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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

SPRINGFIELD HOUSING PROJECT

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. Janet in CT says:

    Probably the same distance for me here in central northern CT. I would love to find out if some or most of the houses are still there! We don’t go through or to Springfield often but it would make a nice day trip!

  2. Kkmk says:

    I mapped Hobart street on google earth and it looks like the development is pretty intact. I wonder if the baseball field is the “playing field” mentioned in the plans.

  3. Saundra A says:

    There are a number of modest houses in the southern sections of Seattle that were built in the early ’40s for Boeing workers. My grandparents bought one in 1952 that was built in ’43. There are several demonstrations of the scarceness of materials-thin wood for the flooring for example. But there are so many things that are so much more durable than materials now-the bathroom and kitchen tile for example. And then there are the puzzles, like the marble threshold for the bathroom….

  4. Rick S says:

    Pam,
    I took a tour of the streets via computer. I wen on ZILLOW. Enter zillow and any of the streets in the developement, followed by Springfeild MA, and you can “drive through the area. Some of the street names are Carwe St, Putnam Circle,Baldwin St,Farragut St,Acme Pl,Kelly Pl,Cameron St, and Ames St.
    It is like driving down the road and gives “approximate house numbers, and realtor info, ie #of bedrooms,baths,year built and sq feet. I felt like I was there.

    rick

  5. nina462 says:

    google maps show that the houses are still there, but it’s more run down and is in very poor condition. Such a shame.

  6. Sam Kaplan says:

    I lived in this Defense Housing Project from September 1942 until the summer of 1953, from roughly my eighth birthday until I finished my freshman year at college. The project was officially named Lucy Mallory Village (after a social work whose last name was spelled Mallory). We lived at the corner of Fernwald (or possibly Fernwold, which is how it’s spelled on current maps) and Kelly Place (which now seems to be named Acme Place). To answer some questions in these comments: (1) The village (as it was generally called by the residents) was privatized, I think, in the 1960s, on the whole not with happy aesthetic effects, and the common shapes were cut up into tiny, useless cells of lawn surrounded by fencing. (2) We built a rough baseball field with a chicken-wire backstop during the war. The fathers (including my own), did the heavy labor, happy to make a field for their sons. I laid out the infield dimensions. The baseball field visible on maps was a public park known then as King Field. It had a quite serious diamond where organized teams played. Our field was hummocky. King Field has now been renamed. (3) Only families could rent units so the village was rich with children, most of the name my age or younger in 1942. We grew up together. Growing up included a lot of baseball and in the fall football. (4) It was a housing project without significant crime or juvenile delinquency, not even joyriding. There was a war on. It made a difference, I think, but the more important point is that the families were determined to be respectable. Many of them, including my own, had moved in from quite deteriorated neighborhoods, often mislabeled as slums, and were thrilled to be in the project. The first day we moved in my dad used a red crayon or red paint to inscribe the date on a beam in the cellar. (5) When my parents finally moved, my sister was in junior high school and was dismayed. The village was a great place for kids. It was pretty good for adults too.

  7. MARY says:

    Anna
    Do you have the RBW house yet?
    My bucket list has two houses on it, RBW’s own house in Winchester, on page 25 of More Houses for Good LIving, and his Duxbury house on page 100. One for summer, one for winter. No chance of those bucket items ever happening.Good thing, since I can’t handle a lot of snow. Of all my books, this is the one I’d have buried with me.
    Why wasn’t I born rich! Sigh.
    But I’m kicking myself that my sister lived near springfield and i never knew his houses were in the neighborhood.

  8. Sam Kaplan says:

    Lucy Mallory Village had its own baseball field, built by the village’s fathers during WW II, using scraps for a backstop. My father was one of them. Though I was only nine or ten, I laid out the diamond, my father having had excessive confidence in my mathematical abilities. The boys of the village played endless games on that field, but it no longer exists. It disappeared quite a long time ago under the relentless hand of developers and is now a small network of roads and homes. However, the village was more or less across Carew Street from a spacious city park known as King Field, which now has another name. That field still exists. We played more formal baseball games there on a greatly superior diamond.
    For the record, my family lived in Lucy Mallory Village from September 1942 until about the summer of 1953 at the corner of Fernwold St and Kelly Place. And also for the record, this note is being written in London, which as a boy living in the village I thought I would never get to visit.

  9. Onawa Rock says:

    My house is also part of a neighborhood built during world war ii for defense workers. Thanks for this, I have found ads and aerial photos from the early 1940s for mine and am loving learning the history of it and similar homes and developments.

  10. my says:

    I grew up in Springfield and lived in another defense building project during the 70’s and 80’s. My grandmother live there during the 60’s and 70’s. It is called John J Duggan Projects, and was originally housing for service families but became low-income housing. My best friend lived in the Mallory Village on Fernwald St. during the 90’s. Even though I grew up in the so-called “projects” that apartment was one of the best I have ever lived in– warm, well-built, and roomy. Of course I remember during the late 70’s when the management came in and tore out all of the original wood cabinets and replaced them with cheap particle board during an “update.”

  11. Tom Jarvis says:

    I lived at 26 acme place from 1944 until about 1958 .I went to pottenger school when it opened.Marshall Roy field replaced kings field.We use to hang around Tommy’s market, and the office were we use to pay rent. Played ball in the fields behind Cameron place.Your name sounds familliar. Tom jarvis

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