Springfield Housing Project – Royal Barry Wills, Jan 28, 1942

springfield defense housing project 1942During World War II, there were serious material shortage — rationing — and little home construction. Except for: Defense housing — housing for employees working in the defense industry. My main man Royal Barry Wills — the most influential residential architect of the 20th century, whom most Americans have never heard of — designed one such housing project — in Springfield, Mass., in 1942.  I recently scored some press materials.

Materials include these these credits:

Defense Housing Project
Springfield, Mass., 19023
Royal Barry Wills, Architect, Boston, Mass.
Hayden, Harding & Buchanan, Engineers. — Hallam L. Movius, Landscape Architect

And the news release says:

Royal Barry Wills


On January 27, 1942, bids are to be received on the new Defense Housing Job of 300 dwelling units to be located on St. James Avenue, Hobart and Carew Streets, Springfield, Massachusetts, according to Royal Barry Wills, of Boston, the Architect of this Project.

There are 90 buildings, 30 of 1-story and 60 of 2-story design. The 10story houses accommodate two families and the 2-story houses accommodate four. All of the buildings are part brick — some with brick ends and some with brick fronts. This combination of brick and wood construction gives an interesting architectural treatment.

This particular Project will be well landscaped and surrounded by pleasant lawns and play areas, with a Playing Field at the end of the Project, and an Administration Building for community functions. Smaller children will have a Play Yard and a Play Pool, where they may enjoy supervised play.

The interiors of the dwelling units are all arranged with the latest equipment, using electric refrigerators, gas ranges and oil head. The dwellings all have living-room, kitchen and bath, and one, two or three bedrooms.

January 22, 1942

I got excited,  so I sent a note to my contacts at Royal Barry Wills Associates, Inc., which is still rockin’ the architectural design, in Boston, Mass. I heard back from Richard, Royal’s son, who runs the firm. He said:

Hi Pam:
Great find on the Springfield Housing project.
That’s about all Dad had going during that time plus
A few apartment renovations
That is when he wrote some of his books.

Best:  Richard

I love learning more about Royal Barry Wills!

  1. David McCullough says:

    Reply – David says – I was born in 1945 on Farragut Street and moved to the larger brick four family units on Carew Street and also on Putnam Circle until 1954. All the units at that time had spacious rooms, carpeting in the living room, hard wood floors up stairs. Some of my fondest memories was being able to play near my unit in a sand box and at the major playing field where I could swing up high and practice jumping off. I also went to the first pre – school classes held at the administration building. In those classes we also took naps on cots. They also showed movies in the auditorium part of the building.
    I don’t know if all the units had oil heating because I was asked to go down in the scary basement to shovel coal from a bin into a hot furnace in my pajamas when I was seven years old. They built a new elementary school across on Carew street so school was convenient as well as the bus line to downtown where we would go to see movies at the Paramount theater on Main street. Thanks for this history, it will be in the memoir I am currently writing. David W. McCullough

  2. Walt says:

    Would love to know more about this project and others that Royal Mary Wills participated. I owned one of his houses in Nantucket.

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