Historic Architecture of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune
In planning Camp Lejeune, the Marine Corps sought to create a facility that could accommodate every aspect of Marine training during the immediate global crisis and for a long time thereafter. Because of this objective and the short span of time during which the base was planned and constructed, the buildings of Camp Lejeune largely reflect a single design concept. This effect is achieved mainly through the repetition of certain construction materials, building types, and one or two architectural themes throughout the base.
At Camp Lejeune the development of building designs also was influenced by the military's need for functional structures, "the necessity for general economy, the limitations on the use of strategic materials, and the shortage of craftsmen." A shortage of wood for construction and the fact that this was to be a permanent installation led to the selection of strip steel framing and brick as the principal building materials for most of the base. The Navy's Bureau of Yards and Docks awarded a contract in June 1941 to the Truscon Steel Corporation for the framework of the permanent buildings. Brick veneer was chosen over a sprayed cement mixture known as gunite or another type of exterior finish because of the "exceptionally low cost of brick in this vicinity," and its superior insulating value, low maintenance, and generally fireproof qualities. Foundations were made of concrete, and asbestos shingles were used for roofing.
All of these conditions "dictated a simplicity and severity of treatment" that undoubtedly handicapped the creative talents of the architects. As the Marine Corps Liaison Officer Lieutenant Colonel Hill noted, because the construction materials had already been determined, not much choice was left to the architects in the treatment of the buildings in the regimental areas. Hill proposed employing "a simple colonial design and detail pleasing in appearance and low in cost," one that was "familiar in character to many of the early buildings of Tidewater Carolina (Modified Early American)." This proposal was approved, and all the original permanent buildings at the New River base were designed in a "modified early American" style, except in the Industrial and Supply Area, where buildings and structures were built of concrete, concrete block, and wood in a forthrightly utilitarian style.
The largest concentrations of frame buildings were in the housing areas of Paradise Point and Midway Park, both of which were laid out with curvilinear street patterns like those in civilian suburban developments. At Paradise Point officers and their dependents lived in two-story, single-family dwellings along gently curving tree-lined streets. Here the "modified early American" architectural theme took the form of the garrison colonial house type, in which the second floor projects over the first. Midway Park, constructed for officers, enlisted personnel, and civilian workers and their dependents, employed a plainer, "minimal traditional" style of exterior treatment.
Frame buildings and temporary structures were scattered throughout the reservation as needed. Tents and huts prevailed as housing for the troops in the Tent Camp Area and Montford Point, while wood-frame structures were used for subsistence functions (for example, mess halls and washrooms). None of these structures, which were temporary and therefore intentionally plain, possessed any architectural distinction.
For the late 1942-early 1943 expansion of Camp Lejeune, the architectural theme had to be modified because of shortages of steel and wood. The 36 additional battalion storehouses built at Hadnot Point, Courthouse Bay, and the Rifle Range were of load-bearing brick with wooden rafters, because restrictions had recently been placed on the use of strip steel for building construction. This project involved no change in the outward appearance of the storehouses, but the new construction projects at Montford Point were too large to use all-brick masonry construction. Out of necessity, the architects created a different type of construction for many of the new projects after October 1942. Called the "Montford Point style" because of the concentration of the design in that part of the base, this construction type "owes its character largely to the materials and skills which were available for the project. [The] scarcity of wood for framing, sheathing and siding led to the selection of hollow tile for walls; the walls were stuccoed to improve weathering qualities; and all openings were trimmed with exposed brickwork to simplify the application of stucco." In this type of architecture certain features of the original brick design were retained, such as windows, doors, roof shape and pitch, and (on some larger buildings) the floor plan and ornamental details.
This type of architecture was employed extensively at Montford Point and in separate encampments for those Marines at the Rifle Range and the Industrial and Supply Area. This same construction type was also used for 30 classroom buildings erected throughout the reservation, and for the Signal School facilities at Onslow Beach.
Architectural style is a way of classifying architecture largely by physical characteristics. Styles formed during certain architectural periods and were influenced by prominent designers, cultural context, climatic or economic conditions or a combination. These designs became so formalized that they constituted “style.”
Classifying architecture by style gives emphasis to characteristic features of design, irrespective of the historic period from which the style emerged. The identifying features of a style include a wide variety of elements that may or may not be found on a particular building. Some structures are often identified with only one or two primary stylistic elements or forms. But the majority of buildings are often simplified versions that attempt to mimic the basic ideas of these “high style” prototypes. And some are simply utilitarian structures designed purely to meet functional requirements.
There are three common architectural styles on Camp Lejeune by which some, not all, buildings may be classified. These are Georgian, Colonial Revival, and Shingle Style.
The Georgian Style was formed from 1700 to 1800 and is characterized by a formal arrangement of classical details based on a symmetrical façade. Often the entry is emphasized by a pediment or monumental pilasters or columns. Common elements include water table line, pedimented dormers, and quions.
Building 15, Hadnot Point
Formed from 1870 to 1920, the Colonial Revival Style is a combination of Colonial and contemporary elements. Similar in formality to the Georgian style, Colonial Revival facades may exaggerate their individual ornamental elements. A common historical detail among these buildings is the broken pediment above the entryway.
Walsh Hall, Rifle Range
The Shingle Style dates between 1880 and 1900 and is characterized by a uniform covering of unpainted wood shingles, including roof and façade. Roof lines typically continue to create porch coverings. Windows are usually small and grouped in twos and threes.
General Officers’ beach house, Onslow Beach, is in the Shingle Style
There are various documents and guidelines that pertain to the maintenance and preservation of historic buildings. For example, in 2010 MCB Camp Lejeune completed the Base Exterior Architectural Plan (BEAP).This document includes the official direction for new construction and renovation on base. To view additional resources and guidelines, please visit our Publications/Documents in Education Resources, or the Guidelines tab on the right side of this page.
Camp Lejeune’s current inventory of the historic built environment is comprised of 198 buildings and structures in eight historic districts. You can explore these through our online photographic tour, and through the research documents of studies undertaken on these areas. MCB Camp Lejeune is committed to the preservation of historic buildings and districts through measures such as documentation and adaptive reuse of the buildings.
Consultation with the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office resulted in a consensus agreement regarding the treatment of MCB Camp Lejeune’s historic buildings and districts. These are streamlined treatments that are outlined in Programmatic Agreements with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP). In short, prior to major modifications or demolition of historic buildings, Camp Lejeune must assess the potential impact of actions and consult with the SHPO and the ACHP. Impacts that are determined to be adverse to the historic architectural integrity of a building or district must be mitigated prior to implementation of the modifications. Typically, these mitigation measures would consist of photographic documentation. MCB Camp Lejeune also employs new techniques and technologies, such as 3-D laser scanning, for documenting structures.
Want to learn more about MCB Camp Lejeune’s historic buildings and districts and about our creative mitigation strategies? Check out these links: MCBCL Historic Districts and Preservation in Action.