This Place in History: Quonset Hut

Vermont Historical Society

At ‘This Place in History‘ we’re in Hardwick, Vt. with Executive Director of the Vermont Historical Society Steve Perkins.

“We’re going to be checking out a building form that I think for many older Vermonters was very common, but is now quite rare. We’re going to talk to Elizabeth Dow from the Hardwick Historical Society to learn about this utilitarian building structure,” said Perkins.

“This is called a Quonset Hut. It was developed by the U.S. Army for cheap housing or cheap buildings that could be put up and taken down in a hurry by unskilled labor. It’s just layers of corrugated iron,” began Dow.

“There was an American engineer by the name of Nissen who went to England and worked with the British Army during World War I. He really developed the basic form before it was modified during World War II into this form. After World War II, there were thousands of these that they had created. They then sold them as army surplus.”

“The town of Hardwick paid a total of $8,000 to buy this building and have it put up. And, it’s served as a town garage. We just have never been rich enough to tear it down and throw it away,” joked Dow.

“I was going to say about tearing it down, I grew up in Vermont and I’m not that old – or I’d like to think I’m not that old – but, they were very common when I was a kid. People used them for garages and chicken coops or barns. Every town had one, but they’re gone now,” added Perkins.

“I grew up near Penn State and there was a lot of student housing done in Quonset Huts through the ’50s until they could get around to keep up with the GI Bill boom of students that came to universities,” said Dow.

“It does have some unique features to it. You were telling me it’s bigger than some we normally see and I noticed it’s a fancy one; it has windows,” said Perkins.

“It’s got windows and it has always had those windows. The normal Quonset Hut was about 20 feet by 48 feet and this is about twice that size. Because it’s open, it’s very versatile. It’s not heated, so it’s winter storage for a lot of stuff,” explained Dow.

“If people want to learn more about Hardwick history, including the Quonset Hut, how can they do that?” asked Perkins.

“Come visit Hardwick. The historical society has a website, but come on the [Lamoille Valley] Rail Trail and stop on your way through,” concluded Dow.

At ‘This Place in History’!

For more from our ‘This Place in History’ series, click here.

To view a map of Vermont’s roadside historic markers, click here.

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