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The Housing Areas

 

The increasing Cold War confrontation between the Western states and the Warsaw Pact after the Soviet Berlin blockade indicated a substantial increase of U.S. Forces in Germany. As early as in January 1950, the U.S. prepared an Army program for the construction of Housing Areas for soldiers and their dependents – at first 275 dwelling units (DU), construction cost totaling DM 11.000.000 in Augsburg alone. Design guidelines for Standard USAREUR Buildings showed four different basic types IAW U.S. housing standards, 160 square meters (m2) living space per DU. “As built” sizes ranged from 70 to 135 m2 (a few officer quarters in Fryar Circle Housing Area). The Housing Areas were to be constructed between Augsburg’s district Kriegshaber and Stadtbergen. 

In October 1951, construction started with two multiplex buildings. At the same time, the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment was relocated from Augsburg to Bavaria’s northeast German-German frontier. As replacement, parts of the 43rd Infantry Division including their headquarters came to Augsburg, while the 109th Infantry Regiment of the 28th Infantry Division came to Gablingen (John M. Holman of this unit reports in letter #17 on his web site about the very first moving into Bldg 514, Centerville Housing Area, on January 9, 1953. His description is that of an almost unforgettable dream castle).

 

 

In 1952, per order of Military Post Augsburg, Corps of Engineers started the construction of the “North-South Road” connecting Reese Barracks and Sheridan Kaserne, resp. Vogesenstraße in Kriegshaber to Nestackerweg in Stadtbergen – now the route of Bundesstraße (B)17. The political importance of this construction project was pointed out by a vast amount of American, German and Augsburg flags as can be seen on above picture. 

In the years until 1955, Centerville, Cramerton and Sullivan Heights in Augsburg as well as, by 1957, Fryar Circle Housing Area on the perimeter of Leitershofen were constructed. The latter consisted of 46 single and duplex houses in a dense park, exclusively for highly ranking officers and DA Civilians plus two multiplexes, Cramerton was named after Kenneth F. Cramer, from October 1951 thru November 1952 commanding general of Augsburg’s 43rd Infantry Division. He passed away on February 20, 1954 due to a heart attack while hunting near Heidelberg. Sullivan Heights got its name by Captain Robert L. Sullivan who lived in Augsburg for barely a year and passed away in 1953. For the naming of Fryar Circle please see > Location Augsburg > Naming Real Property: Elmer E. Fryar

For a long time, all multiplex Housing Areas were wide, open space areas without any fences and planting. This was meeting U.S. living criteria as well as security requirements. That open grouping can still be observed by watching aerial pictures of American garrison cities in Germany, as long as the buildings have not been demolished by now. As early as in 1953, Wolfgang Pepper, then 2nd Mayor of Augsburg, criticized the austerity of these bare living quarters. Five years later, he expressively pleaded for a planting program in the U.S. Housing Areas. That was, however, not executed before the 1980s. 

The long 3-4-storey multiplex buildings were almost exclusively north/south, partially road oriented. U.S. typical were the POV parking structures right in front of the buildings and the direct access to the living/dining room of the apartments w/o a separate hall. The flat roofs of the multiplexes were contrary to the typical roofs of contemporary German design. Twenty years later, leaky membrane roofing required repetitive repair work and was – possible because of a more generous funding situation - replaced by hipped roofs, covered by roofing tiles or corrugated asbestos (and the first “asbestos-free” fiber) cement. 

Playgrounds, schools, chapels, PXs, Commissary, fast food restaurants and gas station(s) were added for support and supply of the inhabitants. A lot of additional infrastructure was located in the kasernes: U.S. Mail and German Bundespost Postal Offices, banking facilities, clubs, Recreation Centers, libraries, gymnasiums, sports fields, tennis courts, Bowling Center, covered BBQ areas (also in the Housing Areas), to name a few, and, last but not least, Dental Clinic and Hospital.

 

 

 

At the same time as the Housing Areas, Bürgermeister-Ackermann-Straße (B.-A.-Street) was constructed, which divided the U.S. facilities Centerville North / Reese Barracks on one side and Cramerton / Centerville South / Quartermaster Kaserne / Sullivan Heights on the other. For a safe crossing of B.-A.-Street with its ever increasing traffic, the City of Augsburg built the costly wooden pedestrian bridge opposite the Main PX (shown above) when the B 17 was constructed. 

The massive changes of city structures and quarters due to the U.S. military were not undisputed in Augsburg. The room sizes as well as the equipment of the apartments were often criticized considering the post war neediness of the German housing situation. The requirements of the occupation forces were thought to be unreasonable demanding – even after the confiscated German houses were returned step by step. From the view of then city planner Walter Schmidt, the U.S. development was alarming as it was in absolute contrast to Augsburg’s city planning customs and thus caused damage that was not amendable. As a matter of fact, the U.S. housing areas and kasernes represented an urban development barrier in Augsburg’s west. Later, this was, for some Augsburgers, a disliked element, for others the cherished “Little America” that shaped Augsburg for decades and was a source of economic welfare. Although the Americans mostly kept to themselves and German intrusion was not welcome, a social subculture, whose connections still exist, developed almost naturally. Thus, America in Augsburg is still alive, even when this is barely visible.

 

 

Construction quality included details that were unknown in Germany at that time. The safety of children was extremely important: windows within reach of children had (removable) aluminum guards, radiators in the kindergartens had flat protective covers and hot water faucets had thermostatic protection against scalding. Roll-up insect screens were U.S. standard. Outstanding were the luxurious furniture and the household effects, e.g. china, tablecloths and even silver flatware - all government furnished. Nothing was amiss. 

Heating and hot water for the numerous apartments were, at first, provided by Army heating plants that used U.S. coal, stored in Quartermaster Kaserne / Supply Center. Regular and heavy type fuel oil were also utilized. Due to energy saving requirements and environmental protection urges, obsolete heating plants were replaced by district heat, supplied by the Stadtwerke (City Works) Augsburg, who constructed a gas operated heating plant next to Quartermaster Kaserne. 

Finally, Augsburg’s Consolidated Plan of Government Quarters showed 93 multiplexes: Centerville 28, Cramerton 45, Sullivan Heights 18 and Fryar Circle 2. Including the above mentioned duplex and single houses in Fryar Circle, there was a total of 1836 DU in 1989 (according to official Government sources). When the occupants changed - approximately every two years - the apartments were renovated per Requirement Type Contracts IAW DA Standard Specifications for “Interior Painting”, “Sanding and Sealing of Parquet Flooring” and “Replacement of Kitchen Countertops” as necessary. Besides the Government Quarters, buildings with a total of 251 DU were leased on the Augsburg economy.

 

 

 

After base closure, the now unoccupied U.S. Army Housing Areas were redeveloped by several private companies in order to match German habits, however not always with pleasing results. Nevertheless, their character and planting was basically saved and the buildings were revaluated. It is a pity that the greater part of Centerville South was demolished – including the planting. American street names remind even nowadays that here “something must have been different” once.

 

 

Fryar Circle – finally an idyllic Housing Area with a generous arrangement of old trees. Here, U.S. officers were among themselves. After the construction of the new B 17 there even was no more public traffic. After a moderate clearing, building restoration and construction of some additional houses on the central lawn area, the original character has been basically kept so that there is now a new quarter for families with children. The photographs below show the area a short time after base closure. The architects of this Housing Area were Friedrich Gnam and Franz Throll.

 

 

Dependent Elementary School: In spring 1953, at the same time as the construction of Centerville South started, the construction of the vast complex of the Elementary School began. The design of architect Paul Gerne from Augsburg was typical for the building culture of the 50s: straight lines and no frills esthetics. This was IAW the character of the Housing Areas, matching the surrounding (then) flat roof buildings. The following photographs show the brand new school, then peerless among Augsburg’s schools.

 

Sources:

 

Historische Expertise zu den militärischen Konversionsflächen im Augsburger Westen (The Conversion of the Military Areas In Augsburg’s West, A Historical Expertise.) by City of Augsburg; Geschichtswerkstatt Augsburg e.V.

Engineer Design and Contract Philosophy (1976-1992) by Heinz Strüber

(Please see also > Location Augsburg > Construction at the U.S. Army: Facilities and Construction: 1976 - 1992 U.S. Army Maintenance and Minor Construction Projects in Augsburg)

 

Other documents.

 

Translation: Heinz Strüber, March 04, 2011

 

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