Fort Devens

Title

Fort Devens

Subject

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Description

Fort Devens was established in 1917 in Avery, Massachusetts as an army base. The base later served as a demobilization center for New England troops; after World War II, the fort was converted into a temporary campus for the University of Massachusetts.

The G.I. Bill was passed in 1944 for returning World War II veterans that provided a variety of benefits, such as college tuition. Colleges across the country were flooded with students and could not provide additional space for many returning veterans. The university responded to these demands by quickly constructing additional housing for the veterans, but space was still an issue. A survey conducted by Massachusetts colleges in May 1946 indicated that 2,800 eligible veterans had been turned away due to crowded conditions. Not only was housing limited, but classroom space was becoming a problem as well.

The university and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts responded to this problem by turning to Fort Devens. Having been declared excess and put on caretaker status, it was an ideal area to serve as an institution. The campus operated from September 1946 to June 1949 and because it was temporary, the courses offered at Fort Devens were limited to the basic and conventional courses found in the first two years of major institutions. The campus was a considerable size, able to enroll 1,310 students in its first semester and 1,764 a year later.

Classrooms and laboratories were converted from warehouses, barracks, theaters, and clubhouses. A medical exam building was converted into eight biology and physics laboratories and there was even room for a gymnasium. One aspect of this temporary campus that was different from a traditional campus was the housing. Dormitories were converted from barracks and instead of the typical two to four students per room, twenty students were assigned to a single large room. These noisy and unfavorable conditions made it difficult for the students to enjoy any privacy.

The library on campus had trouble acquiring a considerable budget in its first year. A letter written by the Librarian R. Malcolm Stills stated that the library budget had been neglected for weeks. “Does the budget for books,” Stills asked, “have to be bulked with footballs, crepe paper and cleaning powders? […] Books are its tools, and the Library is still the heart of any worthwhile educational institution.” The library soon acquired a sufficient budget although it was considerably smaller than that of comparable libraries. Statistics show that other institutions across the state had on average 62 books per student while Fort Devens had only seven.

In April of 1949, Fort Devens finished its service as a temporary college campus. Of the students in attendance, forty percent were reassigned to UMass Amherst, 18.3 percent transferred to other colleges, and 8.6 percent left Fort Devens with no report of their activity available. Fort Devens later served as a reception center for the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and despite efforts to keep it open, Devens closed in 1995.

Creator

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Source

UMass Special Collections and University Archives

Publisher

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Date

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Contributor

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Rights

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Relation

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Format

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Language

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Type

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Identifier

RG150-0004298, RG150-0004299, RG150-0004306, RG150-0004305

Coverage

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Original Format

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Physical Dimensions

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Files

RG150-0004298.png
RG150-0004299.png
RG150-0004306.png
RG150-0004305.png
Date Added
December 1, 2012
Item Type
Still Image
Citation
“Fort Devens,” Lost UMass, accessed May 29, 2017, http://lostumass.omeka.net/items/show/64.