History Made: Contractor Moves First Two World War II-era Barracks at Fort McCoy

Contractor JMJ Construction of New Lisbon, Wis., and Heritage Movers of Blue River, Wis., successfully moved the first two of four World War II-era barracks buildings from the 1600 block to the 1700 block on Feb. 24 and March 2.

“Two of the barracks are set in the 1700 block, one will be in the 1800 block, and another one will be in the 2800 block,” said Engineering Technician/Construction Inspector Timothy Peterson with the Fort McCoy Directorate of Public Works (DPW) Construction Inspection Branch. “They will be set in open lots among the rest of the barracks in the blocks. Eventually they will be brought back on-line and returned to use for units that come here for training.”

In moving the first barracks building, the contractors were doing something never done before on
Fort McCoy — they were moving an 81-year-old, 90-foot, two-story barracks building and moving it with a remote-controlled system on wheels down streets and through parking lots and over frozen lots.

Matt Childs with Heritage Movers guided the barracks on its course that took it directly in front of one of the newest four-story barracks buildings recently constructed on post. It was a moment of “old meets new” on this historical day.

To move the barracks building from its original location to its new location in the 1700 block, it only took the contractors a few hours to complete.

On March 2, with the practice of having moved the first barracks building on Feb. 24 the previous week, Childs and his team of fellow contractors went to work moving another building. And again, within hours, they had the second barracks rolled into place next to the first one in the 1700 block of the cantonment area.

All four of the buildings were originally built 81 years ago in 1942 during the construction of Fort McCoy’s cantonment area. An article in the Aug. 28, 1942, edition of The Real McCoy newspaper discussed the actual construction of the cantonment area and these buildings.

“Actual building and grading operations for the erection of the hundreds of buildings began March 20, 1942, although the original survey by a corps of engineers was made in July 1941. Authorization for construction was given by the War Department on Feb. 9, 1942.”

The article also states, “Each of the new buildings is of the most modern military design for comfort and welfare of the Soldiers. All are equipped with the latest of scientific appliances. The first Soldiers to move into the new area were the Camp McCoy Military Police. Hundreds of mechanics of every type and description were employed to grade and construct the hundreds of buildings, warehouses, recreation centers, chapels, and other necessary buildings. A few months ago, this new camp site was a countryside consisting of beautiful hills and valleys studded with scrub oak, jack pine, and wild grass. Today it is one of the finest military camps in the world.”

The old barracks are being moved to make way for more new construction in the 1600 block. The current new construction in the block is for a transient training brigade headquarters.

A contract, totaling $11,964,432.87, was awarded June 9, 2022, to L.S. Black Constructors to build the fiscal year 2022 Transient Training Brigade Headquarters project at Fort McCoy. Construction operations began in August 2022. Location of construction is just across the street from where the same contractor has been building two new transient training troop barracks buildings in the same block.

The 1600 block’s transformation began in summer 2019 where destruction of other buildings took place. Soon after, in 2020, construction on a new $20.6 million transient training troops barracks was underway. The barracks is four stories and is able to house 400 people in approximately 60,000 square feet. That barracks was completed in 2022.

And in 2021, also in the 1600 block, construction on a second $18.8 million barracks projection began near the first new barracks. That project is nearly complete as well, according to the Army Corps of Engineers Resident Office overseeing the project.. DPW Master Planner Brian Harrie said overall eight new buildings are planned for the entire 1600 block. The plan is to build four barracks buildings, the three 20,000-square-foot brigade headquarters buildings, and one 160-room officer quarters.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently designing two brick-and-mortar projects for fiscal year 2023, too, Harrie said. One is the third (of four) four-story barracks in the 1600 block and the other is the officers’ quarters. These are also based on the outcomes of the 1600 Block Transient Training Campus Plan. Award of both projects is also planned sometime possibly for fiscal year 2023.

The last two barracks buildings will be moved in the coming weeks, DPW officials said. And to recap the contract for the building movement, the contract amount to do the move is approximately $1.7 million.

DPW officials said the contract scope of work shows that in addition to moving the buildings to their new locations, the work includes building new concrete foundations, installing new furnaces, hot water heaters, and completing site work such as installing utilities and completing grading and sidewalks.

“The contract scope of work also includes repairs to anything damaged during transport,” said DPW Construction Inspection Branch Chief Dan Hanson. “The plan is to relocate the buildings to the new locations before the ground thaws, then lift them onto the new foundations and complete the remaining work by this summer.”

The old barracks were among more than 1,500 buildings constructed by more than 8,000 workers in 1942, which took nine months to complete at a cost of $30 million (approximately $545 million today). The triangular share of the cantonment area, or the “triad,” was designed to allow troop units to live and train efficiently under one headquarters.

Fort McCoy’s motto is to be the “Total Force Training Center.” Located in the heart of the upper Midwest, Fort McCoy is the only U.S. Army installation in Wisconsin.

The installation has provided support and facilities for the field and classroom training of more than 100,000 military personnel from all services nearly every year since 1984.

Learn more about Fort McCoy online at https://home.army.mil/mccoy, on the Defense Visual Information Distribution System at https://www.dvidshub.net/fmpao, on Facebook by searching “ftmccoy,” and on Twitter by searching “usagmccoy.” Also try downloading the Digital Garrison app to your smartphone and set “Fort McCoy” or another installation as your preferred base.

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