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Hawthorne Army Ammunition Depot (Hawthorne Naval Ammunition Depot)

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Hawthorne Naval Ammunition Depot
1928, many additions and alterations. U.S. 95. Access by permission only

This enormous complex, encompassing 2,905 structures on 148,517 acres, is the largest ammunition depot in the Western world. The U.S. Navy erected most of the buildings and structures between 1928 and 1945, the majority of them during World War II. The core of the base, the Personnel and Industrial Area, stands among clusters of trees and wide lawns, includeing administrative and industrial buildings, officers' houses, and a barracks. Most of these buildings date from the initial construction period (1928–1938) and have Colonial Revival features. This style, popular at the time, gave a unified appearance to the base and, with the planting of lawns and trees, helped transform the western desert into an area that looked more like rural Virginia. To the north is the Conelly Housing Area, a collection of one-story, wood-frame duplexes built in 1969.

Architecture from the World War II era is more utilitarian in style, revealing the need to increase production rapidly by erecting mass-produced buildings. During this time the Navy erected an entire housing area, Babbitt (demolished 1960s–1990s), to accommodate thousands of married workers and their families. Nearly 600 prefabricated wood-frame duplexes and community buildings were built quickly in an area between the Personnel and Industrial Area and the town of Hawthorne. Many of these buildings were salvaged during the dismantling of Babbitt and now stand in Hawthorne, Tonopah, and other parts of the state.

The largest part of the base is the Production Area, where the collection of ammunition magazines is arranged in an orderly configuration across the desert valley floor, approached by miles and miles of railroad tracks. The Production Area is located on the east side of U.S. 95, well away from houses and administrative facilities. To anyone who sees them from a car or an airplane, these identical earthen and concrete structures convey the extent of the military presence in Nevada. Though public access is not permitted, the magazines are easily visible from the highway.

Writing Credits

Julie Nicoletta

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