By Harold Fuller
It was July 10, 1926, just eight days after Hawthorne was almost totally destroyed by a fire, that the large Naval Base at Lake Denmark, N.J. suffered a catastrophic explosion and fire in a heavily populated area that caused a severe loss of life and property. This facility was critical for the Navy’s mission toward protecting our country and therefore a site for its quick replacement was essential. A nation wide search was started, with the main. criteria being an area that had unlimited room for expansion, with a scarce population, was dry and arid for explosive storage and was close to the west coast for rapid fleet support. After extensive searching by the Navy Department and an unbelievable amount of hard work and politicking by Nevada Senator Tasker Oddie and State Senator John Miller, Hawthorne was selected.
Ground breaking for this new plant took place on July 29, 1928, and soon after that one of the smallest contracts to ever be given by the Naval Ammunition Depot was when they took a lease for “18 months or less”on a lot owned by Mineral County at the corner of 6th and H street where a steel, 24×80 garage was planned to be erected to take care of their motor equipment. This was a temporary fix because the water and power was readily available and it was quick.
There can scarcely be a doubt that Wednesday, Dec. 26, 1928 is destined to become a memorable day in Hawthorne’s chronology. It all came about with the receipt, by the navel headquarters at Hawthorne, of a telegram from the Bureau of Yards and Docks in Washington, D.C. announcing that the bids for the construction of seven and one-half miles of railroad to traverse the naval ammunition storage reservation have been opened and the contract for construction has been awarded to the low bidders, Schuter and McDonald of Oakland, Calif.
The official contract award was consummated today and the successful bidder will be allowed 15 days with which to commence work and 120 days for final completion of the work, The bid was $120,700.
This was the first major step toward the construction of what would later be known as the “Largest Ammunition Depot in the World”.