Saturday, March 12, 2011

Recycled prison camp housing at Tule Lake

There's a lot to say (a large share of a book, I hope) about the local legacy of the Tule Lake wartime internment site in the far northeast corner of California.

In the later 1940s, after the Tule Lake camp freed the last of 18,000 Japanese American civilians who had been unjustly detained there, local people found uses for the two square miles' worth of barracks left behind.

These are two photos I took in 2006 of houses made out of original camp barracks.

The abandoned house is on farmland a few miles northwest of the original camp site, very near the California-Oregon state line. It's a classic example of the L-shaped houses that local homesteaders often made from barracks that had been sawn in half for moving. This would originally have been a single long building where five or six internee families had to live. I don't know which local farm family bought and moved this particular barrack to this site, but clearly it was left behind when farming became a more consolidated, larger-scale line of work in the later 20th century.

The alley where you can see several houses is right in the original camp site, now the town of Newell, California. The houses are sections of barracks that have been recombined and plastered and sheetrocked and plumbed into modern-day houses, still standing on more or less their original sites.

I think that people sometimes try to live solely in the present day in the town of Newell, California, but I don't think it's exactly easy.

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