Air Force Base Buildings

This page is from a heritage partnered project. It was written in 1998 by students from Stephenville Integrated High School and edited by their teachers. It has not been vetted by the heritage website's academic editor.

Before 1941, Stephenville was a small quiet village with approximately 500 residents. This was soon to change. The United States Air Force decided that Stephenville would be a vital refueling stop for aircraft en route to Europe.

In 1941-42 the community of Stephenville was transformed into a boom-town when, almost overnight the population increased to over 7,000 people, most of whom were engaged in the construction of the air base.

Years later the American Air Force had come and gone. However, an extensive network of buildings was left behind. Today, the town of Stephenville continues to use some of these buildings for major recreational, commercial and housing operations.

Living Quarters

Over 4,000 soldiers were stationed on the Stephenville base and each year approximately 132,000 military personnel passed through the Harmon Base.

At a cost of two million dollars each, the two Harmon Hilton dormitories were built in the centre of the base, both reaching seven stories high.

The Harmon Hilton dormitories became the Stephenville Manor and the College of the North Atlantic headquarters and residence.

Stephenville Manor
Stephenville Manor
Stephenville Manor with The College of the North Atlantic in the background

C. Pelley Photo

All of the Harmon duplexes and apartments on Stephenville's "base", as it remains known today, were built for officers with families. Various buildings were built to house the other civilians. Some of these buildings were: Building 501, all female nurses; building 502, coed teachers and officers; building 503, male teachers and officers; and building 505, families.

Stephenville Duplex
This was a typical duplex built for officers with families. Such buildings were later owned with pride by Stephenville families.

C. Pelley Photo

The numbers were eventually removed from the buildings. Some of these buildings became known as the Warmbrook Apartments, Russell's Apartments and Jack and Jill Nursery School. The Hotel DeGinque, later called the Stephenville Hotel and then the Acadian Hotel, was used as a dormitory for transient officers and visiting dignitaries.

Church and Commercial Buildings

Among the living quarters there was a basic department store constructed to meet many everyday needs of the civilians. It was called the " BX store", and later became Harmon Mall. A common day grocery store called the Base Commissary was constructed. Later it became the Stephenville Co-op store.

Also, a large chapel was constructed called the Base Chapel. It accommodated up to 1500 worshippers of a wide variety of religions and faiths. Today the old Base Chapel is the Zion Pentecostal Church .

Zion Pentecostal Church
Zion Pentecostal Church originally constructed as the Base Chapel

C. Pelley Photo

Throughout the duration of the Harmon Air Force base, a wide variety of recreational facilities and clubs were constructed. This was important in playing a role in the entertainment and relaxation of the US Military and Newfoundland civilians. A lounge was set up for all those who lived and worked on the base called the Caribou Club. Liquor and entertainment were provided at reasonable prices. There were over 1,000 members. This became the Caribou Curling Club, a building which provided a curling rink and a lounge area where many Stephenville residents enjoyed banquets, socials and annual curling spiels. In 1948, an Airmen's club was founded, followed by an Officer's club in 1950. These clubs were much the same as the Caribou Club, but for specialized personnel only. The Officer's club is now Stephenville's Royal Canadian Legion. The Airmen's Club, became Razoolies, a popular night club in the Bay St. George area.

In 1960 the Harmon Theater was built, with a seating capacity of over six hundred. It had a large screen for movies and a stage for live performances.

The Harmon Theatre
A popular spot for the hottest box office hits

C. Pelley Photo

The fitness of civilians was also important. Therefore, many outdoor fields were cleared and developed. Team sports became a popular summer activity.

In 1956 a huge gymnasium was erected called the Base Gym. It had a seating capacity of 500 and included four wall courts and two squash courts. Today, the Base Gym is used for various sports such as basketball, badminton, Tae Kwon Do, weight training and squash. The gym was the venue used for the Judo competitions during the 1999 Canada Winter Games.

The Base Gym
Presently in use as a community sports and recreation centre

C. Pelley Photo

When the Harmon Base closed in December 1966, its real estate holdings were worth one hundred and seventy-nine million dollars. All of the buildings were turned over to the federal government.

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