WWII POW Camp Douglas on NRHP
A World War II prisoner of war (POW) camp near Douglas has been the focus of several previous “Postcards.” This week, we conclude the series with a salute to those dedicated folks who helped preserve a part of “Camp Douglas” and our state heritage.
According to an article discovered on the internet, “The listing in 2001 of the former Officer’s Club of the Douglas POW Camp on the National Register of Historic Places is a tribute to those dedicated to its preservation today and to the thousands from the past who made a wartime home at the camp.”
As reported in previous “Postcards,”the camp was home to as many as 3,000 Italian and German prisoners from 1942 until 1946.
In 1946, the deserted Douglas camp became the property of the War Assets Administration, a federal agency established to dispose of surplus property and provide lumber and other materials for temporary government-approved housing programs.
Federal agencies and local governments were given first priority to acquire surplus buildings before they were scrapped. Converse County purchased the camp hospital; the Community Country Club acquired the Officer’s Club; School District 17 acquired fifteen buildings and 163 acres for an experimental farm, which operated until 1969; and a contractor dismantled 137 buildings. Other buildings purchased by a lumber company were still standing south of the Officer’s Club in the 1980s.
The remaining Officer’s Club, constructed in 1943, is a one-story rectangular building measuring 37 feet wide and 132 feet long. The utilitarian, wood-framed building rests on a partial concrete pad and concrete footers. It consists of a kitchen, pantry, furnace room, two bathrooms, hall closet, small game room, large clubroom, three small rooms for storage and an adjoining porch.
By the 1980s, the site of the former POW camp had become unrecognizable. Interstate 25 cut through the camp, and businesses, housing subdivisions, two large mobile home parks and a new school building covered many of the 687 acres that once made up the Douglas camp.
Only a few local people fought to keep the history of the camp from fading forever.
Among those few were members of the Douglas Lodge #15 Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF). The Odd Fellows purchased the Officer’s Club from the Douglas Junior Chamber of Commerce in 1963 for $5,000. Over the years, the local IOOF lodge has maintained the building and taken pains to protect the unique murals.
Thanks to the efforts the Douglas Historic Preservation Commission and those dedicated IOOF members, a portion of the historic World War II prisoner of war compound near Douglas remains today and is open to the public.
Additional photographs and information concerning Camp Douglas may be found by Goggling “World War II POW camp, Douglas.”