3-2013 by Neil Richardson
Ordnance Park housing area in St. Albans was built in 1941 for housing for the Department of Defense workers and built by the Navy Department. Primarily those working at the Naval Ordnance Plant in South Charleston and the B.F. Goodrich Rubber Plant in Institute, WV. Since America did not enter WWII until after Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, it appears this housing area was begun as a precursor to us entering the war. In a conversation with Desper Lemon, a resident of there since 1964, he said the housing project was finished in August of 1941. Mr. Lemon’s sister had lived there for 62 years and her husband bought it for $6,500. There is still a lady who has lived there since the houses were offered to veterans in 1946.
Some interesting facts:
· The properties were rental until after the war when they became available for purchase by returning veterans. Residents had 90 days to vacate, unless they had veteran status, where they could purchase them if they so desired.
· The Community Building later became Parkway School. It opened as Ordnance Park Elementary School in 1946 and the name was change to Parkway in 1953. Closed in 1989.
· The Park property had 225 duplex houses. Either 2 or 3 bedrooms.
· The built-in bathtub was sunken in the floor.
· The homes were built on concrete foundations.
· Ordnance Park was gated during for security during WWII, with the gate near the Triangle area.
· A two room school was on the corner of Pfaff St. and Roosevelt Ave. The sidewalk to the building is still visible.
· As the street cars ceased in 1939, it is probable that the defense workers (mostly women, as most men were in the military) walked down Spruce St. to Kanawha Terrace to catch the city bus to work to either South Charleston or Institute. Automobiles and fuel was scarce during the war.
· St. Peter’s Methodist Church was built on the site of the former maintenance building.
· Hi-lawn Movie Theater was located in the property now occupied by Bethel Baptist Church. The floor is still sloped.
· The area of this site was first filled-in by contractors. Dirt came from “out west” by train from a military base.
· MacCorkle Ave. was not constructed until 1944.
· The Park’s four playgrounds are still in use today. Some of the equipment still looks to be original.
The streets were named after prominent Military or Naval personnel:
(Note their positions during 1941 when Ordnance Park was built)
- Roosevelt Ave. – FDR was President at that time. He was also the Secretary of Navy (1913-1920). President (1933-1945).
- Knox Ave. - Frank Knox, Secretary of Navy (1940-1944). Rode with Teddy Roosevelt in Cuba and an Artillery officer during WWI (Maj.). He was a vice president nominee (Rep.) in 1936 with Hoover.
- Forrestal Ave. – James Forrestal: Under-secretary Navy (1940-1944), Secretary of Navy (1944-1947), later, the first Secretary of Defense (1947-1949).
- Bard Ave. – Ralph Bard (Rep.): Assistant Secretary of Navy (1941-1944), Under-secretary (1944-1945), Acting Secretary Navy for 3 months (1944) after death of Frank Knox.
- It is thought the Pfaff and DeCharmes Streets were named after contractors.
- Morrell Ave. – Admiral Ben Moreell (note correct spelling) was a Navy engineer form 1937-1946. Chief of Bureau of Yards and Docks and responsible for overseeing construction during WWII. Founded the Navy Seabees, the construction battalions.
- Furlong Ave. – Rear Admiral Wm. Furlong was Chief of Naval Ordnance from 1937-1945. Served in Navy 36 years and was at Pearl Harbor during its attack and remained there for its rebuilding throughout the war.
(Above) map showing homes that are unaltered, slightley altered and completely changed (2014)