Arkansas Ordnance Plant Guard House
The Arkansas Ordnance Plant Guard House, now located in front of the Jacksonville Museum of Arkansas Military History at 100 Veterans Circle in Jacksonville (Pulaski County), is a small, square structure built in 1941 as part of the security system at the World War II ammunition plant in Jacksonville. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 20, 2006.
Even before the United States entered World War II following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the country was ramping up production of war materiel. The U.S. War Department announced on June 4, 1941, that Jacksonville had been selected as the site of a $33 million plant to produce detonators and fuses. After the land for the 6,895-acre plant was acquired through condemnations, construction began in the fall of 1941, and the first production line became active on March 4, 1942.
Ford, Bacon and Davis, Inc., of New York received the contract to design and build the plant, train vital personnel, and operate the ordnance works—and security was a key concern. The Arkansas Ordnance Plant (AOP) hired guards, all who would become sworn members of the Civilian Auxiliary Military Police, to patrol the sprawling plant in cars and on horseback, to man the guard towers, and to staff the sixty guard houses scattered throughout the facility. The guard house personnel ensured that anyone entering the AOP had security badges and were not carrying lighters, matches, or metal objects that could cause an explosion of the volatile materials at the plant.
While the dimensions of the guard houses varied, only the Arkansas Ordnance Plant Guard House measured 9′ x 9′ x 12′, making it possible to determine its original location. Records indicate that this building served the plant’s employment and administrative area and was likely located about 500 yards southeast of its present position in front of the museum.
The wood-frame Arkansas Ordnance Plant Guard House features two-over-two, double-hung windows on all four elevations, allowing its occupants to see out from every angle. It is sheathed in 1′ x 2′ asbestos shingles.
The AOP slowed production at the end of the war and was closed by 1946. Many of its buildings were sold and moved to other locations around Arkansas. The Arkansas Ordnance Plant Guard House was moved to a residence at 1112 McArthur Street in Jacksonville, where it remained until it was moved to the museum grounds on May 30, 2006. The building was badly deteriorated but was restored to its original appearance.
“The guard house is unique in that it has survived and is the only known extant guard house from the Arkansas Ordnance Plant,” according to the National Register nomination. “The guard house is significant as a lasting piece of history of the World War II home-front industries.…The guard house stands as a reminder of those production soldiers who manned the plants and helped assure that the servicemen fighting the war had the ammunition to defeat the enemies in World War II, 1941–1945.”
For additional information:
Jacksonville Museum of Arkansas Military History https://jaxmilitarymuseum.org/ (accessed May 6, 2022).
Kent, Carolyn Yancey. “Arkansas Ordnance Plant Guard House.” National Register of Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas.
Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
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