blast, but lived to tell his story.  This is his experience in his own words.

“There were a set of wide steps on Juniata Street that used to go into Manchester School.  I went up to the first level then the second level.  There were big, wide, heavy doors that swing in and out.  Well when the explosion happened,  the doors just swung out.  It missed me by just an inch or so.  If it would’ve hit me, I wouldn’t be here today.”

“I didn’t know what it was, there were always noises in Manchester.  I had no idea what had happened, until I found out later.  My relatives were affected by it.  None of them got hurt.  I had an uncle were all of the plaster fell from the ceiling.  It didn’t damage the school so much, but around the neighborhood it damaged homes and windows were blown out.  It affected quite a radius.  I think they wrote about in the articles about what kind of damage it did.    Up until recent years I didn’t  know whether there were men killed or not.  There were over 17 men killed in that explosion.”

To see the interview with Sam Cammarata in it’s entirety, talking about growing up in Manchester, the Gas Explosion and more youtube.com/alleghenycity

 

Posted in: Collections, History, Video

3 Responses

  1. Bill, this is so fascinating! I would love it if you’d post a photo of the gas tanks before they exploded. I am finding it hard to visualize a tank 300 feet tall. And did all three of the tanks then explode, ignited by the first?

    1. Hi Sandra. Thank you I do have images of what the tanks looked like before and after exploding. I will try to post them inside this story before the day is out. Yes the large tank ignited the others.

  2. I would like to see those tanks myself, Bill.

    Actually(and perhaps there’s a lot more within this site-still looking!)I would be interested in seeing just about everything you have on Manchester.

    I moved into the neighborhood almost 5 years ago, and since then I’ve been fascinated by what it must have been like 75, 100, 150 years ago…

    I’ve scoured(at least I think everything one can access through various online offerings, but so much of that fails to include the residential, everyday life, which is what interests me the most.

    Sorry for the long rant! Keep up the great work! Your contributions are appreciated!

    -John Paul

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