Monday, April 3, 2017

Irwin & Leighton Contractors for Camp Dix & Lakehurst

Irwin Leighton

The United States Army Cantonment at Camp Dix

The Camp Dix project, although one of Irwin & Leighton’s earliest, stands even today as one of its most meaningful because of the significance and importance of the project to the World War I effort, and the speed in which it was built.

Irwin & Leighton was chosen to build the Cantonment at Camp Dix when the site’s installment began in 1917. The initial project was required to be completed under a very aggressive time schedule to meet the impending demands of World War I. To do this, Irwin and Leighton directly employed and/or coordinated the efforts of hundreds of workers who, in accordance with the custom of the day, arrived at work in shirt and tie, changed into work clothes and changed again to go home.

Irwin & Leighton established an onsite Employment Office where seventeen clerks screened applicants who arrived by train and motorcar. A fleet of autos was required to make the weekly commutes to the Philadelphia National Bank for the worker’s payroll.

The project was started in July 1917, in farm fields. The scope involved ten sections of multiple barracks and support building as well as an extensive infrastructure work.

In less than sixty days, the entire project was substantially complete. In that time, Irwin & Leighton used forty million board feet of lumber, which was brought to the site by rail and erected in production fashion. When the company hit stride, it was completing one barrack per day. Irwin & Leighton’s onsite superintendent was E. M. Campbell.

The company further organized the project with “Heads of Departments” for survey, concrete, carpentry, sheet metal, plumbing, electrical, road construction, water and sewers, a pumping station, etc.

The 31,000 acre complex is located inside the Pineland National Reserve in Central New Jersey, and was named for Major General John Adams Dix, a veteran of the War of 1812 and the Civiil War.
Used as a staging ground and training area for units during World War I, it was made a permanent Army post in 1939 and was renamed Fort Dix.

In 1921, the Navy established Lakehurst Naval Air Station to serve as its headquarters for lighter-than-air flight after the pioneering use of zeppelins by the German forces in World War I.

In order to house large helium-filled dirigibles, the Navy hired Irwin & Leighton to build Lakehurst’s Hanger No. 1, a massive structure measuring 961 feet long, 350 feet wide and 200 feet high. The great spans and clear height were achieved through state-of-the-art design. Inside it, Naval engineers assembled the first American-built airship, the Shenandoah.

Lakehurst was also the location of the now-infamous Hindenburg disaster. The crash of the Hindenburg dirigible on May 6, 1937 over Lakehurst was the 20th century’s first transportation disaster widely captured by newsreel, audio recordings and still photos.

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