Most of the buildings utilized at Camp Halsey where temporary structures that were removed when the camp was finally abandoned in 1939. Some buildings were constructed with permanent architectural features. What remains of the permanent features are foundations and a few standing features. These existing features are cataloged as architectural features (AF).
Architectural Feature 1 (AF1): Recreation Hall Chimney, Bldg. #18
Architectural Feature 1 was first recorded during preliminary survey work at Camp Halsey in December 2016. The Log Cabin Democrat on October 5, 1934 states that the recreation hall was “one of the showplaces of the camp… [where] a large fireplace has been built both outside and inside the building.”
The rigid frame structure of the recreation hall was was removed after the camp was finally abandoned in 1939. Today, the area is filled with overgrowth with the craftsmanship of the large chimney the only remaining evidence.
A large mantle once existed over the internal hearth, but has since collapsed. The outside hearth has a massive stone lintel, which is quite impressive. To date, the internal hearth has been cleaned and artifacts cataloged. The outside hearth has not been examined.
Based on the positioning of the flashing, the chimney was attached to the building on the hip end (not the gable end). The 1934-1938 inventory of buildings lists the recreation hall (Building 18) as a 20′ x 80′ rigid frame structure.
Apparent in a February 1937 aerial image (when the camp was unoccupied) is the orientation of the building situated with the 80′ long end east-west with the chimney centrally attached on the south.
The overall arrangement of the camp is east-west where the recreation hall is located on the western portion of the camp. Enrollee barracks align the camp directly south of the recreation hall.
Architectural Feature 2 (AF2): Message Board
The stone message board sits along in the field adjacent to the former Front Street. It was where daily announcements of duties, news, and the menu for the day’s meals were posted and is a tangible reminder of the day-to-day activities that existed. Certainly, personal items were dropped at the base of the board as men gathered to read the days events and it is our intent to explore that area without disturbing the integrity of the structure. The board features a “grapevine” style of concrete mortar. The overall construction and mortar style is similar to the message board at Camp Damascus, a contemporary camp located a few miles to the north, although the Camp Halsey message board is more rudimentary in mortar application and rock placement. This could be the result of an emphasis at Camp Halsey on training skills related to “building terraces, break dams, and drainage ditches” rather than on mortar construction. At Camp Damascus, it is suggested in the National Register Nomination that rockwork “could be considered ‘busywork’ or practice work for the men at the camp”. Perhaps the same could be considered at Camp Halsey.
The enrollees who lived in each of the eight barracks contributed to a camp newsletter called the Halsey Journal. The first volume of the Halsey Journal was published in November of 1937. As a continuation of the journalism studies that began at Camp Harrison before the young men were reassigned to Camp Halsey, the journal was designed to keep its readers informed, intrigued, and humored with articles on current events, education opportunities, comic illustrations, and even personal entries highlighting various activities around the camp. Aside from providing general information about the activities around camp, the primary objective of the journal was to “serve as an index of progress” to both motivate and help by “boosting them to victory.” Surely, reading about their work and seeing their names attributed to the betterment of the camp and the surrounding areas provided them with a sense of accomplishment and pride as important members of Camp Halsey. For instance, in Vol. 1 No. 7 from May 1938 shows a man named Virgil West standing beside his “masterpiece,” the newly constructed message board or as they referred to it, the “bulletin board.”
In group picture in the 1937 CCC Yearbook, the only individual with the surname “West” is Billie R. West, which could be the same individual who constructed the Message Board and went by Virgil.
Architectural Feature 3 (AF3): Kitchen Slab, Bldg. #3
The inventory of buildings describes the kitchen as a 1-room addition to a 2-room mess hall. The kitchen is listed as having a water connection, but no sewer connection, at least at that time. The exposed kitchen foundation measures approximately 10 meters or 32 feet north-south and 6.5 meters or 21 feet east-west, which matches with the building inventory dimensions of 32 feet x 20 feet. It is listed as rigid frame type of construction. At present, we believe the 2-room mess hall was attached to the south of the kitchen and a cellar was to the north. Two sinks drained into a single drainage basin located on the west side.
Leading from the foundation is a former stone path that is in the direction of the recreation hall and may have connected the two buildings. A 1934 mention in the Log Cabin Democrat refers to “soapstone and shale” sidewalks laid by the enrollees. Additionally, a drawing in the Vol. 1 No. 5 of the Halsey Journal is Jasper Hobbs creating a stone path as his “last job” and that he was “checkin’ out the 31st” of March. His illustrated efforts are likely associated with the barracks given the the central flag pole behind him.
Architectural Feature 10 (AF10): Army Garage, Bldg. #19
During the 2018 UCA Archaeology Field School, a significant portion of Architectural Feature 10 (Army Garage Bldg. #19) was exposed by clearing the organic debris layer that had accumulated over the poured concrete slab. Two excavation units (1 & 2) were situated at proposed building entrance/exit locations. The 2019 field school students finished documenting the feature with two additional excavation units. Unit 3 was located outside the garage door vehicle entrance, which documented a hard-packed gravel layer extending from the poured cement. Unit 4 was established at the “back door” and adjacent to Unit 2 in order to excavate the remaining midden area.
The foundation of the building is composed a short concrete knee wall around the outside with two pedestrian entrances. A car door is present on the west end of the structure. The floor is hand-poured concrete that was mixed with local shale and sandstone. Small fragments of broken objects (glass and metal) are also within the cement. Most of the artifacts collected from the feature are automotive parts.