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Where am I living?

March 24, 2014

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Once in a while, a really good design surfaces — robust, simple, and enduring. The DC-3, the Jeep, and the Quonset hut are all examples of good design. Many are still standing throughout the United States, primarily as commercial buildings.

Ref.: Quonset Huts – Seabees Museum Site.

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Earlier I wrote about the post-war phenomenon of Lustron Homes.  Quonset huts which were ubiquitous during the war were also considered as a solution to the mid-century demand for housing.

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This article, Solving a Different Kind of Housing Crisis, discusses the adaptation of Quonset huts for residential use.

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As does this article from preservationnation.org.

hut 3 rhode island

The quonset hut, whose semi-cylindrical form was copied from the British Nissen hut, by the end of the war differed considerably in construction from its prototype. The original quonset hut was framed with arch-rib members of steel, T sections, 2 inches by 2 inches by 1/4 inch. The hut was 16 feet by 36 feet in plan. The members were formed to a radius of 8 feet and covered with corrugated steel sheets, borne by wood purlins.

The principal improvements over the Nissen type were an interior pressed wood lining, insulation, and a tongue-and-groove wood floor. Innumerable detail problems were encountered in the development of the original T-rib huts, principally because of the necessity for 48 different needs, such as galleys. shower-latrines, dental offices, isolation wards, and bakeries.

Each type required individual drawings and layouts for the interior setup, and in many cases it was necessary to develop special interior equipment, such as special ovens and beds, to fit the quonset hut form. All huts were designed and detailed, using the original T- rib design.

From: The Naval Historical Center

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hut1 u colorado 1953

The photo above shows student housing at the University of Colorado in the 1950s.

To meet the growing demand, a number of other companies produced variations of the Quonset Hut for the Military during the Second World War:

  • The Pacific Hut Company was formed to produce an all-wood hut for Arctic use.
  • Butler Manufacturing made a squat hut with U-shaped arch ribs.
  • Jamesway Manufacturing made a hut with wooden ribs and insulated fabric covering.
  • Armco International made heavy-weight arched bunkers to store ammunition.
  • Cowan and Company made semicircular warehouses for the Air Corp.

When the war ended, Quonset Huts were too good a resource to throw away. So the military sold them to civilians for about a thousand dollars each. They made serviceable single-family homes. Universities made them into student housing and returning veterans occupied Quonset huts by choice. Robert Winton even wrote play about them titled Tents of Tin.

Ref: Seabees

Finally, here’s a little animation about putting a Quonset hut together.

There are still a number of Quonset huts around and in use as commercial buildings in the Connecticut Western Reserve area where I live.  I am going to go out with my camera to capture them.

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2 comments

  1. MOST interesting! I spent a lot of quality time… I’m NOT joking… in Quonset Huts during my 22 years in the military. The best one? The Site Lounge (an NCO club) at RAF Uxbridge in London. The Lounge was much smaller than most NCO clubs… only accommodating about 30 close friends at one time… and as such had a certain coziness about it. My daily stop after work and before heading home for the evening… 🙂


    • What a wonderful memory. I can just about picture it.



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