History of Camp Kilmer

The Headquarters Makerspace is housed on the second floor of what once was the Post Command Headquarters of Camp Kilmer, one of the largest military camps of World War II.  Toward the end of 1941, with the threat of war imminent, the War Department chose a site between Edison and Piscataway, New Jersey as a staging area for troops. They named the camp for the local poet Joyce Kilmer, who enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War I and was killed in action. Construction began at Camp Kilmer in January 1942 and over 11,000 workers completed the massive facility in just six months.

An image of the Headquarters building at Camp KilmerThe facility covered 1,500 acres and consisted of 1,120 buildings, including rows of wooden barracks, seven chapels, five theaters, nine post exchanges, a gym, three libraries, four telephone centers, a post office, a 1,000-bed hospital, 28 miles of roadway, and about 11 railheads that fed into the main line.   The buildings were constructed of wood and were painted bright contrasting colors for a camouflage effect. This was similar to the Dazzle camouflage used for ships in World War I.  The camp headquarters still retains its yellow color.

Troops were quartered at Camp Kilmer in preparation for transport to Europe.   Camp Kilmer operated more like a small city than a typical army facility, and servicemen enjoyed all types of entertainments and activities. The Camp had its own baseball and football teams and hosted exhibition games with professional clubs from New York. There were 20 softball diamonds, 30 volleyball courts, and 160 horseshoe courts available for recreation. The Camp had their own band and orchestra, and there were also dances and movies.

USO-Camp Shows put on productions of plays at Camp Kilmer, and the troops had visits from professional athletes and top Hollywood stars. New York Yankee star Joe DiMaggio and comedian Red Skelton, both serving with the Army, were temporarily assigned to the Camp. DiMaggio autographed baseballs for wounded soldiers and gave hitting and fielding lessons, while Skelton made unannounced visits to the hospital for his version of "laugh therapy."

An image of the inside of the old officers club.Eventually, Camp Kilmer became the largest processing center for troops heading overseas and returning from World War II, processing over 2.5 million soldiers.   Camp Kilmer occupied one of the most essential processing and administrative posts in the United States during the war. At Camp Kilmer troops sent personal effects home, received medical injections and the supplies needed before loading onto transport ships for travel to the European Theater of Operations.  Brigadier General Ralph W. Zwicker was the commanding officer.

The camp remained active until the fall of 1949 when it was no longer needed. In the fall of 1950, with hostilities in Korea, the camp was reactivated. It was placed on inactive status again in June 1955.  In 1958, Camp Kilmer became Headquarters for the U.S. Army II Corps, the controlling headquarters for United States Army Reserve units across the northeast. Camp Kilmer also housed a maintenance and repair facility supporting the Nike/Hercules missile sites in the greater New York metropolitan area. This facility included large, armored rooms with heavy blast doors where missile engines and conventional warheads were stored and maintained. It officially closed in 2009.

In 1963, most of the 1600 acres was auctioned and sold to local governments, and Rutgers University.   The Livingston College campus currently sits on 540-acres acquired by Rutgers in 1964.

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What are Makerspaces?

Makerspaces (also known as Hackerspaces, Creative Spaces, Fab Labs, Makelabs and in California - Makerhoods), according to Wikipedia,  are open community labs where members with common interests (e.g., engineering, computer programming, inventing, graphic design, etc.) gather to share resources, knowledge, career networking and build new devices.  Generally, makerspaces are designed to meet the following needs:

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