Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Quonset Huts after the War

Stran-Steel Advertisement, 1944
Source: Vanderbilt, 67

Stran-Steel Advertisement, 1943  
Source: Vanderbilt 67

          As early as 1943, the Stran-Steel Company began positing potential roles of Quonset Hut after the war. Advertisements during the wartime portrayed a post war society of modern, and Quonset-like, architecture[1].

Aerial perspective drawing of Camp Parks Chapel and Library, Dublin, CA (1945)
Source: Carter 55

Camp Parks Chapel and Library, Dublin, CA (1945)
Source: Carter 55

          During the war, Quonset Huts were modified for domestic and spiritual purposes. In 1944, a Seabee by the name of Bruce Goff was asked to renovate a Quonset Hut into a chapel at Camp Parks (near San Francisco). The Camp Parks Chapel was made by connecting two “elephant” Quonset Huts with a masonry wall that intersected main vaulted spaces[2].

Ardell Hagen bought a gigantic barrel that housed a hamburger stand and converted it into a two-story home for his family, 1946
Source: Vanderbilt 70

          When the war ended, it brought about a housing shortage in the US, as 12 million men turned from the battlefield towards private life. In addition, wartime marriage, rural to urban migrations, and a population boom of 8 million people in 5 years also contributed to the problem[3]. Even if 1.2 million permanent homes were to be built every year in the U.S, it would still be 10 years before everyone was housed[4]. Housing was so scarce that veterans and their family were forced into unconventional homes, such as a renovated barrel-shpaed burger stand, a beer-van-turned-apartment, and even a renovated mortuary[6].

Display model of a Quonset house erected by the Great Lakes Steel Corporation in Mansfiled, OH (1946)
Source: Vanderbilt

Spread from "A Home from a Quonset Hut," House Beautiful (Sept 1945)
Source:  Vanderbilt 78-79

          Quonset Huts were sold by the Stran-Steel company for $873. The buyer would receive the kit and framing of a 20’ x 40’ hut that would provide shelter for 30 barracks during the war, but was converted into three apartments; 2 bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room, and a bath. However, the buyer had to erect and insulate the hut himself[5].

Row of Quonset homes at Rodger Young Village, (1945)
Source: Vanderbilt 72

Directions to Rodger Young Village

          In April 1946, construction began for the first and largest temporary veterans’ housing project, the Rodger Young Village. On 112 acres of former National Guard Airstrip land in Griffith Park, 750 Quonset Huts were erected.

Student housing at Yale University, New Haven, CT (1945)
Source: Vanderbilt 87

Veterans Village on the CSU Campus (1953)
Source: Soldiers of the Ploughshare 

          A shortage of student housing was also a problem on college campuses across the United States. Quonset Huts were used as temporary classrooms and student housing, to help house the dramatic increase in veteran enrolment after the G.I. Bill was introduced [7].  At the Colorado State University (CSU), half and full Quonset Huts were erected at the Veterans Village on campus to accommodate the increasing number of veteran students.

[1] Brian Carter,  War, designs and Weapons of Mass Construction (NY, Princeton Architecture Press, 2005) 51
[2] Carter  57
[3] Tom Vanderbilt, After the War: Quonset huts and their integration into Daily American Life (NY, Princeton Architecture Press, 2005) 68
[4] Hartley E. Howe, Stop Gap Housing  (New York, Popular Science Publishing, March 1946) 67
[5] Howe 68
[6] Vanderbilt 67
[7] Vanderbilt 86


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