Why did the government choose Whitehall when it built the Defense Supply Center?

Why did the government choose Whitehall when it built the Defense Supply Center?

It wasn't so much Whitehall that was the attraction; it was easy access to the main lines of major railroads that got the federal government interested in the East Side site between Broad Street and the busy rail line to Pittsburgh. In April 1918, the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps bought nearly half a square mile of vacant land and by August had built six warehouses at what in later years came to be called the Defense Construction Supply Center, just one of the 14 names the place would eventually have. During World War I, the flood of material headed for Europe overwhelmed the railroads, so well-located storage facilities became important. Our fair city's central location between Midwestern industries and Eastern ports made the Columbus operation particularly helpful. Reduced in size and function after the war, the center nearly doubled in size when World War II started. It was known then as the Columbus Quartermaster Depot, although locals called it "the Government Depot" or simply "the Depot." It employed more than 10,000 people and even held some 400 German prisoners near war's end. During peacetime and up to the present, the Defense Supply Center Columbus has not only supplied the U.S. military; it also runs logistics for humanitarian relief efforts and still occupies nearly a square mile.

Jeff Darbee is a preservationist, historian and author in Columbus. Send your questions to cityquotient@columbusmonthly.com, and the answer might appear in a future column.