Hardlines develops Mid-Century Modern Guide for DoD

(by Andy Sewell, originally posted October 18, 2012)

Hardlines Design Company recently completed a comprehensive guide to Mid-Century Modern military buildings for the Department of Defense (DoD) under the Legacy Program.  The guide, cataloged as Legacy Program Project 11-448, will be of great assistance to military cultural resources managers who are faced with the growing problem of how to assess buildings constructed between 1950 and 1975, considered the height of the Mid-Centry Modern architectural style. Although the DoD re-used many buildings constructed during the World War II period during the initial years of the Cold War era,  modern installations and buildings were required for some of the different and new functions developed as part of the evolution of the U.S. military at the time.

Architectural Modernism is represented in many of these Cold War-era military properties. Architectural Modernism describes a number of related architectural movements and styles developed during the twentieth century, representing a break with past architectural styles and trends. Hardlines Design Company prepared the Mid-Century Modern Guide with the goal of providing information and guidance to cultural resources managers evaluating the National Register eligibility for military properties dating between 1950 and 1975 that were influenced by architectural Modernism. The guide specifically addresses issues and concerns associated with applying National Register Criterion C (the criterion for architectural and engineering significance) to buildings and structures constructed between 1950 and 1975 with a relationship to the Modern architectural movements.

In addition to Section 106 evaluations, Section 110 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 requires the DoD to evaluate properties for their eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places and to catalog all National Register-eligible properties. Typically in the past, federally-owned properties are first evaluated for National Register eligibility when they are at or close to fifty years of age. Currently, there are thousands of DoD properties dating back to the 1950s that have recently passed the fifty-year mark, and thousands more built in the 1960s and 1970s which are now at or close to that threshold.

Although the guide emphasizes the evaluation of individual buildings for National Register eligibility, information is included for addressing historic districts and landscapes related to the Mid-Century Modern context. During the period of significance for the context (1950–1975), the DoD erected new installations or added campus areas to existing installations. The guide cautions consultants and cultural resources managers to consider the possibility of historic district creation when evaluating groups of buildings associated with the Mid-Century Modern context. In addition to buildings, these districts may also include significant planning and landscape features, such as:deliberate building placement; locations and relationships of  walls, plazas, and roads; and landscape plantings, like ornamental trees and open lawns.

The guide presents a historic context outlining the growth of the Modernistic architectural influences in U.S. military architecture from its industrial origins during World War I through the Cold War and early 1970s. The document details the physical features and materials important in the different  mid-century Modernist architectural styles. In addition, a list of sources useful in researching the architectural significance of military buildings is provided. The application of the guide is illustrated through sample assessments for a number of buildings at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

The full document is available for download as a PDF at the following link (Note-the link will open up the report in a separate browser window, from which you can print or save a copy):


This project and subsequent report were funded by the DoD Legacy Resource Management Program in fiscal year 2011. Hardlines Design Company would most of all like to thank Air Force Materiel Command for supporting the 2011 DoD Legacy proposal for this project. In addition, we would like to thank the following people for their invaluable assistance, guidance, and expertise:

  • Mr. Paul Woodruff, cultural resources manager of the 88th Civil Engineer Directorate Environmental Quality Section at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB)
  • Mr. David Love of the 88th Air Base Wing Civil Engineering Office, WPAFB
  • Dr. Henry Narducci of the 88th Air Base Wing History Office, WPAFB
  • Mr. Erwin Roemer, RPA, cultural resources manager at Air Force Material Command
  • the staff of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Inc.
  • the staff of Cecilia Brothers