Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Vallejo's Wartime Housing
America’s entry into WWII brought drastic changes to the City of Vallejo. Temporary defense housing projects sprang up almost overnight as people from nearly every state in the Union came seeking jobs at the Mare Island Navy Yard. The City's population exploded from approximately 30,000 residents in 1939 to nearly 90,000 in 1945. Wartime housing projects were often built of prefabricated sections and used innovative new building materials and techniques. Several well-known architects were involved in Vallejo's wartime housing boom, including William Wurster, who later became dean of the University of California Architecture School at Berkeley.
By far the largest of Vallejo's defense housing projects was Chabot Terrace, located north of present day Highway 37 and east of Broadway. By late 1944, nearly 11,000 people were living in this project. Other wartime housing projects in Vallejo included Federal Terrace, Roosevelt Terrace, Guadalcanal Village, Carquinez Heights, Floyd Terrace, Hillside Dormitories, Northside Dormitories, Amador Apartments, Solano Apartments and Victory Apartments. Nearly all of these were torn down soon after the war ended.
In 1945, a report by the City of Vallejo declared that the city had "undergone one of the most radical changes of any community in America in the past four years. Nowhere else has the impact of the war, with all of its resultant confusion, congestion, and expansion been more direct." Many families who lived in Vallejo's temporary defense housing projects later built or bought their own homes in the community. Others returned to their home states once the war had ended.