By Jessica Gorman
Construction of the Louisiana Ordnance Plant during World War II brought with it the need for employee housing. One solution was construction of a federal housing project, known as the Greentrees project in Doyline.
In May 1942, a 45 acre site was selected “near the south entrance of the Louisiana Ordnance Plant.” The project, funded by the Federal Public Housing administration, was to included 200 prefabricated housing units. Work on the project began in October. By December, the site had been prepared and the foundations for 15 houses were in place with the first of the houses set to arrive by the end of the month.
In January, claiming that the houses were unnecessary, the housing administration cancelled the project despite the fact that all the foundations were in place, one house had been completed, and nine more were “on the tracks in Doyline” awaiting installation. They argued that there were six dormitories available at the plant, that many houses were available in Minden and Shreveport, and tires and gasoline would be furnished to all commuting workers. In response, Senator Allen Ellender, Congressman Overton Brooks, and Rev. Ray Redburn of the Doyline Improvement Association met with federal housing officials in Washington to present evidence of the need for housing in Doyline and ask that they consider continuation of the project. “As a result of the minister’s visit, representatives of the federal housing administration visited Doyline to review the situation.” By the end of the month, it was decided that the project would resume but with a decrease in the number of units from 200 to 150.
Construction of the project continued. The housing authority began taking applications for tenants in May. The housing units included one-, two-, or three-bedroom options. Some were single-family units while others were duplexes. Each unit came equipped with a stove, refrigerator, water heater, and “complete bathrooms.” The rental rates were $22.50 for a one-bedroom unit, $25.00 for a two-bedroom unit, and $27.50 for a three-bedroom unit. Tenants were also able to apply for a space in the Victory Garden.
Completion of the project, at a cost of $624,000, was announced in July 1943. The housing units were “grouped into courts instead of blocks, each court being given a name…which have become important because of the war.” “Examples of the names are Attu, Bataan, Casa Blanca, Dakar, Guadalcanal, Holland, Expeditionary Courts, July 4th, Kiska, Leningrad, Stalingrad, Russia, Tunis, United Nations, Victory, Yorktown, Washington, and others.” The two main streets were named Bistineau Avenue and Dorcheat Avenue.
Fourteen years later, the Greentrees project was declared surplus property by the Department of Defense. The decision was made, that if no other federal agency had need of the property, it would be put up for auction. This auction was held in July 1958 at the Doyline High School auditorium. There were 800 people in attendance. The auditorium could only hold 500 forcing the remaining 300 to stand outside, some of them bidding through the windows. Bids were taken for individual structures as well as the entire property minus 11 acres and 8 buildings that had been transferred to the Webster Parish School Board. Troy Dutton, a Fort Worth home builder, placed the high bid of $137,000 for the entire project which included 96 buildings, land and facilities with plans to leave the homes in place for a subdivision.
(Jessica Gorman is the Assistant Director and Archivist for the Dorcheat Historical Association Museum in Minden and is an avid genealogist.)