Fort Vancouver
Cultural Landscape Report
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Administrative and Political Context

As in the rest of the country, the Vancouver region experienced the post-war slump in business, followed by a gradual rise in economic power and growth of the middle class. Military action at Vancouver Barracks was virtually non-existent; most building activity related to activities of the Army reserve units--both the air corps and the Citizen's Military Training Camps. The low level of activity on the post in the 1920s was punctuated periodically by such recreational events as air shows at the army's new airfield, and polo matches at the post's new polo grounds. Because of Vancouver's proximity to the many national and state forests, Vancouver Barracks became an important district headquarters for a number of Civilian Conservation Corps camps, beginning in 1933. When war broke out in Europe, the post was revitalized. But it served primarily as a port of embarkation, operated out of Portland; thousands passed through, but few stayed. The institution which had the most significant and far-reaching impact on the Vancouver region since the Hudson's Bay Company was the U.S. Maritime Commission, which contracted with the Kaiser Company to build three shipyards in the Portland-Vancouver area, one of which was located southeast of the Hudson's Bay Company stockade site on the point of old Fort Plain. The yards brought thousands of workers to the area between 1941 and 1946; at its peak, the Kaiser Shipyard at Vancouver employed over 38,000 people, many of them from out of state. Many new housing developments were built, at government expense, to shelter the shipyard employees, and, in Vancouver, new schools, health care centers, shopping centers and libraries seemed to appear overnight. The influx of workers during these years forever altered the region's physical and social fabric.

Operations at Vancouver Barracks

During the years between the wars, military activity at the post was low. Prior to World War I, Pierce County had purchased 62,000 acres of land between Tacoma and Olympia, and presented it to the military for use as a cantonment, called Camp Lewis. While Vancouver Barracks served to house functions relating to the Spruce Division during the First World War, Camp Lewis, with 30,000 soldiers living in hastily assembled wood barracks, became the principal regional site for training and assembling soldiers bound overseas. From that time onward, Camp Lewis--later named Fort Lewis--was the principal military site in the Pacific Northwest.

After the first world war, a series of military units were transferred into and out of the garrison at Vancouver Barracks, among them the Forty-Ninth, First, Thirty-Second, Fifty-Ninth regiments. The Seventh Infantry returned to the post in 1922, and remained until it was moved out to the war theater in January of 1941. [1180] That unit was replaced by the Eighteenth Engineers, sent a little over a year later to build the Alaskan Highway. The Garrison continued to increase in strength, with the addition of draftees, who engaged in war games held on the Columbia River.

After December of 1941, Vancouver Barracks came under the control of the Ninth Service Command, with headquarters at Fort Douglas Utah. The post then served as a staging area for the Portland Subport of embarkation, and as a training center for certain units; in January of 1943, the army's first training center for quartermaster units began at Vancouver Barracks. [1181]

As the war progressed, the garrison size increased. To accommodate new troops, going to and from the Pacific Theater, temporary barracks were built late in the summer of 1942, near the north end of the reserve. In December the barracks were named Camp Hathaway. [1182] By 1944 both Vancouver Barracks and Camp Hathaway were brought under the wing of the Portland Subport of Embarkation; the headquarters of the Subport was moved to Vancouver Barracks on January 1, 1946. A few weeks later, Vancouver Barracks was declared excess to the needs of the Army Transportation Corps. [1183]

In the mid 1920s, the post became the site of one of the Citizens' Military Training Camp which were given statutory authority in the National Defense Act of 1920. The camps, held for two weeks each summer at posts throughout the country, were designed to give civilians grounding in military practice in various branches of the service--for example, cavalry, field artillery, and engineers--and classes were generally conducted by reserve officers. The camps in Washington and Oregon were administered by the Ninety-sixth Division headquarters in Portland.

The first of the two military activities during this period which had the most impact on the site was the growth of the post-World War I U.S. Army Air Service, which at Vancouver Barracks, due primarily to the efforts of one air reserve lieutenant, led to the establishment of an army airfield in 1925. The second was the participation of the United States War Department in the operation of the Civilian Conservation Corps, which led to Vancouver Barracks role in this program as a headquarters and dispersing agency for the program in the Pacific Northwest in the 1930s.

U.S. Army Air Force

In the early 1920s, a branch of the fledgling U.S. Army Air Service began to operate at Vancouver Barracks, east of the spruce mili site below today's East Fifth Street. As noted previously, the polo field below what is now East Fifth Street had been used in the 'teens by civilian airplane advocates. Beginning in 1921 the army airplane forest patrol, a cooperative venture between the U.S. Forest Service and the Army Air Service, which was directed out of the Ninth Corps headquarters in San Francisco, used Vancouver Barracks as a base of operations for the Portland-Vancouver region. The patrols were established spot forest fires. They initially operated out of Portland, since, on the day the first patrol was slated to begin, the landing area at Vancouver was under water--a not atypical June occurrence on the old Fort Plain. It was reported that the Vancouver army field would probably be used after the waters receded because "...the government is prepared to take care of the planes in the matter of hangers, gasoline, and oils, besides the government owned fields have their own means for protection of the planes while not in use." This was the first organized use--albeit periodic--of the site as an airfield by the military. A five thousand square foot wood-clad temporary hangar was built to protect the planes. [1184] In 1923, the field below East Fifth Street was used as a repair base for an aerial mapping and photography expedition of local ports and army installations, part of a nation-wide survey for the United States Board of Engineers for Rivers and Harbors and the United States Shipping Board. Supervision of the local effort was under the command of the Ninety-first air squadron headquarters in Portland. [1185]

Late in 1923, a Lieutenant Oakley Kelly was assigned as an air officer of the Ninety-sixth Division of the Organized Reserves. That year, the Division included the 321st Observation Squadron, which at that time was based at Vancouver Barracks with three airplanes, under the command of First Lieutenant James Powell. Under Powell's direction, the air reserve officers took part in war games in Portland in May, 1923. By 1925, the 321st Observation Squadron Headquarters were located in the Ninety-sixth Division Headquarters, in Portland, under the command of Captain Howard French. In March of that year he reported that, in addition to the 321st Division squadron, an Observation Group had been allocated to Portland, which would accommodate unassigned Air Service reserve officers. Kelly, who had made the first non-stop transcontinental flight in May of 1923, and was co-holder of the world's flight endurance record, arrived in the Pacific Northwest in February of 1924. He was a tireless and energetic supporter of the use of airplanes for both commercial and military use, and of the development of the Vancouver Barracks site as a military airfield. Establishment of its regular use began under his direction. [1186]

In March of 1924, the field at Vancouver barracks served as a pre-flight stop for the "World Fliers," an army-commissioned around-the-world flight slated to begin from Seattle. In October of that year the airfield hosted a reception for the World Fliers on their return trip to California. As part of the general celebration, two planes from Vancouver, one flown by Lieutenant Kelly, participated in an air circus in Seattle, and upon the World Fliers' return visit to Vancouver in October, the 321st squadron flew in formation above Vancouver to herald their arrival at the site. [1187] In May Kelly took the opportunity offered by a barracks polo tournament to hold a flying exhibition before the assembled tournament crowd. [1188] That year, in addition to practice flights held at the airfield by the air reserves, the squadron participated in a number of air circuses in Washington and Oregon. [1189] In the fall of that year, Kelly made a number of presentations on the future of aviation to local civic organizations.

In the summer of 1924, Kelly announced plans to raze the spruce mill and enlarge the "landing field," which at that time was a debris-free area of the barracks pasture towards the east edge of the reserve. Work continued on the field through the spring of 1926, although earlier, by the fall of 1925, it was considered far enough along for the field's dedication ceremonies, which included an air circus for air reserve squadrons and fliers from around the country. Most of the spruce mill structures were razed between 1924 and 1926, and the grounds were graded. "The entire field has been plowed, harrowed, dragged and rolled by the liberal operation of Holt tractors and steam rollers working under the direction of Lieutenant H. C. Miller. The grading was made possible by the courtesy of the Bureau of Public Roads and Clark County officials who loaned the tractors and other grading implements," the 321st squadron headquarters reported in March of 1925. [1190] Facilities and structures were built just west of the ordnance storehouse on the east edge of the reservation, below East Fifth Street, and a graveled road was installed leading from the public road to the new facilities. Most of the buildings associated with the new airfield were small spruce mill structures moved east to the site. The new landing field was located south of the structures.

A request to name the Vancouver airfield Pearson Field was made to the War Department, probably through the air reserve channels and on April 6, 1925, the Secretary of War issued an order to that effect. The field was named in honor of Lieutenant Alexander Pearson, Jr., who had been an air service instructor, a test pilot and participant and winner of a number of speed races, and who had made the first flight through the Grand Canyon on a survey for the Department of the Interior. Pearson had attended high school in Vancouver and had graduated from the University of Oregon. His parents' home was located in Portland. In 1924 Pearson lost his life in an air crash when practicing for a race at Wilbur Wright Field in Ohio. The dedication ceremonies and accompanying festivities, organized by Lieutenant Kelly, were held on September 16, 1925. The dedication and air circus drew "a monster crowd" to Vancouver Barracks; most businesses in the town shut down early to to allow their employees to attend. The air circus brought over sixty fliers from around the country to Vancouver, who flew in mob formation over Portland and Vancouver prior to the dedication ceremonies, and after participated in a number of speed races and flying stunts. [1191]

In the late 1920s, Pearson Field served as a training site for the 321st and other air reserve units in the area, who took part in two-week training camps as part of their reserve duties, at the post. Additional aircraft were brought in from other fields on the Pacific Coast for training, and the planes stationed at Pearson were loaned to other fields on occasion. [1192] In 1927 Charles Lindbergh circled Pearson Field on a west coast flight, but landed at Portland's new airfield on Swan Island. In 1929 a U.S.S.R. goodwill flight in the craft, Land of the Soviets, touring the United States unexpectedly landed at Pearson Field when the plane developed mechanical problems. The flight had been well-publicized, and the landing attracted a large crowd. Assisted by the field's commander, Lt. Carlton Bond, the plane was repaired and continued its flight the following day. [1193] In 1929 the air reserve' unit at Pearson participated in the search for missing civilian pilots on two separate occasions, and performed such tasks as flying supplies to a United States Geological Survey project, in 1931. [1194]

For a brief time in 1934-5, the army replaced private contractors in providing national air mail service; Pearson Field served as a maintenance and hangar facility, where nine mail service planes were stored for two northwest routes. In 1937 the Stalinskiy marshrut left the Soviet Union in an attempt to break the long distance world record on a route from Moscow to San Francisco over the North Pole. In the final hours of its flight, fog forced the plane back towards the Pacific Northwest, and crowds swarmed to Portland's Swan island Airport, in anticipation of seeing it land there. But the plane swept over the field, and headed to Pearson Field, where it landed, 350 miles short of the world record, and almost the same amount of miles shy of San Francisco, but still a record holder for the first transpolar flight. The Vancouver Barracks commander, Brigadier General George C. Marshall--of later World War II fame--invited the unexpected Soviet fliers to breakfast, while crowds and press thronged to the airfield to view the plane. [1195]

In 1941, after the outbreak of the Second World War, the 321st Observation squadron, which had long-practiced at Pearson Field, was called to active duty. During World War II, flight operations were curtailed at Pearson Field, and at the neighboring municipal field. All civilian and military flights operated from Portland's new airport on the Columbia River, completed in 1941. It was built with a bond issue approved by Portland voters in 1936, and partially financed by a Works Progress Administration grant of 1.3 million dollars. [1196] In 1945, according to drawings and aerial photographs of the army air field, the United States Army intended to develop the Pearson Field site for housing: a grid of streets had been plotted, named and graded on the inactive field. After the conclusion of the war, in December of 1946 the army announced that most of Vancouver Barracks, including Pearson Field would become surplus property. In July of 1946 Pearson Field and the municipal airport to its immediate west were united operationally, physically linked, and renamed Pearson Airpark by the City of Vancouver, although the field had not yet been officially declared surplus; the act was not official, until the title to the army field was released by the War Assets Administration to the City of Vancouver on April 25, 1949. [1197]

Civilian Conservation Corps District Headquarters

During the 1930s Vancouver Barracks became the headquarters and dispersing agency for Civilian Conservation Corps camps in Oregon and Washington. [1198] The CCC was created in March of 1933, as the Emergency Conservation Work program established by Public Act Number 5. The act gave President Franklin Roosevelt the authority to establish a chain of forest camps that would employ young men to protect, improve and conserve the nation's natural resources. He established the official existence of the CCC by Executive Order #6101 on April 5, 1933. The program involved the cooperation of the Department of Labor, working through state and local relief agencies, which was responsible for selecting applicants to the program; the War Department was assigned to enroll, feed, house, clothe, condition and transport them; various departments of the Department of Agriculture and the Interior were to select the projects, administer the camps and supervise the work. The CCC developed policy and coordinated the other agencies. [1199]

The CCC was divided into nine corps areas, plus the United States territories and a special unit on Indian Reservations, managed by the War Department. The Pacific Northwest fell within the Ninth Corps Area, administered by the U.S. Army from San Francisco, which also oversaw operations in Nevada, Montana, California, and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Vancouver Barracks was one of six military centers in the National Forest Service's Region Six--Washington and Oregon--where enrollees were enlisted; the others were Fort Stevens in Oregon, and Forts Lewis, Worden, George Wright and Lawton in Washington. Enrollees in the region were sent to the nearest army post and given physical examinations. Most were then sent to Vancouver Barracks for distribution to camps in forests and parks. Enrollees from out of state were primarily sent directly to Vancouver Barracks, and then distributed to camps.

In addition, Vancouver Barracks was a district headquarters, administering and supplying all camps within its district, which included most of northern Oregon and the Columbia National Forest in Washington state. As a district headquarters, Vancouver Barracks was responsible for purchasing and shipping all supplies to the camp, including temporary housing and whatever building materials were necessary for enrollees to erect permanent camps; arranging for educational advisors and material, including traveling libraries; providing recreational equipment, medical care, and religious services. The district headquarters also had a finance office to purchase materials and supplies, and pay the salaries of officers and enrollees. The camp officers were principally army reserve officers--many assumed active duty when World War II broke out, and were never replaced. In its role as distribution center, Vancouver Barracks processed enrollees being sent to other Ninth Corps areas from out of state, and shipped those who had completed their term of duty within the Ninth Corps home.

On 10 April 1933, Washington State's welfare director notified the Vancouver Garrison commander that Vancouver Barracks had been named as the training camp for eight hundred Northwest forest workers. The post was named as the base for the Thirty Ninth Battalion of the CCC. Two barracks at the reservation were evacuated to accommodate the imminent arrival of an anticipated three hundred enrollees, and plans were made to house additional CCC enrollees when they arrived. [1200] In May, Vancouver Barracks was told to establish twenty-two camps, in addition to four already in preparation at Zig Zag and Friend, in Mount Hood National Forest, and at Hemlock and Sunset in the Columbia National Forest. [1201]

By 1942, there were around four thousand CCC enrollees in the camps in Oregon and Washington, primarily engaged in national forest work, including fire fighting and road construction, although six camps were directly engaged in war-related work at Vancouver Barracks and other military posts in the region. In July of that year the District Commander, Colonel Ralph Hall, was notified that all Civilian Conservation Corps activities would cease, per Congressional action which withdrew funding from the Corps on June 30. Enrollment in the District had already diminished, due to the war, a circumstance replicated across the country as enrollees entered the army or found civilian employment war-related industries.

Although Vancouver Barracks was almost immediately affected by the influx of enrollees in 1933, it wasn't until 1935 that the first structure built to specifically serve the CCC was built. That fall, the first of many temporary and permanent structures was erected for the CCC program near the rail spurs in the pastures south of today's East Fifth Street, east of McLoughlin Road, and west of the heart of the vanished spruce mill. Most of these buildings--largely unused after World War II--stood on the site until 1966, when they were razed in a mass demolition, not unlike the fate suffered by the largely vacant Hudson's Bay Company Kanaka Village houses which once stood on the same site prior to their demolition by the army a little over one hundred years earlier.


General Description

During this period, the predominant influence on the region's landscape, was the construction of the Kaiser shipyards at the southeast end of old Fort Plain. While it had little direct impact on Vancouver Barracks, its construction and operation had a significant impact on the development of the city of Vancouver and on the outlying areas of the old Hudson's Bay Company's Fort Vancouver farm. Vancouver Barracks structures reflected the shift to the motor age, with the addition of garages and demolition of a number of stables; the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads located an equipment yard within the reserve, and old Upper Mill Road became part of the North Bank Highway. The development of Vancouver's municipal airfield during this period, adjacent to the southeast corner of the military reservation, would ultimately have a critical effect on the Hudson's Bay Company stockade site.

Circulation Networks

In the late 1920s, the old Upper Mill Road route through Vancouver Barracks (today East Fifth Street) was part of the North Bank Highway, the principal east-west route along the Columbia River to eastern Washington, connecting to the Pacific Highway (U.S. 99), which ran north-south along the west edge of the reserve. It was upgraded in the 1930s to U.S. 830, and renamed the Evergreen Highway. In the early 1940s. an alternate four lane route to the Evergreen Highway was built just north of and paralleling the Spokane, Portland and Seattle rail line (State Route 14), across the military reservation. Throughout the period, principal access to the edges of the central area of the reserve was via Tenth Street in Vancouver on the west, which became Grant Avenue (now Evergreen Boulevard) at the west reserve edge, following the alignment established in the 1880s, and connecting to Seventh Street on the east; and via the North Bank Highway--later the Evergreen Highway-- connecting to Fifth Street on both sides of the reserve.

Military Reservation on Historic Fort Plain

The former spruce mill site was largely reconverted to pasture, with army air corps activities towards the east, in an area named Pearson Field. In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps structures were erected towards the west edge of the spruce mill site: during the war, some of the buildings were used to house army-related activities. There was relatively little change to the heart of Vancouver Barracks, north of old Upper Mill Road, during this period.

Historic Hudson's Bay Company Stockade Site

Between 1920 and 1925, some Spruce Mill structures were moved to the east edge of the reservation as support buildings for the army airfield. By 1925, the remaining spruce mill structures and rail spurs over the stockade site had been removed. By 1936 a turf runway from the airfield may have extended over the northeast corner of the stockade, although the termination point of the west end of the runway at that time is not clear from available photographs and maps. [1202]

U.S. Army Garrison/North of Old Upper Mill Road

During this period, the site in the heart of the reserve underwent a few functional organizational changes, along with related demolition of some structures, the realignment of some secondary roads and paths, and the construction of a few new buildings.

The artillery stables at the east end of the reserve, above East Fifth Street, were demolished in the 1920s; remaining horses and mules were moved to the stables in the old Quartermaster's Depot. The artillery guardhouse in that area was either demolished and replaced or converted into use as a radio station by 1928. The network of paths leading to the artillery buildings, and the ones that had led to the old departmental headquarters at the east end of the parade grounds were still in place in 1928. By 1936, however, with the exception of the extension of McClelland Road, and a connecting road to East Fifth Street, the lower paths were gone, and by 1940, the paths breaking the expanse of the east end of the parade grounds had also been removed.

The network of roads within the area bounded by McClelland Road, McLoughlin Road, East Fifth Street and the non-commissioned officers quarters were somewhat reorganized in a more linear fashion, apparently to facilitate movement through the area for motorized vehicles. A motor repair shop, which stands today, was erected on the east side of McLoughlin Road north of the post laundry. Between 1920 and 1946, only a few new buildings were built in this area. They included a new non-commissioned officers' quarters, just west of the earlier line of non-commissioned officers quarters south of McClelland Road (1923), and a small storeroom for the post exchange, just north of it (1929).

West of McLoughlin Road and north of Hathaway Road, some east-west roads were altered to service a few new structures, and parking lots were built. Two of the 1880s barracks and their associated latrines were demolished. To the west of the artillery barracks, the Red Cross opened its first recreational house for convalescent soldiers in the northwest in March of 1919; it was used as a service club in the '30s. The old hospital corps barracks was dismantled, and a small hospital warehouse erected in 1919; it later served as a barracks for the Civilian Conservation Corps. In 1935, a hospital for Civilian Conservation Corps workers was erected south of the 1918 morgue, west of the main hospital. In the 1920s, tennis and handball courts were built just south of the commanding officer's quarters, west of McLoughlin Road.

Figure 22. Southwest area of Vancouver Barracks in 1937, looking northeast. The 1886 Non commissioned Officers' Quarters is in the approximate center, with some of the old Quartermaster's Depot buildings to the left and behind. Tree-lined McLoughlin Road divides the old depot area from the 1905-6 warehouses and 1930s Civilian Conservation Corps temporary buildings to the right. The backs of the 1903-07 barracks are visible at the top of the photo. From oversized print, Vancouver Barracks archives.

South of Hathaway Road, at the west edge of the reserve, a large non-commissioned officers' barracks was built in 1919. Between 1936 and 1938, seven new brick duplexes were built for non-commissioned officers, a result of Congressional appropriations made in 1937. They were located near the west edge of the barracks, on both sides of Hathaway Road, near the 1919 noncommissioned officers barracks. All seven are standing today, although several were moved when Interstate 5 was built in the 1960s. [1203]

In the mid-1930s, the federal Bureau of Public Roads erected two structures just north of the North Bank Highway (East Fifth Street) at the west edge of the military reservation, on the site where the first military blacksmith shop had been built, and where paint workshops and an 1890s blacksmith shop had stood until the late 'teens or early '20s. The Bureau had already established an equipment depot and yard on the reserve, south of East Fifth Street in 1923. After the World War II, when portions of the military reservation were released as surplus property, the complex was expanded to the east to encompass the 1910 artillery stable.

Historic Hudson's Bay Company Garden and Orchard Site

The spruce mill buildings were largely disassembled by 1925. By the late 1920s, the spruce mill's railroad Spur B had been removed from the site, and the varying lines of the northernmost spur, Spur A, had been reduced to three, which serviced the coal and wood sheds running just south of and parallel to the North Bank Highway (East Fifth Street). The spur ran through the Hudson's Bay Company's former orchard and garden site; the coal sheds, and most of the wood sheds ran through the north edge of the orchard site, and the east ends of the two wood sheds extended into the garden site. In 1923 the Bureau of Public Roads and Department of Agriculture built temporary storehouses in an equipment depot on army land, just south of the railroad spur, west of the still standing spruce mill Cut-up Plant, just west of what would have been the west edge of the Hudson's Bay Company garden during its peak period.

After the first world war, a new polo field was built west of the stockade site; in 1929 the post polo club built a clubhouse to the east of the Bureau of Public Roads depot, near what would have been the center of the former Hudson's Bay Company's garden. In the 1930s, some of the Bureau of Public Roads buildings and a portion of its fenced yard were re-used were by the Civilian Conservation Corps camp, and several warehouses were erected in the northeast garden site and to the west, in the orchard area. Among the CCC structures built in the northwest area of the orchard site, north of the rail spur, were a gas pump, a garage, a storehouse, a paint shop, and an auto repair shop, all built in 1935, and a central heating plant servicing the CCC camp, built in 1936.

Historic Hudson's Bay Company Field and Pasture Area

The principal changes to the old Fort Vancouver farm site during this period occurred in the old Hudson's Bay Company's fields and pastures east and southeast of the historic stockade, mostly on land no longer within the military reservation.

Pearson Field: East Edge of Vancouver Barracks

The spruce mill structures were largely demolished or moved between 1924 and 1926 to make way for the airfield planned by air reserve officer Lieutenant Kelly. Most of the grounds were graded in the winter of 1924-25, using equipment borrowed from the Bureau of Public Roads equipment depot on the Vancouver Barracks grounds.

In March of 1925, a new 66 by 140 foot corrugated iron-clad, steel hangar, paid for by the army and erected by a private contractor, was built to the east of the ordnance storehouse for about $13,500.00. It could hold nine planes. Two small gable-roofed wood-frame structures that had been built in 1918 as part of the spruce mill were also moved to the new airfield service site, some time between 1925 and 1928, to serve as an office and storehouse. They were located north of the new hangar. In December of 1925, after the dedication ceremonies, a temporary hangar used in the early '20s was moved to a location just south of the new steel hangar, and remodeled into a warehouse and shop with a concrete floor, although part of it still served as a hangar.

In 1929 a wood-framed office building which had been left standing on the spruce mill site, and had been located just north of the cut-up mill, was moved to the west edge of the airfield's facilities complex. It initially served as a storehouse, but was soon converted to serve as a clubhouse and squadron headquarters for the 321st Observation Squadron. In 1936 an addition was made to the rear of the building.

In 1934 the army installed an underground gasoline fueling system for aircraft: the pits were located slightly southwest of the hangars, and were supplied by a 25,000 gallon tank located near the end of the rail spur line west of the facilities. At the same time, the small spruce mill office was designated the "Right Surgeon's Office," and the small storehouse was designated a "Guard House," apparently for the protection of the mail service. In 1936, the ordnance storehouse built in 1905 was remodeled to serve as a air corps storehouse; it was covered with corrugated iron siding at that time.

By 1936, it appears that the air field's principal runway, which was linked to the municipal field, was turf; it was situated near the Columbia River, and most of it was on municipal land. A second turf runway, which ran east-west below East Third Street, ran across the northeast edge of the stockade site, but was only used during high water. [1204] During the war, Pearson air field operations were closed and all civilian and military aircraft flew from Portland's new airport.

Quartermaster's Depot/Historic Hudson's Bay Company Kanaka Village Site

The most apparent changes to this site occurred in the 1930s, when the Civilian Conservation Corps headquarters structures were erected east of McLoughlin Road; until the World War II, very little in the depot area itself was altered, but in the early 1940s it was altered through the addition of new buildings.

In and around 1941, the quartermaster depot residences and most remaining landscape features were demolished, with the exception of an old apple tree which had, according to local legend and historians, long been identified as dating to the Hudson's Bay Company period. [1205] The stable and wagon shed complex was relatively untouched until the 1935 demolition of the old quartermaster's stable. In the early '40s, the area was altered to serve as a motor vehicle complex: the 1909 infantry stable was converted to motor vehicle storage; a motor shop was built to its north, and a machine shop to its south. The turn-of-the-century gun and wagon sheds were converted to motor vehicle storage and warehouses, and a new office for the complex was built on the west edge of McLoughlin Road.

East of McLoughlin Road a new polo field was built in the 1920s, complete with a grandstand, located just north of the military magazine; to the south, a corral was built, nestled in the curve of the railroad tracks. The Civilian Conservation Corps complex was built over part of the polo field; its south end was apparently used for enrollee recreation, and the grandstand still stood on the site, although the field was gone.

Civilian Conservation Corps Headquarters Development

It was not until January of 1935 that a building was built specifically for the Civilian Conservation Corps headquarters, although it had been established at Vancouver Barracks in 1933. The first structure was a garage, at the southeast corner of North Bank Highway (East Fifth Street) and McLoughlin Road. In the fall of 1935, and continuing for about a year, a series of large structures were built to house CCC functions east of McLoughlin Road, at the west end of the former spruce mill site. Eventually the structures incorporated the storehouses built in 1923 by the Bureau of Public Roads. In rapid succession, the army built over a dozen structures, most of them portable and temporary, but a few permanent buildings as well.

The site was organized in four clusters, linked by unpaved roads and boardwalks: towards the end of the '30s, there were a few trees planted in front of some buildings, but generally speaking, the site appeared to be what it was, a temporary camp. As noted previously, just south of the North Bank Highway (East Fifth Street) and north of the rail spur, on the site of the Hudson's Bay Company's former orchard and garden, was a motor pool, with a motor repair shop, garages, and a gas pump. Additional warehouses were built south of the motor pool and rail spur, encompassing the buildings erected by the Bureau of Public Roads. Three large barracks--each capable of housing one hundred men, an office, a mess hall and a recreation building--were erected southwest of the warehouses, and east of McLoughlin Road; in 1938, a large portable building was put up east of the barracks, which served as the CCC District Headquarters building--prior to that, the headquarters had been lodged in a building in Vancouver Barracks proper. The structures were wood frame, with composition shingles and drop wood siding. One CCC building--an office building--appears to have been built in the CCC Barracks Complex--it can be seen on a map there in 1935--and moved sometime during the war to the south side of McClelland Road; the building still stands today. Almost all the buildings were later used during World War II, and most stood until the fall of 1963, when all but a few were razed in a mass demolition.

Historic River Front Area

By the late 1920s, the government dock had been dismantled, and a coast guard dock, depot and pier was situated near its location during World War II. During the war years, a road along the river's edge (now Columbia Way), south of the railroad embankment, was built from the Kaiser Shipyards to the Pacific Highway; it connected to McLoughlin Road via an underpass beneath the railroad.

North of Officers' Row

During this period, the cantonment built for the Spruce Division soldiers just north of Officers' Row was used for Civilian Military Training Camps, which were given statutory authority in the National Defense Act of 1920. The camps, held for two weeks each summer at posts throughout the country, were designed to give civilians grounding in military practice in various branches of the service--for example, cavalry, field artillery, and engineers--and classes were generally conducted by reserve officers. The camps in Washington and Oregon were administered by the Ninety-sixth Division headquarters in Portland. In 1925-26 a group of new structures--primarily mess halls and latrines--were built for the cantonment.

In 1931 a natatorium--enclosed swimming pool--was built, just east of the Victory Theater, using soldier labor and private donations.

Increasing military activity as a result of the outbreak of the war in Europe led to plans to construct a new, 750 bed hospital on the north end of the military reservation at Vancouver Barracks. The facility, Barnes Hospital, was designed to serve military personnel throughout the Pacific Northwest. It was completed in April of 1941. [1206] To accommodate new troops going to and from the Pacific Theater during World War II, temporary barracks were built late in the summer of 1942, at the northwest end of the reserve. In December the barracks were named Camp Hathaway. [1207]

By the mid-1940s. only a few of the pre-World War I structures built north of Officers Row were still standing.

Vancouver Municipal Airport on Historic Fort Plain

In 1925 the Vancouver Chamber of Commerce leased seventy acres of Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railroad land adjacent to the east edge of the military reservation with the intent of establishing a civilian airport; at the time, it was thought the city or port of Vancouver would operate the field, but the Chamber airport boosters were unable to convince the city to assume operation at the time. One reason for establishing a city airport was a 1925 army ruling restricting the use of the army airfield--soon to be Pearson Field--to the military, excluding civilian use. Another was the possibility of securing an air mail contract. A third was Lieutenant Kelly's desire to extend the landing strip at Pearson Field, and his communicable enthusiasm for the future of the civilian air business. Even before the lease was signed, a fence separating the SP &S land from Pearson Field was torn down under Kelly's direction, and the area was graded. [1208]

In 1926 Pacific Air Transport Company, a firm owned by an Oregon bus line operator that had secured the federal contract for the Seattle to Los Angeles route, established its air mail operation at the Chamber's field, and also operated a passenger service. The Company moved its air mail operation to Portland in 1928, a short time after that city's new airfield on Swan Island was completed. Other businesses located at the field included the Rankin Flying Service, which carried passengers and offered aviation instruction. The firm, however, soon moved its operation to another field in Portland. [1209] There were a few additional businesses located on the grounds, operating schools and passenger service in the mid to late 1920s. By 1928 there were four wood-framed hangars on the Chamber field. In November of that year, the City of Vancouver signed a one-year lease with the railroad, and assumed operation of the Chamber of Commerce airfield. [1210] In January of 1930, the City signed a five-year lease with the railroad for the airfield land; at the time there were seven hangars and a shop building on the site, five of which were owned by the city. By the end of April, the local newspaper reported thirteen new hangars had been built, electric lights were installed in the hangars, a gravel road to the field had been installed, and a taxi lane had been graded, rolled and oiled. [1211] On May 25, 1930, the city dedicated the airfield as the Vancouver Municipal Airport, in a dedication ceremony accompanied by an air circus, which drew an estimated crowd of 10,000. The event included a formal flag-raising ceremony and a series of aerial stunts and performances. [1212]

As noted earlier, aviation activity virtually ceased at Pearson Field during World War II. When the U.S. Army announced that Pearson Field would become surplus property in December of 1945, the City of Vancouver proceeded to link the two fields and operate them as one, although the City did not receive title to the field until April of 1949. The combined fields were renamed Pearson Airpark.

Kaiser Shipyard: Southeast Edge of Historic Fort Plain:

In November of 1940, the Allies' need for ships prompted the British to contract with Henry Kaiser, a general contractor with a reputation for handling large projects and completing them ahead of schedule, to provide thirty-one cargo vessels. Henry Kaiser eventually selected Portland, Oregon as the site for the shipyard, where, in 1941, in association with former business partners, he built the Portland Shipbuilding Company-later the Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation--on about ninety acres north of Terminal 4 on the north bank of the Willamette River. The site was later expanded to three hundred acres. With a subsequent contract with the U.S. Maritime Commission, in January of 1942 a four hundred acre Kaiser shipyard was opened in Vancouver, followed in March by Swan Island shipyards. The yards at Vancouver were leased by the United States Government and operated solely by Kaiser Company, Inc. [1213]

The Vancouver physical plant sprawled over four hundred acres of land along the Columbia River, south east of the military reservation, on the site of a former dairy farm, which one hundred years earlier had been part of the Hudson's Bay Company's cultivated fields on Fort Plain. Much of the low-lying land, still subject to the inundation that had plagued the Hudson's Bay Company, was raised an average of ten feet with fill. Most of the yard was bounded on the north by U.S. Highway 830, and on the south by the Columbia River. To the west, the parcel narrowed to a point where it intersected the east-west line of the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railroad, which ran along the northern edge of the site. The easternmost boundary was the Vancouver city limits in the early 1940s. A large thirty or forty acre parking area was located north of the railroad tracks. Its topography was basically flat. The main entrance to the yard was via an underpass beneath the railroad berm towards the west end of the site. Construction began on January 15, 1942, with site clearing and fill work. By March, the piles for nine shipways had been driven, and the building ways had been decked; construction was reported as ahead of schedule. At the time, over two thousand workers were already employed on site. The yard was ready for production within eighty days.

The establishment of the Vancouver shipyard brought thousands of workers to the town, and had a significant impact on its development. In 1940, the town of Vancouver and its suburbs had a population of less than twenty-five thousand; it had more than doubled by early 1943, due to the establishment of the Kaiser yard. Initially, Kaiser Company had projected employing eight thousand workers, but by the fall of 1942 there were thirteen thousand workers employed at the yards, and by early 1943 the number had grown to more than twenty-seven thousand, working three shifts. During its peak operation, in December of 1944, the number of employees at the yard reached thirty-eight thousand; twenty-eight percent of them were women. [1214] The workers came from all over the country, many recruited by offices set up by Kaiser in such cities as Minneapolis.

Early in 1942 the mayor of Vancouver established the Housing Authority of the City of Vancouver, which, under the Lanham Act--the defense housing act--of 1938, and under Washington State enabling legislation, authorized federally-funded housing construction to be managed by local housing authorities and rented "without regard for income limits." [1215] During the war years, the Vancouver Housing Authority erected 12,396 housing units, which could shelter around forty-six thousand people. The initial plan had been to erect about four thousand temporary houses and one thousand permanent units--almost as many as already existed with the town of Vancouver--funded by 18.5 million dollars of federal funds. As workers continued to pour into the shipyard, the number of units was increased; nonetheless, waiting lists for shelter were long. The units were primarily built on large sites purchased by the housing authority--the first to be placed under construction were 5,500 temporary houses in a planned development called McLoughlin Heights, built on one thousand acres east of the city. Others included Bagley Downs, built on a former racetrack course, which by the war's end had 2,100 row houses; Burton Homes, 1,500 row houses; Ogden Meadows, 2,000 apartments; Fourth Plain Village, 200 permanent houses. The developments were north and east of the city. Most of the units were prefabricated, and intended as temporary housing; after the war, many were demolished, salvaged, or sold and moved to other locations. Permanent houses were later sold to occupants or veterans. [1216]

The shipyard workers also had a significant impact on the city's infrastructure: police and fire, the public utility district, cultural resources, such as libraries, and schools. The population influx due to the yard also raised social issues--such as integration--health care concerns, and transportation problems. Because transportation was a problem--Kaiser offered bus service to its employees to and from the site, but other needs, such as shopping, health care, and recreation, were not addressed by the Company--recreation centers, gymnasiums, branch libraries, and shopping centers were built near or in the housing developments. One shopping center at McLoughlin Heights, designed by Portland architect Pietro Belluschi, received national recognition from the New York Museum of Modern Art, as a harbinger of the future. Eight new schools were built by the government, and later turned over to the City's public school system; seven day-care centers were established. After the war, the city annexed the federal projects, and began redevelopment on most of the sites, already provided with roads, sewers, power and water service paid for by the federal government.

When the war ended in Europe, workers began to leave the yard; by July of 1945 the number of employees had fallen to twenty-five thousand. By November, after Hiroshima, the number had dropped to ten thousand. Early in 1946 the last two ships from the Vancouver yard were delivered; in the spring, the yard's activities focused on decommissioning U.S. Navy vessels at the outfitting dock. In all, the yard produced ten Liberty ships, thirty LSTs, fifty aircraft carriers, twelve C-4 troopships, thirty-one AP5 troop transports, and eight C-4 cargo vessels. The yard also built two 14,000 ton dry docks, one of which was hauled to Swan Island in Portland, and the other to California. [1217]

map of Fort Vancouver
Map 20. Vancouver Staging Area, 1944, showing rail spurs through old Hudson's Bay Company Kanaka Village, orchard and garden sites. Buildings to right (east) of spurs are those constructed for the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. In Fort Vancouver National Historic Site files; original from U.S. Engineer's Office, Oregon District, Portland, Oregon.

map of Fort Vancouver
Map 21. Planimetric Map of Vancouver, Washington. United States Department of Commerce Coast and Geodetic Survey. Shows Vancouver Barracks and vicinity, including the Vancouver Municipal Airport (Pearson Airpark) and the Kaiser shipyards on the southeast edge of old Fort Plain.

map of Fort Vancouver
(click on image for an enlargement in a new window)


1180Royce Pollard, "The Presence and Missions of the United States Army at Vancouver Barracks, Vancouver, Washington, 1849-1988," p. 9.

1181Oregonian, 6 April 1943.

1182Ibid., 14 August 1940; 7 December 1942.

1183Ibid., 6 April 1943; 2, 19 February 1944; 28 December 1945; 25 January 1946.

1184Vancouver Evening Columbian, 19 April 1921, 15 June 1921, 23 July 1921. The National Defense Act of 1920 had reorganized the United States Army, defining it as consisting of the Regular Army, the National Guard, and the Organized Reserves; the entire country was divided into corps areas, each one of which was to include at least one division of Organized Reserve troops. Portland and Vancouver fell in the Ninth Corps area, with headquarters in San Francisco.

1185Vancouver Evening Columbian, 12 April 1923.

1186Vancouver Evening Columbian, 1 May 1923; 26 December 1923; 1 February 1924; The Columbian, Bulletin of the 96th Division, Vol. V. (Portland, Oregon: 31 March 1925).

1187Vancouver Evening Columbian, 19 March 1924; 17 October 1924.

1188Ibid. 3, 8, 10 May 1924.

1189Ibid., August 22, 25, 27, 1924; September 9,22, 1924.

1190The Columbian, Bulletin of the 96th Division, Vol. V. (Portland, Oregon: 31 March 1925), n.p.

1191Vancouver Evening Columbian, 15 September 1925.

1192Ibid., 10 July 1927.

1193Ibid., 14, 16, 18, 19 October 1929.

1194Ibid., 28 February, 13 March 1931.

1195Von Hardesty, "Soviets Blaze Sky Trail Over Top of World," Air and Space, Vol 2 (December 1987-January 1988), pp. 48-54.

1196Now Portland International Airport. Er's Kimbark MacColl, The Growth of a City: Power and Politics in Portland, Oregon 1915-1950 (Portland: The Georgian Press, 1979), pp. 502-504; Foresight Group, Inc., "Draft Master Plan Report for Pearson Airpark (Corvallis, Oregon: Foresight Group, Inc., 1987), pp. 3-10.

1197Foresight Group, Inc., "Draft Master Plan Report for Pearson Airpark," pp.3-10; Jane Merritt, "Pearson Airpark and the Development of Fort Vancouver," in The Administrative History of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site (Seattle: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Pacific Northwest Regional Office, 1993), pp. 3-4.

1198The number of camps changed over the years. Twenty-eight were planned in 1933; by 1939 thirty-two were in operation; The Columbian, 25 September 1939.

1199John A. Salmond, The Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942: A New Deal Case Study, (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1967), pp. 12-31.

1200Vancouver Evening Columbian, 10 April 1933.

1201Ibid., 16 May 1933.

1202For a further discussion of the runways, see the Quartermaster's Depot/Kanaka Village Area section.

1203Oregonian, 13 February 1937.

1204Jane Merritt, "Pearson Airpark and the Development of Fort Vancouver," p.3.

1205Official recognition of "The Old Apple Tree" or the "Historic Apple Tree," which stands today, began in 1911, when a Washington State Senator E.L. French took an interest in the tree, resulting in the barracks' commanding officer's agreement to protect it, and in the construction of a chain and concrete protective barrier and monument which reads "The Oldest Apple Tree in the Pacific Northwest. The Seed was Brought From England and Planted by the Hudson Bay Company in the Year 1826." The tree's location places it the Company's Kanaka Village site, between the two dwellings identified in the 1840s as the John Johnson and James Johnson houses. One author made an interesting argument, positing the site may have been the location of the very first Hudson's Bay Company orchard, because it was near the water and the wharf, although the post itself at that time was on Fort Hill and the 1825 map of the site does not show any development in that area. See Carl Landerholm, "The Genesis of Apple Culture in Washington and the Pacific Northwest, Clark County History (Vancouver, Washington: Fort Vancouver Historical Society, 1962), pp. 57-59.

1206Oregonian, 28 November, 17 December, 1940; 2 April 1941.

1207Ibid., 14 August 1940; 7 December 1942.

1208Charles Rohlfing, National Regulation of Aeronautics (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1931), as cited in Jane Merritt, "Pearson Airpark and the Development of Fort Vancouver," p. 3; Vancouver Evening Columbian, 14, 15 May 1925.

1209Vancouver Evening Columbian, 26 March 1926; 5, 16 April 1926;1, 21, 24 May 1926; 15 September 1926; 13 July 1928; 27 September 1928; 8 October 1928.

1210Ibid., 20 November 1928.

1211Ibid., 2,7 January; 21 February; 14 March; 10, 14, 30 April 1930.

1212Ibid., 26 May 26, 1930.

1213The Kaiser yard was not the first in Oregon to obtain a shipbuilding contract: Willamette Iron and Steel Company was awarded the first in June of 1940; for more information see Er's Kimbark MacColl, The Growth of a City: Power and Politics in Portland, Oregon 1915-1950 (Portland, Oregon: The Georgian Press, 1979), pp.571-573. Also, the Portland-Vancouver yards were not the first to build ships for the second world war--the Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Corporation (Sea-Tac) was built in Tacoma in 1939-40, and the Todd-California Shipbuilding Corporation built a yard at Richmond, California, which began operation in December of 1940, building ships for the British.

1214Pacific Northwest Goes to War, p.142.

1215Housing in War and Peace: The Story of Public Housing in Vancouver, Washington (Vancouver: Housing Authority of the City of Vancouver, Washington, 1972), p. 3.

1216See Housing in War and Peace for additional information.

1217James Houlihan, Western Shipbuilders in World War II (Oakland: Shipbuilding Review Publishing Assn., 1945), p. 115.

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Last Updated: 27-Oct-2003