The History of the Quonset Hut

quonset historyA Quonset hut is a semicircle building made of galvanized steel, which is an icon of war movies set during World War II.

But, the Quonset hut has a lengthier history. The design actually borrowed heavily from the British Nissan Hut of World War I. The Quonset hut was designed to be a relatively lightweight structure that could easily be erected and taken down without specially skilled labor. The structures needed to be easily transported by ship or air for remote bases. Over time the basic design of the Quonset hut has changed and improved based on desired use. For the most part today’s Quonset hut is fairly different from its early cousin.

The early design was made of pure steel. It measured 16 ft. X 36 ft. and had a radius of 8 ft. It was built up on a structure of T-sections that were 2 in. X 2 in. X ¼ in. The structure was covered with a skin of corrugated steel. The building was lined with pressboard over insulation and the ends were capped with plywood. Doors and windows were fitted into the plywood end-caps. The floor was constructed of tongue and groove solid wood planks.

During World War II it became necessary to look at other materials to build the Quonset hut. Steel was a commodity that was essential to other areas of the war effort. And they found that it rusted to easily in the Pacific Theatre. Out of this need the Pacific Hut was born. It was constructed completely of wood. It even had a wood cover.

It wasn’t long before improvements were made to the hut and a 20 ft. × 48 ft. (6 m × 15 m) hut with 10 ft. (3 m) radius was introduced. This size became so popular in the navy that every base had them. The only differences that this hut had from the previous one were size and the quality of steel used. The steel used for this hut was a high-grade rust resistant variety.
This new and improved hut opened room for further improvements as other bigger and better huts were introduced. They adapted the huts to use as dispensaries, latrines, hospitals, and other special facilities, the details were worked out and checked by actually erecting units in the field at the proving ground, to determine the practicability of the design for field use. In all, 86 approved interior layout plans were prepared for the small hut and the large 40-by-100-foot arch-rib warehouse.

Today, warehouses and many other steel structures use the design of the Quonset hut. The structures are still widely used in Canada and America except from the state of Alaska where it has been banned. The reason for the ban that there are already too many of them in the state, some are too old and useless and have become environmental hazards.