History of Man Camps – The Evolution of Workforce Housing

Biloxi - Early Man Camp

In the early 1880s, Biloxi’s population was approximately 1,500; however, by 1890, it had jumped to about 3,000. With the expanded coastal railroad service and the introduction of ice for refrigeration, the expanding seafood industry doubled the population of the city since the seafood factories needed more workers to process the plentiful catches of shrimp and oysters.

Factory owners built rows of shotgun clapboard houses, collectively referred to as camps, to lodge seasonal workers. Shown here is one of the labor camps for workers at Peerless Oyster Company in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

Portable Cabins - Man Camp History

In 1901, portable cabins used to house loggers and their families in the backcountry camps were known as “setoff houses.” They were built in the company shops in Townsend, transported on flatcars and “setoff” along the tracks. They were often set together in rows known as “stringtowns,” sometimes perilously hung on hillsides. Larger families might have several adjoining units, so these were early mobile homes, even modular homes.

Anchorage - Alaska Man Camp

In 1915, word spread around Alaska that the commission would be hiring workers at a camp at the mouth of Ship Creek. Several hundred people set up tents at the site. The Alaska Engineering Commission surveyed a town-site and held an auction to sell lots. The camp was renamed Anchorage. A few years later, the Alaska Engineering Commission moved its administrative headquarters from Seward to Anchorage. This move gave the new community a stable economic base. Because the Alaska Engineering Commission contracted with independent firms to build and maintain sections of the railroad, many contractors moved to Anchorage. The contractors needed laborers, and this encouraged more people to locate at Anchorage.

Great Depression - History of Man Camps

After the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression, an avalanche of unemployed poured in for a limited number of Hoover Dam construction jobs. The infamous community of “Ragtown” on the floor of Black Canyon next to the Colorado River was born. The makeshift shantytown consisted of tents, cardboard boxes, tin scraps and anything else that could serve as shelter against the scalding heat of summer and freezing nights of winter. Ragtown swelled to 1400 people and ballooned to 5,000 men, women and children.

Quonset Man Camp Buildings

This picture shows the Quonset-style temporary housing used for Bay Pines VA Healthcare System Personnel between World War II and the construction of the replacement hospital in 1983. Quonset-type buildings were also used for the library, engineering, a chapel, and other administrative offices.

1941 – 1980s
Modern Lone Tree Man Camp

Modern architecture brings luxury to spacious temporary housing. Lone Tree USA facilities resemble 5 star resorts, as every thought to service has been meticulously covered. Modern day miners enjoy customized gourmet meal plans, flat screen t.v.’s, golf simulators, and billiards all housed within a secured complex.