Monday, June 27, 2016

William Anthony Ternes and the Quonset Hut

Marian Ruth (Ternes) Muir was the wife of my first cousin twice removed. Her brother, William Anthony Ternes was a successful business man who founded Ternes Steel Co. in 1946, which merged with Evan Products in 1969. According to his family, he also designed the Quonset hut, of which up to 170,000 were produced during World War II.

William A. Ternes Obituary as published in the Detroit Free Press; courtesy
William A. Ternes obituary as published in the
Detroit Free Press; courtesy of

When the 1940 census was enumerated, William A. Ternes was in Yavapai County, Arizona, at Shadow Croft Court, an auto court, or motel, operated by Herman and Gertrude Dickman. His occupation was listed as salesman for a steel company. Also listed at the motel were several other salesmen.

So it is entirely possible that he worked for Strand Steel Co., as his brother said in his obituary. The company was located in Quonset Point, Rhode Island. The U.S. Navy contracted with the George A. Fuller Construction Co. in 1941 to build an all-purpose, lightweight building that could be shipped anywhere in the world and assembled without skilled labor.

Quonset hut being assembled in post-war Japan; courtesy Wikipedia

Perhaps the Fuller Construction Co. contracted with Strand Steel Co. to design the building. The original design was a 16-foot by 36-foot structure framed with steel members with an 8-foot radius. The sides were corrugated steel sheets. The two ends were covered with plywood, which had doors and windows. The interior was insulated and had pressed wood lining and a wood floor. The building could be placed on concrete, on pilings, or directly on the ground with a wood floor.

The most common design created a standard size of 20 feet by 48 feet with a 10-foot radius, allowing 720 square feet of usable floor space, with optional four-foot overhangs at each end for protection of the entrances from the weather. Several other sizes were developed. The flexible interior space was open, allowing for use as barracks, latrines, offices, medical and dental offices, isolation wards, housing, and bakeries. Eventually several different companies produced the quonset hut.

William Anthony Ternes was born on 2 July 1912 in Michigan to William Peter Ternes and Elsie Agnes Gerstner. He married Madlyn Erminie Maiullo on 1 October 1838 in Detroit. He was a successful and respected Detroit businessman. He died on 26 February 1982 at Bon Secour Hospital in Gross Pointe following a long illness. He was interred at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Detroit.

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