National Register of Historic Places in Mineral County

National Register #02000703: USO Building in Hawthorne, Nevada 6 August 2008
(Click Photo to Zoom)
National Register #02000703
Hawthorne USO Building
950 E Street
Hawthorne

The Hawthorne USO Building, which opened in January 1942, is listed on the National Register for its association with the history of Hawthorne and the West Coast US Naval Ammunition Depot and its association with the USO in Nevada during World War II. (President Franklin D. Roosevelt founded the United Service Organizations in 1941 with the objective of providing the emotional support the troops needed.... from the USO website.)

The building is now the Hawthorne Convention Center.

Until 1930, Hawthorne had been a railroad town and a mining town. When the Hawthorne Naval Ammunition Depot was opened in 1930, Hawthorne became a military town and remains so today.

The Naval Ammunition Depot was redesignated Hawthorne Army Ammunition Plant in 1977 when it transferred to Army control as part of the Single Manager for Conventional Ammunition. In 1994, it ended its production mission and became Hawthorne Army Depot (Wikipedia).

On June 10, 1926, Lake Denmark Naval Ammunition Depot in New Jersey exploded. Congress and the Department of the Navy decided a safer, more remote location for an ammunition depot must be found. A site outside of Hawthorne was selected due to its remoteness, the availability of federal land, and energetic lobbying on the part of Nevada's Congressional delegation. President Coolidge's Executive Order 4531 set aside 197 square miles (135,000 acres) for the West Coast US Naval Ammunition Depot, and ground-breaking ceremonies took place on July 24, 1928.

The site for the facility was chosen because it was centrally located to all major west coast ports, it was geographically isolated with a mountainous perimeter that provided a degree of protection and safety from disaster, and the arid climate was favorable for weapons development and storage. The construction of the Depot had an immediate positive impact on Hawthorne's economy (Hohmann and Ryden 1997).

By 1930, Hawthorne's population had grown to 757, with the Depot contributing 72 military personnel and 90 civilian employees to the total. The presence of the Depot helped Hawthorne through the Great Depression, but a number of President Roosevelt's New Deal programs were undertaken there to further help ameliorate joblessness. In October 1935, the first Works Progress Administration (WPA) projects were initiated, consisting mostly of road construction and repair. Other projects included courthouse repair and improvement, and curb and sidewalk construction. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) operated at least three companies in Mineral County. The CCC made a major contribution to the development and construction of the Ammunition Depot.

With portents of war late in the 1930s, activity at the Depot increased, as did Hawthorne's population, which had grown to 1,229 by 1940. The Hawthorne Depot was the principle naval ammunition plant on the west coast following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, creating a need for its expansion. Between 1941 and 1944, the Depot was enlarged to include housing and support facilities for workers and their families. The housing development associated with the Depot was called Babbitt, and by 1944, the combined population of the Depot, Babbitt, and Hawthorne rose to 13,000.

As the principle ammunition plant on the west coast, and as early as 1940, the area was flooded with military and civilian personnel. The town of Hawthorne was not equipped to handle the overflow crowd. Housing and infrastructure could not meet the demand. Pressures such as these were being felt in communities nation-wide that were associated with military installations. Two federal laws were passed to help ease the burdens that expansion of defense installations imposed on local governments. These laws, the Lanham Defense Housing Act of 1940, and the Lanham Community Facilities Act of 1941, were put forward by Texas Congressman, Frederick G. Lanham. The Defense Housing Act provided dwellings near military bases and defense plants, and was most likely the impetus behind the construction of the Babbitt Housing Development. The Community Facilities Act provided assistance with infrastructure needs, such as off-base housing, water supplies, sewage, welfare facilities, and day-care centers for women working in the defense industry. Federal funds for recreation centers for military personnel were made available, as well, under the Defense Public Works Act.

By November 1941, Hawthorne was receiving benefits under the Defense Public Works Act in the form of a $45,000 grant for the USO building, and by February 1942, Hawthorne was receiving aid under the Community Facilities Act, including a sewage treatment plant and expanded hospital facilities. Hawthorne's schools also received assistance from the Communities Facilities Act in the form of additions to the high school and the elementary school.

Source: NRHP Nomination Form

National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933

President Franklin Roosevelt came into office during the worst depression the nation had ever known. Fulfilling a campaign promise to put people to work, he instituted the New Deal to bring economic recovery to the depression-wrought country.

The National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) of 1933 authorized the Public Works Administration (PWA) to provide jobs, stimulate business activity, and increase purchasing power through the construction of permanent and socially useful public works. The Federal Government and local city, county and state governments formed a working partnership resulting in the greatest single construction program in history.

PWA construction projects, in addition to providing employment for the skilled, generated a volume of jobs for the unskilled. The PWA provided loans and grants up to forty percent of the total cost of the project to states, and many other public bodies, including schools.

From 1933-1935, the PWA underwrote projects in 3,040 of the 3,073 counties in all forty-eight states. Of the 3.76 billion dollars of the NIRA fund, 2.56 billion dollars was spent on 19,004 construction projects.

Narrative adapted in part from the NRHP nomination for Tulare Union High School Auditorium and Administration Building dated 16 November 1999.

Many buildings funded by the PWA have been recognized for their historic significance and architectural excellence. Among them are:

California

Adobe Chapel of the Immaculate Conception in San Diego
Aquatic Park in San Francisco
Beach Chalet Murals in San Francisco
Feather River Scenic Byway Tunnels
Federal Building in Merced

Federal Writers and Artists Projects in San Francisco
Gasquet Ranger Station
Mariposa County High School Auditorium
McClatchy Senior High School in Sacramento
Mountain View Adobe
Police Headquarters, Jail & Courts in San Diego

Rincon Annex Post Office in San Francisco
Sacramento Junior College
San Francisco State Teachers College
Sonora Youth Center
Stanislaus Forest Experiment Station

The Fort in Taft
Theodore Judah School in Sacramento
Tulare Union High School

Nevada

Carson City Civic Auditorium
Hoover Dam
Southside School in Reno
Tonopah Main Post Office
USO Building in Hawthorne
Yerington Main Post Office

Oregon

Butte Falls Ranger Station in Butte Falls
Dead Indian Soda Springs Shelter in Rogue River National Forest
Fish Lake Shelter in Rogue River National Forest
Gold Beach Ranger Station
Lake of the Woods Ranger Station in Fremont-Winema National Forest
Lithia Park in Ashland

McKee Bridge Campground in Rogue River National Forest
Wrangle Gap Shelter in Rogue River National Forest

Utah
Bryce Canyon Airport
Dalton Wells Civilian Conservation Corps
Minersville City Hall
Rock House in Arches National Park

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