Tuesday, April 07, 2009

WWII gifts -- jeeps and Quonset huts

The tall, straight trees tell me that the picture below is from my Alaskan sojourn last summer. More to the point, it is one of many Quonset huts I photographed up in the Anchorage region. I had thought that a post on the subject might be interesting -- but hadn't realized quite how many I would find around the Prescott region. For some reason, my memory of the original Quonset huts identified them with the Alaska climate -- something about the shape shrugging off heavy snow loads.

That memory stinks, according to Wikipedia. I was right about the structures showing up early in WWII, but otherwise: a Quonset hut is a lightweight prefabricated structure of corrugated galvanised iron having a semicircular cross section. The design was based on the Nissen hut developed by the British during WW I. The name comes from their site of first manufacture, Quonset Point, at the Davisville Naval Construction Battalion Center in Davisville, RI. In 1941 the United States Navy needed an all-purpose, lightweight building that could be shipped anywhere and assembled without skilled labor. The first was produced within 60 days of contract award. Some 150-170,000 Quonset huts mushroomed across the land during the war; they were sold for $1000 each after the fighting stopped.

And while many of the originals are still in use, plenty of new huts are still being manufactured. As an example, this much smaller Quonset of corrugated steel and fiberglass is out at the alpaca farm I visited with LindaG and her husband just before Christmas. It serves as a shelter and shearing facility for the animals.

This Chino Valley barn looks as though it would fold up, accordian-wise, from front to back. Looks to be a bit newer than that lovely vintage pick-up truck. Elsewhere in Chino, there's a curious Quonset hut, near Road 40 North, I believe. Visible from SR89, the Quonset section is long and windowless; however, it is fronted by what looks like a two-story apartment building. As you can imagine, the LH andI did a lot of speculation about what went on in that Quonset: a marijuana crop? A huge family basketball court? What???

This little garden shed is visible from a nearby alley; it appears to be made from greenhouse cloth, stretched into the familiar Quonset shape.

Here's one of the more high profile Quonset huts here in Prescott -- the Plumbing Store on Miller Valley. Like many, it has been modified, in this case with a second "floor." Just for windows and light or are there small offices squeezed in up there?

Olsen's is another of the well known retailers located in a Quonset hut. Looks quite busy -- unlike the Sheldon Street used car lot that's complete empty (below).

My flaky remembery reminds me that there was absolutely no prefab building industry prior to the arrival of the Quonset hut back in 19-aught-41, at least in this country. I also recall that old military surplus buildings were bought by my college (among many) for use as married student housing. While we may shrug at the idea of a giant half-tube as a building nowadays, they were considered quite weird when I was in my teens. Change -- it happens!


worldphotos4 said...

I know them well. Spent my fair share of time working and sleeping in them during my military career.

Antipodean Curmudgeon said...

There's something very 'frontiersy' about quonsets. They're in class like oldie west movie set towns.


TomboCheck said...

would the buildings near the entrance of the airport qualify? I know the Aviation supply store has this same look to it... :)

Alpaca Granny said...

What an interesting post. Thank you.

Minot said...

No prefab building industry prior to 1941? Depends on what you mean by prefab. Check out Sears' mail order homes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sears_Catalog_Home

Melanie A. said...

I remember one somewhere near the big green gymnasium building (the one that used to have roller skating) at the Prescott YMCA, which doesn't, of course, mean it's there now.

Granny J said...

steve -- yep -- they were supplied as shells, outfitted for all kinds of uses.

bro -- you know, you're quite right. Is it the corrugated iron? Or, more likely, the fact that they are plopped into place and adapted, though they can't really expand into bigger and better uses.

tombo -- if I remember correctly, you're right about those buildings.

alpaca granny -- your name suggests that you probably have a lot of interesting posts, yourself!

minot -- you got me with that one! There are, of course, several Sears homes here in Prescott.

melanie -- you got me there -- I didn't know that area until I started going to the Y for a brief period in 2005 or 2006.

DaveG said...

We saw many Quonset Huts when we lived on Guam (although I had also seen them in New Mexico when we lived there before moving to Guam). We had friends who lived in a Quonset near Harmon Field on Guam--it was a fascinating place to me. Different shape, interesting floor plan. Since moving back to California, I've been seeing these things all over the place here. Each time I see one, it brings back fond memories of those times on Guam. Thank you for this wonderful post--you've got some cool pictures of Quonsets here. I hope you don't mind, but I'm putting a link to your blog on my Quonset Hut site.

Granny J said...

davidg -- thanks for the link! Always appreciated. I saw lots of Quonsets up in Alaska, but my favorite was the this pink number.

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