Quonset Huts in Oklahoma City

[This Oklahoma Life] Scroll down to see a slideshow of a dozen Quonset huts in Oklahoma City. There are many more I have yet to post, so please check back here or on my Flickr photo account. Thanks!

Quonset Hut Oklahoma City
Quonset Hut in Oklahoma City south of NE 16th Street and Lottie Avenue

I’ve been photographing Quonset huts around Oklahoma City the past few months. They remind me of my father, because if his car ever broke down he scoped out a mechanic in a Quonset hut to fix it.

I feel like I’ve been inside a thousand Quonset huts and I’m homesick for the smell of a garage. The mixture of lubricants, solvents, gasoline and exhaust remind me of my Generation X childhood. We bounced around in the back of jalopies with the seat belts cut out or stuffed down in the seat.  That is, until the 1980s when Vince and Larry, the popular Crash Test Dummies convinced all of us to convince our parents to buckle up.

Quonset Hut Oklahoma City
Quonset Hut | South May Avenue | Oklahoma City

My father was in the U.S. Navy, and I realize now that Quonset huts were symbolic to him of military life and American patriotism. It was the Navy that was responsible for the proliferation of the corrugated, galvanized steel structures across America. In 1941, they awarded a contract for the construction of the huts, which were needed to house soldiers and military families around the world. During World War II, between 150,000 and 170,000 huts were manufactured. When the war ended, surplus huts were sold to the public for about $1,000 each.

Quonset Hut | NE 28th and Kelley Avenue | Oklahoma City

When I started photographing Quonset huts in Oklahoma City, my husband, Robert told me that when he moved here in the 1980s he couldn’t believe how many huts he saw. He’s been all over the world and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. But, given the strong military presence here, it makes sense. There are six military bases in Oklahoma including two sizable installations, Tinker Air Force Base (Oklahoma City) and Fort Sill Army Base (Lawton).

My father felt comfortable dealing with people who ran their businesses out of Quonset huts. To me, they always represented a carnival-like mystery. They were like tin cans, sawed in half with the labels torn off.

Today, the Quonset hut is an American icon. They’ve even experienced a revival of sorts. Squidoo and Southern Living have both published stories about really cool Quonset homes. There was also a book published a few years ago about the structures, Quonset: Metal Living for a Modern Age.

Since Generation X is so worried about lack of retirement savings, trouble with Social Security and declining home values, maybe we can all live in Quonset huts when we get old. They only cost about $16,000 and ten people with no special skills can set one up within a few hours. I can see it now, a Quonset Village located on the outskirts of Oklahoma City.

Miss you, dad, and all those Quonset huts.

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Comments

  1. jenx67 says

    You and Me and Quonset Hut. There’s a song in here somewhere. How fun would that be! I’m painting my blue!

  2. yogiabb says

    Cool, reading your article I wondered where the name Quonset came from I guess it is a town in Rhode Island (which strangely is not an island) where they were developed. There are not as many as there used to be but there is still a bunch. 

  3. says

    No Quonset garage, but I do remember going with my dad to the gas station a few blocks down the street when he decided he’d rather pay to have the oil changed than mess with it himself. We waited and each got a Coke out of the old bottle machines where you had to turn a knob on each slot. But the smell was probably the same and I have the same reaction ;-)

  4. says

    I learned something new today.  You know I am an Army brat so I have definitely been in my fair share of these huts, but in all my 42 years I never knew they were called “Quonset Huts!”  I agree with your retirement plan, I will plant mine right next to yours!

  5. says

    All of my life I have wondered how all those Quonset Huts got all over the country–now you tell us it was the Navy who did that!  Wonderful!  Yes, they do make good, energy efficient homes if completed properly!  Your stories about the quoneset hut garage visits with your dad are very special.

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