If you’ve ever driven down Portland Avenue — and considering all the construction going on around Newport Avenue, it seems like everyone is — you’ve seen a series of apartments strangely named “The Officers Quarters.”
It’s right across the street from a 100-year-old mail post we told you about in another “Little Did I Know.”
So are those actually officers quarters? And if so, when? And even more, why?
For that we dial in Kelly Cannon-Miller from the Deschutes Historical Museum.
“World War II. America enters the war as the war progresses 1942 the United states army specifically the Army Corps of Engineers realizes that they need to fast track training more combat engineers,” said Kelly.
So the search went out for places in the United States that could fit the bill. And quickly the search narrowed to Central Oregon.
“They wanted specifically a place that they could look that that mirrored the conditions that these engineers would be facing on the European front and so the Army Corps of Engineers established Camp Abbot in June of 1942.”
Camp Abbot was 15 miles south of Bend. Many are familiar with The Great Hall in Sunriver that it was constructed for.
“It was set up to train 10,000 soldiers at a time in 17-week training periods. Ninety thousand soldiers came through Camp Abbot from when it opened officially in May of 1943 until its closure in June of 1944. And guess what that created? A housing shortage!”
Keep in mind. Bend was only 10,000 strong at this point. So, it doubled in population every time a new round of soldiers came in.
The government put out calls to all people who had rentals in the area and started getting to work on housing all of these incoming replacement engineers. You know, the guys who know how to build bridges in one place and blow them up in another.
“The Army actually authorized $200,000 in August of 1943 specifically to build an apartment complex on the corner of 5th and Portland — what we drive by and see as The Officers Quarters. And they built it lickity split. Between August, the move in time was December 1st for folks to be moving in.”
And while most of the construction that the government did at that time was not designed to be permanent, they also set up agreements with the locals that would keep the ownership of some of the properties private, so they could be utilized to fill a need that Central Oregon desperately needed.
“The Officers Quarters was built with intention for it to be permanent. And so you see this moment where the government said ‘We know we need this and that you guys need this we need it too. We know that the war isn’t going to go on forever’ but this is something that they can leave behind for the City of Bend as a permanent solution to an ongoing problem you know that we’re even still facing today.”
And so there sits The Officers Quarters. A little older. A little less polished. But a shining example of how government and private citizens came together in a desperate time.
“So it’s kind of a cool remnant of that moment in time where you know wartime funds were used to leave something lasting that outlived its need to serve the war.”
Watch the story below about the mail post across the street from The Officers Quarters.