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Vetville [Sheep Sheds II]

aerial shot of vetville.jpg

Opened: 1945
Closed: 1958

The establishment of the GI Bill had an important impact on both the student population and the buildings on campus. With the rapidly increasing numbers of veterans attending Central and other schools around the state and nation, administrators looked for inexpensive housing units that could be easily constructed. An additional issue involved married veterans, who represented the first large group of students with families on campus. With this in mind, large trailers began arriving on Central's campus in 1945. Designed as temporary housing for married veterans, a total of 12 trailers were installed on the property cornered by Bellows and Washington (north of present-day Wightman Hall and on the site of the present-day northwest quad). Moline Construction of Clare was awarded the contract for the construction of the trailer units. Perhaps the most memorable part of living in this temporary housing was the condition of the roads and walkways between the trailers. As one GI put it in a CM Life interview, "the only complaint I have so far is that the GI Bill should include row boats or water wings—just try and get out of those trailers!"

In June of 1946, the temporary trailers were replaced by more solid, albeit still temporary, facilities.  With the help of the Federal Public Housing Authority, nine 32-man dormitories were installed to house single veterans. The Quonset hut-style buildings, each 20 feet by 100 feet, were made of metal and shipped from Marion, Ohio. These buildings were placed on the west side of Washington north of Hopkins Avenue, with the ends of the buildings facing Washington. In addition to the dormitories, 26 two-family apartment buildings were built on the site. With room for up to 52 married veterans and their families, each unit consisted of a living room, kitchenette, two bedrooms and a bath, as well as appliances for heating, cooking, and refrigeration. The family units were installed to the west of Douglas Street between Hopkins and Bellows. Moline Construction of Clare prepared the ground for the project, and Spence Brothers Company of Saginaw installed the buildings during this second phase.

Vetville, as the area of temporary housing came to be known, continued to grow throughout the late 1940s. In summer 1946, Central officials requested the use an empty lot north of the existing housing, which was owned by a Mr. Dunbar. Several private trailers appeared on the lot, and by the time school started in the fall of 1946, 16 private trailers were parked on what came to be known as Dunbar Court. Residents of these trailers, which included at least one family with small children, were given access to the utilities at Vetville by Norvall Bovee. Students living in Vetville also grew as a community. The complex established a council and a constitution a year after it was built. Advertisements in CM Life pointed residents to the Allan-Lockman Grocery in Trailer no. 29, "set up to proved shopping at minimum prices," and GI Joes Famous Sandwiches on the northeast corner of Vetville. In March 1947, 100 Vetville residents (out of 144 total) attended a potluck dinner in the basement of the Methodist church, which featured a game of human bingo and entertainment by Johnny Ryder and his Masters of Corn and Boogie.

married student apartments.jpgThough Vetville thrived in the early postwar era, by the 1950s, the overwhelming influx of veterans and their families had begun to slow. In summer 1952, school officials announced the erection of a new playground on the site of Dunbar Court. The 10 remaining trailers were sold due to a lack of demand and the age of the trailers themselves. The playground would both improve the appearance of the grounds and provide a space for children living nearby. The barracks that had housed single veterans were sold and removed from their location in preparation for construction of what would become Robinson Hall, a new men's dormitory.

The apartments designed as married housing, which came to be called Centralville or Hopkins Court, continued to serve as housing for married students. They had a council and they converted one of the barracks into the headquarters for the council, removing partitions, painting the interior, and draping colorful plastic drapes by the windows. By the beginning of 1953, it was the only barrack left out of the original nine, and it had by this point been converted into a nursery for the children of Centralville residents. 

With the opening of the apartments in Preston Court, students living in Centralville moved into new homes and the need for married student housing appeared to be subsiding. In 1957, the school announced plans for an extension to the existing dormitory on the site and the consequent removal of the reaming sections of the Vetville, including the married student housing project. The College kept some of the remaining 53 buildings on the site for use as storage. These became known as the "sheepsheds" and remained a fixture on campus for years; one served as the home of the Motor Pool until the mid-1980s. Other buildings were sold to local buyers, and the College advertised them as cottages, garages, hunting cabins, and tool sheds in an effort to sell them. The College sold one building to the Mt. Pleasant Zonta Club to be used in a school, and another was given to the city to be used as an animal shelter. All of the buildings were either gone or being used for an alternative purpose within a year. By July 1958, Calkins Hall and Trout Hall were under construction on the site of the Centralville married housing.