[Heritage] Two Oregon military sites listed in National Register

INFO Heritage * OPRD Heritage.Info at oregon.gov
Thu Jul 2 15:30:31 PDT 2015

Two military sites, one dating to the Civil War and the other to World War II, have  been listed recently in the National Register of Historic Places. They are Fort Umpqua in Douglas County and the Madras Army Air Field North Hangar in Jefferson County.

Fort Umpqua is located on the Siuslaw National Forest. At its height in 1859, Fort Umpqua was comprised of 13 buildings including four officers' houses, a barracks, blockhouse, hospital, guard house, two laundress buildings, a bakery, barn, and sutler store. None of the buildings remain today.

The U.S. Forest Service's primary roles relate to natural resources. However, it also plays a role in caretaking important cultural resources on federal land. The Fort Umpqua site was an important site more than 150 years ago.

The fort was established in 1856 as part of a 3-fort system (including Fort Hoskins and Fort Yamhill) to implement treaties with tribes. When the Civil War began in 1861, most of its troops returned east but a contingent remained to provide an overall sense of military security to the region. The fort was closed in late 1862.

While serving at the fort in 1856, Brigadier General John J. Milhau set up one of the earliest weather recording stations on the Oregon coast, collected specimens of flora and fauna for the Smithsonian Institution, and wrote several reports about the language and culture of the Coos and Lower Umpqua Indians.  Colonel Edward P. Vollum also sent many boxes of plant and wildlife specimens to the Smithsonian and was one of the earliest amateur photographers on the West Coast.

The Madras Army Air Field North Hangar was built to boost the nation's efforts during World War II. In 1943, the U.S. Army transformed the wheat fields northeast of Madras into a fully-functioning air field to train B-17 bombardment squadrons as part of a nation-wide effort to build the nation's air force during World War II. The Boeing B-17 was known as the "Flying Fortress" due to its immense size and ability to sustain heavy damage during combat - a reputation earned in the skies over Europe.

The Madras location met the Army's requirements for a secure site with year-round clear weather ideal for training new crews. The airfield was one of several training bases in the region. The Army quickly constructed the base's 96 buildings, including officer quarters, squadron barracks and associated living areas, station base buildings, two 120-foot-by-80-foot hangars, and other special-purpose buildings.

The surviving hangar is one of the few remaining base buildings and is a rare intact example of the standard OBH-2 type hangar. The type is notable for its all-wood construction and bowstring roof truss system. Ground crews used the hangar to service B-17 bombers, and while massive in size, the building is just large enough to accommodate a single plane. The hangar's wood construction uses regionally-abundant and inexpensive materials to meet the Army's demands for cost-effective and efficient construction.

In 1944, the base's operations shifted toward training for smaller fighter planes. The base was closed at the end of the war in 1945.

The newly-listed hangar will be a focal point for activities Aug. 28-29 at the Airshow of the Cascades. An air museum featuring a B-17 is located nearby.

"We applaud the U.S. Forest Service's efforts to preserve and develop cultural heritage resources," said Chrissy Curran, the deputy state historic preservation officer.

More information about the National Register and recent Oregon listings<http://www.oregon.gov/oprd/HCD/NATREG/pages/nrhp_recent_nominations.aspx> is online at www.oregonheritage.org (click on "National Register" at left of page).

Oregon Heritage News is a service of Oregon Heritage, a division of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. The news editor can be contacted at heritage.info at oregon.gov<mailto:heritage.info at oregon.gov>

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