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Upper Reservation Barracks Buildings
By Joe Janesic- Association Vice-President.
June 12, 2005

Over the years, many people have asked me about the state of preservation and future plans of the wooden barracks buildings that dot the former Upper Reservation of Fort MacArthur. It has long been the policy of the Fort MacArthur Museum Association that these buildings should be preserved and interpreted in such a way that protects their unique architectural style and history.

For many veterans the barracks is the iconic example of their time in the service. It was the place where they lived, trained, and socialized. The barracks structures around the Upper Reservation are structures of unique design and character. The structures on the lower part of the property were constructed as part of the recruitment and mobilization program of the First World War. While only designed to be kept in service for the duration of that conflict, more than half of the buildings survive to this day and are used as classrooms and storage rooms by the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Beginning in the fall of 1940, the United States began the first peacetime draft if civilians for service in the military. Each draftee was expected to serve just over a year. While the new inductees and sudden influx spending was a welcome change for the army, it was not fully ready to support the more than one-million men being drafted. Basic supplies such as uniforms and training materials had to be augmented by equipment that had been originally intended for WWI, this included housing. Early draftees slept in tents, but it soon became apparent that a more permanent solution would be necessary.

The barracks on the upper portion of the property are unique because of the time when they were built. Most of the buildings were built in the middle part of 1941, over a year before our nation was drawn into the Second World War. They were designed to provide housing and shelter for a new group of citizen soldiers that were drafted into the army for the first time in our history. The design of these building is not of the standard design that would be developed during the war. They are thought to be the only examples of their kind remaining in the United States and have features found in no other construction.

It has long been the contention by the Fort MacArthur Museum Association that these structures should be preserved and adaptively reused in such a way that preserves their history and unique architecture. All of them can be considered contributing resources to the two National Register Historic Sites in Angeles Gate Park and as well as the California State Historic District that was established by the hard work of our volunteers at Whites Point. Our organization was founded on the principal of protecting the history of Fort MacArthur and we do believe that a policy of adaptive reuse should be employed in a way that preserves the architectural and historical significance of the structures while still providing the necessary space needed by the other tenants of Angeles Gate.

While the Association does not at this time have the resources or access to provide the funding needed for proper stabilization or restoration of these buildings, other organizations that are today in control of the buildings do. The city of Los Angeles has held ownership of the structures since the army gifted the property to them and for the past thirty years, it has had a conditional use permit in place with the Angels Gate Cultural Center. The cultural center provides low or no-cost studio and exhibit space to artists and other cultural groups, and both groups have spent little or no money in that time to maintain the buildings.

2006 update
At the time of this writing, the Angeles Gate Cultural Center and the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks are undertaking negotiations to provide the cultural center with a thirty year lease on the property containing the pre-WWII barracks. It is our understanding at this time that the lease will have no provisions requiring either party to properly maintain the structures.

February 2007 update
We understand that as a condition of the lease that has been signed between the Cultural Center and the Department of Recreation and parks, the board of directors for the Angeles Gate Cultural Center has been given the task of creating a Master Plan for both the Cultural Center as well as the rest of Angels Gate Park. The Association would like to urge our friends and neighbors to get involved in the process as a way of protecting these valuable structures and letting both the Cultural Center and the Department of Recreation and Parks know what you would like to see done with this resource.

May 2007 Update
What can you do? The answer starts by asking you to attend some of the public planning meetings; the next one is scheduled for Saturday June 2nd from 10:00am to Noon in building H (the former indoor pistol range) The meeting is open to the general public and will be attended by Association leadership as well as members from the steering committee and Department of Recreation and Parks.

Additional Projects

     Fort MacArthur K9 Cemetery
     Hey Rookie (Gaffey Street) Pool
     Upper Reservation Barracks Structures
    
Incredible Shrinking National Register Site
     Whites Point Preservation
     Fire Control Stations Preservation
     Bolsa Chica Beach Panama Mounts

 

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