Quartermaster Buildings: Records and Plans

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The non-tactical buildings, the buildings necessary to house, supply, and administer the garrison, as well as the wide variety of structures needed to make life bearable in the often isolated posts, vastly outnumbered the batteries, and represented the greater reality of army life for the soldiers. These structures, commonly frame or brick, were constructed by the U.S. Army Quartermaster Department (Quartermaster Corps from 1912) until that responsibility was transferred to the Corps of Engineers on December 1, 1941.

The Quartermaster Corps kept careful historical records on the buildings and structures for which it was responsible. These records were transferred to the Corps of Engineers along with the responsibility for construction and maintenance. At Archives II in College Park, MD, Entries 393 and 394, RG 77 (Records of the Chief of Engineers), contain many of these records, arranged generally in alphabetical order by post. Entry 393 contains the records of active posts, 1905-1942, while the much smaller Entry 394 contains the records of abandoned posts, 1905-1924. The first such forms in the record, dating from 1905, are un-numbered. They contain information on two buildings, one on each side of the 10 x 12 card-stock form. Filed by post building number, the forms list the construction date, materials, and equipment (to include wash basins, showers, urinals, screen doors, and wall lockers), as well as an annual list of expenditures for repairs. Perhaps most valuable, the forms normally displayed a 4 x 5-inch black and white photograph of the structure. With the buildings mostly gone, these photographs are our best information on how they actually looked. In 1913, the forms were designated Form 173a. By 1921, the forms, now 173A, were enlarged to 10 x 14 inches and covered only one structure. On the reverse a grid pattern was provided for a simple plan of the structure. Plans were drawn for some structures; others had blueprints pasted on, while still others were blank. In 1924, the form was renumbered 117, but otherwise remained relatively unchanged. One of the most important entries on the Historical Record of Buildings, was the OQMG (Office of the Quartermaster General) plan number, which was normally listed, at least for 1891-1917 buildings. These plan numbers, in turn, lead to another valuable source. From 1891 through 1917, the quartermasters built most structures to numbered standard plans. As these plans were updated, letter suffixes were added.

The Cartographic Branch at Archives II contains Standard Plans of Army Post Buildings (Received from Quartermaster Office) 1891-1917. These are hundreds of standard plans prepared by the Office of the Quartermaster General. A notebook lists the plans by number and suffix, with the number of sheets prepared. To request them, merely specify RG 77, PI NM-19, Standard Plans of Army Post Buildings 1891-1917, with the plan number and letter suffix desired. The number of sheets varies from one to more than a dozen, and averages around eight or nine for larger structures. The plans are in ink on linen, usually about 24 x 37 inches. For most buildings there are front, rear, and side elevations, and plans for each floor. These plans show structural details, as well as plumbing, heating, and lighting fixtures. The remaining sheets show smaller details, such as doors, windows, coal chutes, and furniture such as cupboards and dressers. The scale for the elevations and plans is usually 1/4 inch = 1 foot, while the scale for the details varies from 1/2 inch to 3 inches = 1 foot.

A set of Quartermaster Records for all the major Coast Artillery forts is available from the CDSG ePress.