When Johnny Came Marching Home (Home, Sweet Hutment)

There’s a story in this 1952 aerial photo. No, not the story of the original Casa Manana on the former grounds of the Frontier Centennial or of Farrington Field or of the Will Rogers complex.
See that crescent south of Crestline Road and west of University Drive? That was Parkside Village, and for eight years it was a bridge between war and peace.

In late 1945 one million Johnnies came marching home—home to open arms, home to a grateful nation, home to . . . “No Vacancy” signs.
For four years America’s labor and money had been poured into the war effort. For four years carpenters and masons and electricians and plumbers and roofers had put their mettle and muscle to a more important task than building houses.
As a result, the war had created a postwar housing shortage that kept a roof from over the heads of the very people who had won the war: veterans.

As the first full year of peace began, President Truman said America needed five millon new homes.
But that would not happen overnight. One early response by the federal government was to provide temporary housing for veterans in major cities around the country. Barracks and mess halls at military bases and shipyards would be shuffled around the country to cities where they were most needed and converted into living quarters (called “hutments”).

In 1946 Fort Worth mobilized for peace just as it had mobilized for war in 1941. During the war Fort Worth had been a defense center, home of the bomber plant and the adjacent Army Air Corps base (which would become Carswell Air Force Base).
In 1943 two housing projects—Liberator Village and Victory Apartments—had been erected on Cherry Lane near the bomber plant to provide housing for wartime workers at the plant. (Photo from Lockheed Martin Corporation.)

In 1946 the city of Fort Worth provided land for temporary housing for veterans as the U.S. Public Housing Authority had the housing moved in. Most of the hutments were moved in from Amarillo and Orange. Uncle Sam provided the housing, but the city installed the foundations and utilities, collected the rent, and maintained the housing.

Fort Worth’s “Veterans Village” would provide 250 hutments for “white ex-GIs.”

In March 1946 the city set the rent rates for “Veterans Village,” which had been formally named “Parkside Village.” The $40 a month for rent and utilities on a two-bedroom furnished home would be $600 today. Rents were low, but no veteran was turned away if he could not afford the set rate. The average monthly income of veterans in Parkside Village was $160.
Parkside Village had two (unpaved) streets, city bus service, twice-daily mail delivery. Ice, milk, and vegetables were delivered daily.
Parkside Village appointed residents to represent the village before the city council.
The younger children of Parkside Village attended nearby West Van Zandt Elementary School.
The hutments were nothing fancy, but they sure beat a foxhole.
Hutments had a full bath and a combination kitchen-dining room-living room. Hutments were one bedroom or two, furnished or unfurnished.
Each hutment—with its exterior painted “fawn ivory”—had a gas range, gas space heater, refrigerator, and “automatic” water heater.
Parkside Village was an instant neighborhood. All that a couple had to do was unpack their suitcases, hang some pictures on the walls, throw down some rugs on the pine floors, set up the crib, and quicker’n you can say, “Kilroy was here,” a hutment was a home.

In March the first family moved in to Parkside Village. The Robert Spain Jr. family, with two young children, had been living on the back porch of a friend after being evicted from the family’s previous quarters. The Spains were typical of the tenants of Parkside: Many of these veterans and their families had been living in tourist cabins, subleasing apartments, living with friends, with parents and other relatives.
Before the war Spain had been manager of a local Safeway store.
Other early residents of Parkside Village were Jack and Mary Butler and children Larry, four, and Helen, eleven months. Jack was just out of the Navy and about to return to his job at the Star-Telegram. By 1962 he would be executive editor.
Mary Butler was pleased with the size of the closet of hutment no. 202 and glad that most of the married couples of Parkside Village had children, giving son Larry plenty of playmates.
Another early Parkside family was Mr. and Mrs. W. B. Walker and infant son. Walker had been a fighter pilot during the war, had moved to Fort Worth to work for American Airlines.
The Walkers’ hutment was compact, but Mrs. Walker said it “looks like an estate.”

Note that the January 30, 1946 news article said “Veterans Village” would house “white ex-GIs.”
African-American veterans were housed in Butler Place. Butler Place and Ripley Arnold Place were federal low-income housing projects. Ripley Arnold Place was located on West Belknap Street downtown, and Butler Place was located in the Chambers Hill area west of I. M. Terrell school.
The two housing projects had opened in 1940.
In 1946 Ripley Arnold Place, like “Veterans Village,” housed “white ex-GIs.”

A week after veterans began moving in to Parkside Village in 1946, Abner Silverman, deputy assistant commissioner of the U.S. Public Housing Authority, passed through Fort Worth with a caveat.
He said the government’s program to provide two hundred thousand temporary housing units for veterans, such as Parkside Village, was “only a little aspirin for a big headache.”
He said, “It will not even take the edge off the great housing shortage, but it will help to ease the problem of veterans and service men who can not find a roof for their families.”
Silverman said, “The temporary projects are not the answer to the housing problem. They are not even good housing, and as soon as easing of the shortage makes these projects begin to incur deficits, the communities will get rid of them.”

Nonetheless, in 1947 Fort Worth opened a second veterans housing project: Rosemont Village just north of Seminary Drive and Rosemont Junior High School.
The village opened with 128 hutments—for which two thousand veterans already had applied.
Note that in 1952 Seminary Drive was just that: the drive to the seminary. The street did not yet extend west.
Rosemont Village youngsters probably attended nearby Hubbard Heights Elementary School.

In all, by 1947 Fort Worth housed veterans in six additions (four pre-existing, two new): Liberator Village and Victory Apartments near the bomber plant, the Ripley Arnold Place and Butler Place federal low-income housing projects, and Parkside Village and Rosemont Village.

Like much of the near West Side, Parkside Village was flooded as the Clear Fork of the Trinity River rose above its banks in May 1949.
Six hundred Parkside residents were homeless.
Harlan Sloan, vice commander of the American Legion’s 12th District, said only twenty-five of three hundred houses in Parkside were not submerged.
Contents of the houses, he said, were practically “a total loss.”
Sloan appealed for food, clothing, and used furniture to be taken to Parkside.

In late 1949 the city took over ownership of the hutments in Parkside, Rosemont, and Butler Place.

In 1953 Johnny came marching home again, this time from the Korean War.

But before you assume that these Johnnies, like their World War II predecessors, were housed in Fort Worth’s six housing additions for veterans, two days after the armistice the city council approved a motion to demolish Parkside and Rosemont villages within twenty-five months. There were 411 units at Parkside and Rosemont. And there one hundred vacancies—a tremendous improvement from the waiting lists of 1946. Tenants had until January 1, 1954 to move out of Parkside and Rosemont.
By 1953 World War II was eight years in the past. The housing shortage that the war had created had been greatly alleviated. The home loan program of the Veterans Administration, created in 1944 as part of the GI Bill of Rights, was helping veterans buy permanent homes.

By 1954 Fort Worth’s two wartime and four postwar housing additions for veterans, never meant to be permanent, had served their purpose.
In 1954-1956 the buildings were demolished or dismantled and sold.
In 1954 Liberator Village and Parkside Village were dismantled.
Quick-Way Homes disposed of Parkside Village, selling one-bedroom “homettes” for $215 ($2,300 today) and two-bedroom “cottages” for $345 ($3,600 today), “dismantled and loaded on your truck.” Quick-way Homes also sold the furnishings of the hutments.
In 1955 it was Rosemont Village’s turn.
And in 1956 the twenty acres and remaining eight buildings of Victory Apartments were sold.

And now the rest of the postwar story:
The south part of the city’s Parkside Village property became part of Botanic Garden. The north part became the site of the Public Health Center (opened 1958, closed 2009).
Where Liberator Village and Victory Apartments stood now stand single-family houses, businesses, and White Settlement’s Liberty Elementary School.
In 1957 the seminary bought the Rosemont Village site, where today stands J. Howard Williams Student Village.
In 2002 the Radio Shack corporation bought the Ripley Arnold Place property, and the housing was demolished for a new Radio Shack world headquarters. The buildings now house Tarrant County College.
Butler Place closed in 2020.

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One Response to When Johnny Came Marching Home (Home, Sweet Hutment)

  1. Shirley Enis says:

    My family lived in liberator village for several years, think 3+,, was a wonderful place for kids, so many of us! Schools weren’t too far to walk to them, recreation place usually had a dance for adults on weekends, church on Sunday, vacation Bible school, movie, The Village, and shopping center on Cherry Lane! Still friends with a girl I met there. We were there during the flood, typhus shots, boiling water, found a house in Glen Park where we moved just as I was to start 6th grade at Oaklawn, William James and Poly! Great memories of all of them!

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