Courtesy of the Portland Oregonian, Thursday, August 12, 1943
Celebration marks completion of Vanport city...
Vanport City, the nation's largest single war-housing project is completed. Tonight, at the opening of the Vanport Theatre, the Kaiser Company and the Federal Public Housing Authority, the builders of this important cog in Portland's tremendous ship-building industry, will formally place the operation of Vanport City in the hands of the Portland Housing Authority.
An extensive celebration will mark the occasion. The official ceremony will be performed on an outdoor program at the Vanport Theatre, starting at 8:00 P.M., when Mr. Harry D. Freeman, Executive Director of the Portland Housing Authority, and Mr. C. M. Gartrell, Chairman of the Board of Commissioners, will accept the lease of Vanport City from Mr. Frank M. Crutsinger, Regional Director of the Federal Public Housing Authority. Mr. A. L. Nieman, General Manager Kaiser Company Inc., Portland, will represent the Kaiser Company.
Mr. Albert A. Pierson, FPHA Engineer, will thank all the builders of the completed project.
Mayor Earl Riley and County Commissoner Frank Shull will extend official greetings from the City of Portland and Multnomah County, Highlighting this program will be a specially arranged musical tribute to Vanport City by staff artists of radio station KGW. Appearing with Abe Bercovitz and the KGW Orchestra will be Neva Clark, soprano; Johnny Harrell, baritone; Ron Salt; Comedian; Glenn Shelley, pianist; Patsy Bauman, popular singer; Ralph Hamilton, accordionist; and Pat Smith, tenor. Part of the celebration will be broadcast over station KGW, with Homer Welch, KGW's Program Director, acting as Master of Ceremonies.
The story of Vanport City is a triumph of American enterprise. Born of the national emergency, this city by the Columbia was built to provide homes for the workers of the great Kaiser shipyards and allied industries of the defense area of Portland, where America's greatest war-housing epic is being enacted. It will shelter 40,000 residents, stepping into fifth place in population among the cities of the Northwest, and becoming the most extensive mass housing experiment of all time.
Conceived, designed, and begun in the whirlwind days of 1942 by the Kaiser Company and the Federal Public Housing Authority, the synthetic city was not even a paper town until the end of the summer. Two local contracting firms, the George H. Buckler Company and Wegman & Son, serving as joint sub-contractors under Kaiser Company, Inc., Portland, were the builders, and they in turn secured the assistance of many of Oregon's finest construction firms. Albert A. Pierson, chief construction engineer of the FPHA, was high command, in direct control of all construction of the project.
Neither priorities, nor war restrictions, lack of skilled labor, shortage of materials, nor the unprecedented floods and snows of last winter could stop these men who worked behind the drafting boards and in the field on the theory that "anything can be done." Vanport sprang to life robust and full-statured from the grass roots of the Columbia river lowlands. Departing entirely from the traditional development of most American cities that grow from the hamlet stage, the war metropolis appeared on the map of Oregon within a space of ninety days. The engineering skill of the Kaiser... construction difficulties seldom if ever encountered in a project of this tremendous size.
Construction officially started September 14, 1942, on an original plan for 6022 housing units. This was soon boosted to 9942 units, and Mr. J. W. Moscowitz, nationally famed city planner from New York, was called in to make a city plan. Mr. Frank M. Crutsinger, Regional Director of FPHA for Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska, secured the complete co-operation of the Federal Government in attacking the large-scale housing problem that was interfering seriously with Portland's war effort. The first 400 families were moving into their new quarters in time for Christmas. Provision for war tenants continued at the rate of several hundred dwelling units a week. These were very vital statistics to a nation at war, for every finished unit meant a home, and at least one worker on the production line.
In December, 1941, the City Council of Portland had passed the necessary resolution that put the breath of life into the Housing Authority of Portland. Mayor Earl Riley lost no time in naming the Local Authority. It consists of Cecil M. Gartrell, named to serve as Chairman; Chester A. Moores, Herbert J. Dahlke, D. E. Nickerson and Harry T. Capell. Harry D. Freeman was appointed the Executive Director, and Lester W. Humphreys the legal counsel. Serving under Mr. Freeman are K. E. Eckert, director of management; Casey Wick, director of development and constructions; and Joe Nance, director of administration. Arrangements were made with the Federal Public Housing Authority for Vanport City to be taken over on completion, and operated and maintained under lease by the Housing Authority of Portland, with the supervision of these five commissioners who were donating their services to the problem of solving the housing shortage of the Portland area. Hence, the burden of managment, government, and thoughtful supervision to provide protection, health, sanitation, and recreation fell upon the shoulders of the Portland Housing Authority, working in conjunction with Mr. Frank M. Crutsinger, the FPHA Regional Director, who sets the policy and procedure of all housing in this area. With Vanport City growing daily, the Portland Housing Authority kept pace with the phenomenal growth and placed workers from certified war industries in each of the newly completed housing units.
Vanport City today is a vast expanse of roofs and buildings, 650 acres of them. It consists of 703 apartment buildings, and 17 multiple-dwelling structures, totalling 9942 dwelling units, with 181 service annexes, and 45 special public and service buildings. An administration center, a U.S. Post Office, five grade schools, six nursery schools, three fire stations, a modern motion picture theatre, five social buildings, a library, an infirmary of 130 beds, a police station, ten ice houses, six maintenance buildings, and two commercial centers will care for the civic, social, and service needs of the community. Wegman & Son constructed 349 apartment buildings and all the special public service buildings; the George H. Buckler Company was responsible for 371 apartment buildings and all the utilities, such as the water supply, sewer system, electric distribution, streets, parking lots, and landscaping.
In the staggering task of raising a modern city of this size from the grass roots in a few months, with all the necessary utilities, nearly 7000 men and women were engaged from time to time. Prefabrication and production line technic were among the expediting methods used. The architectural design was done by Wolff & Phillips of Portland, specialists in public buildings, and long associated with the civic building program of Oregon, with a view to housing as many families as possible with the least amount of material. This was accomplished by having two-story buildings 38 by 108 feet, with fourteen housing units each arranged around a central utility building which furnishes heat, hot water, laundry, and storage facilities. Coal is used as fuel, and each building has conditioned air heating. There was, nevertheless, a staggering amount of materials used in the construction: 54,000,000 board feet of Oregon lumber; 24,000,000 square feet of sheet-rock; 6,000,000 square feet of plywood; 10,000,000 square feet of firtex; 30,000 gallons of paint; 37 tons of nails; 38,000 doors, and large quantities of other necessary building materials.
The residents of the fastest growing city in the country are uprooted families from the Blue Ridge, the Ozarks, the Sierras, and the plains between. Like locusts, they had moved in upon... before, and had nibbled up all the shelter in sight. A population from many regions, they were exiles from better homes, exposed to new conditions, new climates and new work, and not yet integrated with any community, presents many problems, not only of physical housing, but of human values as well-health, education, recreation, safety, and morale. The Housing Authority of Portland, with the five commissioners, and Executive Director Harry D. Freeman, is meeting these problems humanely and in original ways developed out of the situation. But the happiness and welfare of 40,000 war-bound people are no small considerations.
As the physical city was telescoped, its evolution normally a matter of years crowded into a few short weeks, so the arrangements for good social living had to be created more or less synthetically from the outside. The project services department of the Portland Housing Authority covers a wide field, and deals chiefly with community activities and service for the war workers and their families. Ted R. Gamble, the operator of the Vanport Theatre, has pledged complete co-operation with the project services department in making the facilities of the theatre available for recreation, education, health, welfare, and community activities. Vanport City goes beyond providing homes for defense workers. It is encouraging all possible conditions of normal living to parallel the hard terms of life in a war community.