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History of Quonset Huts

History of Quonset Huts

Long before we  shipped our first Quonset Hut, metal building kit or garage kit the Navy was utilizing  Quonset Huts for various applications.  A product of World War II, Quonset huts were developed by armed forces personnel to fulfill the need for lightweight housing and storage that could be quickly assembled and disassembled in the field using nothing more than hand tools and transported to the next location.   The Quonset Huts  came as a metal building kits with steel building panels that provided good, reliable protection against the elements for both man and machine. Quonset huts got their name from the location of the first Quonset hut manufacturing facility, Quonset Point at the Davisville Naval Construction Battalion Center in Rhode Island and were designed by Peter Dejongh and Otto Brandenberger of George A. Fuller Company, one of the companies contracted to construct the new Davisville,  Naval base.

Prior to manufacturing our first Quonset Hut Kit, the original form of Quonset hut was markedly different from the steel Quonset Hut kits and metal building kits we know today. Initially modeled after the semi cylindrical Nissen hut developed by the British, Dejongh and Brandenberger modified the Nissen model into a structure containing wooden lining, insulation, and tongue and groove wooden flooring and, thus, the  Steel Quonset hut model was born. The first Quonset hut design used arched rib members of steel in T sections measuring two inches by two inches by one quarter inch, and measured sixteen feet by thirty six feet in its entirety.  The Metal Quonset hut members, or ribs, were covered with sheets of corrugated steel that were borne by wooden purlins. Part of the difficulty with this initial design arose from the fact that the  Steel Quonset hut kits  were used for more than one purpose, and some required a special layout to accommodate showers, latrines, dental offices, bakeries and isolation wards, to name a few, as well as all the equipment necessary for those additional uses.

During the World War II years, the Metal Quonset hut design was gradually modified from a structure using the original semi circular design of the Nissen hut to a twenty foot by forty eight foot interior living space with vertical side walls, which structure, in the end, required less shipping space than tents with wooden doors and frames. A major problem with the original curved design was that the curve of the walls began immediately at the floor and decreased the effective width of the hut. A new vertical structural rib was developed to support a four foot high side wall. The floor plan for this redesigned Quonset hut measured sixteen feet by thirty six feet. Multiple interior designs and a larger forty foot by one hundred foot warehouse were eventually developed when it became apparent that the huts would be needed for purposes other than housing troops and materiel. Other modifications, such as four foot exterior overhangs, were added, then scrapped, and drab olive paint for camouflaging in war zones was eventually applied to these steel buildings at the factory. After the war ended, the United States Navy sold its surplus Quonset huts to the public at a cost of one thousand dollars per hut. Many universities acquired them for student housing. Some of the returning soldiers even chose to purchase these steel buildings for their homes.

The Seabee Museum and Memorial Park in Davisville, Rhode Island contains an historical display of Quonset huts as a homage to the original Quonset hut factory in Davisville and to the association between Quonset huts and the Seabees that has existed since World War II. A grouping of the huts, about ten in all, is located immediately next to the Museum parking lot and throughout the Memorial Park itself. In addition to this display, Quonset huts can still be found in use all over the world. Call 800-547-8335 to get a price on a Powerbilt Quonset type metal building today.

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