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Fort Knox architecture pays tribute to a centennial of military history

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Unique architectural examples abound all around Fort Knox for those up for a hunt. These buildings stand as markers to history: a history that reflects the changes that come from necessity and progress.

Many of these sites can be found on the post’s Historic Trail Driving map, which is available at the Visitor Center. Twenty-one spots dot the map and include the more obvious sites like the Main Post Chapel, Alamo building, Fire Station No. 1, Landing Ship Tank building and Stithton Traffic Circle. However, there are other locations and sites, other buildings and architectural designs that are not on the map – lesser known, but equally relevant.

Sites like the two three-story brick buildings along 6th Avenue that border Brooks Field – buildings 1109 and 1110.

“How many people realize those were the cavalry barracks? They were built for the cavalry when they came here in the ‘30s,” said Matthew Rector, the historic preservation specialist at the Cultural Resources Office.

The barracks were open bays to house large numbers of troops, according to Rector. The larger of the two, Bldg. 1109 housed about 500 troops; Bldg. 1110 housed about 250. Currently, they are used as office space for a wide array of post organizations.

The brick buildings weren’t always a prominent part of the Fort Knox landscape, said Rector. When When Camp Knox was established in 1918, farm architecture in the agricultural town of Stithton dotted the landscape. After the War Department purchased the land, the Army took advantage of the turn-of-the-century wood-frame structures, converting them office buildings and officers’ quarters. Most, if not all of those structures have since disappeared.

Some of the wooden structures were replaced with brick structures in two phases, starting in the early 1930s. With changing missions driving the need for a large growth in personnel, brick buildings began to spring up all over post while other buildings were adapted for new uses – uses that continue to change.

“I find the adaptive reuse idea really fascinating – what you can do with buildings to change their original function and giving them new life,” said Rector.

Many buildings fit this adaptive reuse mold. The Landing Ship Tank building on Eisenhower Avenue started out as a training facility for the Navy until it was no longer needed; then, engineers converted it into classrooms. The Dental Activity headquarters at Bldg. 1022 started out as an extreme weather training facility. The Henry House, across the street from U.S. Army Garrison headquarters, started out as Quarters 1 for the post commanding general before becoming guest quarters for distinguished guests. Garrison headquarters was once the post headquarters, and present-day U.S. Army Cadet Command headquarters was once the installation’s hospital.

Other buildings generally have maintained their original intent. The Main Post Chapel, considered the oldest building at Fort Knox, was built as a church for the town of Stithton before the government bought the land. Though some changes were made, it remains a place of worship today. Another example is the waterworks building.

From a distance, the concrete waterworks building seems dull; however, according to Rector, it features many unique design elements.

“That’s an example of our art deco architecture that was completed here in the late ‘30s. That concrete building was actually recognized in a popular concrete magazine during the time period,” said Rector. “A lot of people look over there and think, ‘What is that big eyesore?’ It was the original water treatment plant but if a person were to come over here and just stare at it a minute, what they’ll see is an architectural design that mimics a waterfall.

“A lot of clever thoughtfulness was put into the design of that building,” Rector said.

Behind Fire Station No. 1, and behind fencing, sits Heard Motor Park, once home to tanks and featured in at least two movies. Includ- ed in the motor park are a series of other buildings sprawled across the area that all belonged to armored maintenance, some behind fencing and some not.

At the edge of the old fenced-in buildings sits two nondescript, unassuming brick buildings next to Binter Pharmacy that hide a secret; a secret which Rector recently uncovered.

One day, Bob Walker, a friend who works as a realty clerk at the Directorate of Public Works, asked Rector how old he thought the buildings were. Rector laughed and said the answer was easy. He had spent the first 10 years of his career working in one of them – Bldg. 112.

“1933; it’s on the building,’” Rector said. “He told me I was wrong. They added on another section and bricked it then, but the frame of the building was actually erected in 1918.

When they say the Alamo building is the oldest [military building] built at Fort Knox, that’s kind of so, but kind of not,” Rector concluded. “That technically makes them the oldest buildings built at Camp Knox.”

Editor’s Note: The His- toric Trail Driving Map is currently not available at the Visitor Center, but a new shipment is expected to arrive by the first week in July. n