GERBER VILLAGE

Dates of Construction: 1930-1939

Housed: Non-commissioned officers (NCO)

# of Units: 80 total; 68 single-family houses and 6 duplexes

Unit Type: Single-family (2 plan options) and duplex

Architectural Style: Colonial Revival

Designer: Quartermaster General

Contractors:   E.C. Derby, Fayetteville, N.C. (first 23 homes); Allen J. Saville Company, Inc., Richmond, Va. (35 homes); Minter Homes Corporation; Huntington, W.Va. (4 Warrant Officers Quarters); E & EJ Pfotzer, Philadelphia, Pa. (6 duplexes)

Named to Memorialize: Sgt. Maj. Frederick W. Gerber


Constructed in the 1930s, Gerber Village consists of both single-family and duplex units. Built from standardized plans, this village reflects the military's approach to unified architecture and construction. Although the layout of the village incorporates elements from civilian designs, it also illustrates the military hierarchy, commonly incorporated into post planning at that time.

Location

Gerber Village is located on South Post within the National Register-eligible Fort Belvoir Historic District. The housing neighborhood is sited southwest of the Long Parade Ground.

Most of the single-family homes are located between Gunston Road and Middleton Road and 16th Street and 21st Street. The Gerber Village duplexes are located to the western side of Middleton Road, between 21st Street and 23rd Street.

Architectural Description

Gerber Village consists of 68 single-family homes and six duplexes built during the 1930s as non-commissioned officers' (NCO) quarters. The village provides housing for a total of 80 officers and their families.

The village was developed in phases. The single-family homes were constructed in three separate building campaigns, followed by the construction of the duplexes. The first phase of construction involved 23 single-family NCO quarters, completed June 1930, about one month behind schedule. The second phase of construction involved an additional 35 single-family NCO quarters, completed May 7, 1931. Extensive records are available for these phases of construction.
1

The remaining four single-family homes were completed in July 1934. Constructed as warrant officers' quarters, these buildings are located on the south side of 23rd Street.

The houses and duplexes of Gerber Village were constructed from standardized plans completed by the Office of the Quartermaster General. The plan type, designated as NCO-11, was also known as the Camp Humphreys [Fort Belvoir] Type. This plan type was a popular choice for family housing at several installations and is considered one of the most prevalent housing designs on military installations throughout the United States. 2

Resembling Cape Cod cottages, the single-family homes are one-and-one-half story, three-bay, side-gabled, Colonial Revival buildings. Constructed from common bond brick, the buildings feature wood trim and slate roofs. Two gabled dormers surmount the roof, and the accentuated entrances include six-panel doors topped by four-light transoms.

There are two basic plan types for the houses in Gerber Village. The primary difference between the two is the inclusion of a half basement. Where applicable, the basement area houses laundry facilities and the building’s mechanical systems. In the homes constructed without a basement, these functions are incorporated into the first floor.

Apart from this modification, the first floor consists of a living room, kitchen, dining room, two bedrooms, and a full bathroom. An additional two bedrooms and full bath are located on the second floor, often referred to in the plans as the "attic space." Two different entrance options were used interchangeably between the two plans, one featuring pilasters and a pediment and the other a vaulted portico with decorative lattice screening.

There have been some alterations since initial construction. The original wood siding has been covered (or replaced) with vinyl siding, gable-end louvers have been replaced with larger openings, and many of the houses are missing the decorative lattice screening. The majority of the original casement windows, initially located on the sun porches, have been replaced with double-hung windows, altering the buildings’ original character.

Construction of the six duplex NCO quarters began in 1938, and the buildings were officially completed July 13, 1939. The approximate cost of the project was $48,526.20.3 The duplexes were constructed according to standardized plans completed by the Office of the Quartermaster General. The duplex plan was officially designated as NCO-9 (the Fort Monmouth Type), a style used at over 25 other military installations. The contract specified that the basement concrete work be preformed by Work Progress Administration (WPA) labor with Public Works Administration (PWA) supervision and materials.

The six duplexes provide housing for 12 families. Each building consisted of two stories and a basement. The brick-constructs buildings featured wood trim and slate roofs. In addition to a living room, kitchen, and dining room, the first floor of each residence includes a sunroom. The sunrooms formed one-story appendages on either side of the two-story center. Each side of the duplex also included three bedrooms and a full bath on the second floor.

The central entrance porch, which is shared by both residences, is a dominant architectural feature of the façade. Two different entrance options were used, one featuring a curved standing-seam metal roof, arched windows with fanlight transoms, stone keys, and string courses aligned with the heads of the windows and doors. The other, simpler, rear entrance option includes a flat roof supported by columns.

Only minor alterations appear to have occurred to these buildings. Interior alterations include the combination of the kitchen and dining room spaces to form one large room.

Statement of Significance

The history of Gerber Village is the story of precedents. These innovations relate to the design of the housing as well as to the plan, landscape, and location of the village itself.

The Gerber Village neighborhood was the first new housing built on the installation, known then as Fort A.A. Humphreys, in almost a decade. The nearby Jadwin Loop, Snow Loop, and Park neighborhoods had been home to officers since the early 1920s, across the Long Parade Ground from Gerber Village. The plans for Gerber’s houses and duplexes were newly developed standardized plans designed in the 1930s and known, respectively, as NCO-11 and NCO-9. This urge to standardize military housing stemmed, in part, from a wave of new construction throughout the nation that began in the mid-1920s and was principally aimed at replacing "temporary" quarters dating from World War I or older.

Gerber Village reflected a clearly unified architectural program, despite its phased construction. The Colonial Revival style of architecture applied to Gerber’s brick duplexes and Cape Cod-style single-family dwellings was popular at the time, particularly along the East Coast and in the Southeast. The plans for Gerber Village featured the common-bond red brick, gabled slate roofs and wood decorative embellishments associated with the English-inspired architecture of our colonial period.

The sturdy, brick construction of the NCO-11 plan-type reflected multiple objectives embodied in Gerber Village. The use of brick implied a permanence and strength consistent with a permanent post, a designation that occurred in 1922. Before Gerber, the camp’s family housing was primarily wood-constructed. Brick, in addition to invoking a sense of stability and durability, was easier to maintain. The Army clearly favored the efficiencies and economies of standardization.


The plan of Gerber reflected other precedent-setting urges. The civilian informality of Gerber’s layout recalled the growing popularity of the Garden City Movement in Great Britain and the United States as seen, for example, in the much-publicized new town of Radburn, N.J., in 1929. Gerber was planned in conformance with a Jan. 1927 revised installation plan, its houses clustered along curvilinear, tree-lined streets that could have been in any town, city, or college campus in the United States at the time, not the rigid rows and right-angled grid of the classic military installation. Gerber’s alleys and back-yard garages provided for everyday necessities, conveniently located but out of sight. Gerber was sited on axis with the nearby Long Parade Ground, making the parade grounds a strong point of visual and physical reference and military connection without having the houses front directly on it.

Memorialization

Gerber Village was named to memorialize Sgt. Maj. Frederick W. Gerber, the first engineer soldier to receive the Medal of Honor.

Gerber was born in Dresden, Germany, in 1813. He immigrated to the United States during the 1830s and on Feb. 14, 1839, enlisted in the 4th U.S. Infantry. Gerber took his discharge in 1844, but reenlisted at the beginning of the Mexican War in 1846 as a member of Company A of the Engineers. Gerber is credited most notably with saving the life of (then Lt.) George B. McClellan, an officer in the Engineer Company who later became commander of the Army of the Potomac.

Frederick Gerber refused many offers for a commission, preferring instead to remain a non-commissioned officer in the Corps of Engineers. At the beginning of the Civil War, he was appointed acting sergeant major of the Engineer battalion. In June 1864, Congress created the permanent position of sergeant major of the battalion of Engineers, a title which was officially given to Gerber on Jan. 21, 1867, making him the top enlisted man in the Corps of Engineers.

Gerber became the first engineer soldier to receive the Medal of Honor, Nov. 8, 1871. His numerous heroic actions throughout his military career make the identification of one specific event or occasion impossible. The citation for his medal reads, "Distinguished gallantry in many actions and in recognition of long, faithful and meritorious services covering a period of 32 years." Sgt. Maj. Gerber died at West Point on Nov. 10, 1875. 4


1 Records are included within the collections of the National Archives.
2 Bethanie C. Grashof. A Study of United States Army Family Housing Standardized Plans. 6 vols. (Atlanta, Ga.: Center for Architectural Conservation, College of Architecture, Georgia Institute of Technology), May 1986.
3National Archives at College Park, Maryland.   Records of the Office of the Chief of Engineers, 1789-1988, Record Group 77.
4 Belvoir Eagle. Aug. 7, 2003, pg. 16.
 




The "aesthetic" of Gerber Village: Derek Manning


1871
Sgt. Maj. Gerber became the first engineer soldier to receive the Medal of Honor

1919
Relocation of the Engineer School from Washington Barracks, D.C., to Camp A.A. Humphreys [Fort Belvoir]

1922
Post authorized permanent status and re-designated Fort Humphreys

1927
Revised base plan adopted for Fort Belvoir

1930
23 of the NCO quarters completed, June

1931
35 of the single family NCO quarters completed

1934
Four Warrant Officers quarters completed, July. Two NCO quarters completed

1935
Fort Humphreys renamed Fort Belvoir

1939
Six duplexes, housing NCO senior officers, completed


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