Q is for Quonset Hut

As we drove down the highway to Mitch’s tournament last weekend, we passed by a Quonset Hut which was off on the side of the road.

“What are those used for?” Mitch asked.
“Storage and people sometimes live in them. Your Grandpa lived in one when he was in the army.”
“Really Dad?”
“Yes, Mitch. He did,” Sam answered.

The inspiration for building the quonset hut came from the Nissen Hut which was built for use in World War I. The builder of the nissen hut waived their rights to build any more of them after that and before the onset of World War II, so the builders of the quonset hut got started on their version.

Quonset Huts were going to be the new and improved version of the nissen hut. They were first built in Quonset Point, Rhode Island in 1941, the place from which they were named. The corrugated steel, semi cylindrical prefabricated buildings were to be used as affordable temporary housing for the troops. They were not only inexpensive, but they could be shipped and quickly built by unskilled labor. These structures could even be ordered from the local Montgomery Wards or Sears stores.

When the war ended, the quonset huts were in too good of shape to throw away, so they were sold to civilains and turned into serviceable family homes. Universities also bought them and turned them into student housing.

Back in the states, there was a housing cruch, with all of the troops returning home from the war. So quonset communities were created to house some of the troops coming home.

Quonset Picture - MSP

This picture was from a quonset community created in Minneapolis in 1946. Can you imagine the conversation between the husband that brought his wife to this as their new home?

As she is blindfolded, he guides her up to the house.

“What are we walking through?” She would ask.
“Just a little mud honey, the new grass is coming soon.”

They stopped walking and he took off the blindfold. She shook her head and opened her eyes.

“Welcome home honey!” he would say
“What do you mean?”
“This is our new house? It’s just like what I lived in when I was in the army.”
“We are going to live here?” She would ask with concern in her voice.
“Come on! Let’s go inside!” He would reply, being ready to take on the next adventure, and trying to keep her on board with his plan.

From an article called Quonset Hets, written by Debbie Adams on the website www.militarybratlife.com, she writes about a play called Tents of Tin, which was written by Robert Finton.

“For a period of time the Sacramento Peak Observatory was housed in one during the late 1940’s; even a play called Tents of Tin written by Robert Finton in 1995. A 20-minute play at National Building Museum where an actor playing a serviceman from that era explained the history on these innovative structures, including a demonstration of how corrugation strengthens the hut’s metal sheathing, along with a portrayal about what it was like to live in a “tin tent.” Throughout the performance, the actor works with vintage and reproduction props.”

They are commonly used even now as housing for people, kind of like a mobile home. Or for storage units.

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