Sunday, October 29, 2000

Playhouse yields to communications building

Published in the Antarctic Sun

Construction crews this week tore down the McMurdo Station playhouse, also known as
Building 64, with a little help from the wind in Thursday’s storm.

Built in 1958, it was one of the original station buildings. It was the same age as the gym, the bowling alley/ceramics room and cargo building 73. The Mechanical Equipment Center, building 58, was also built that year.

The metal Quonset hut known as the Playhouse was used for many things during its life.

It was used as a steel shop during the construction of the Crary Lab, a warehouse for the station store, winter storage for heavy equipment, and a home to the general field assistants in the 1980s, McMurdo operations manager Bill Haals said.

He also remembers when the building was shortened by about 15 feet, resulting in an informal name change for Building 64.

“It was called ‘Building 63 and fifteen-sixteenths,’” Haals said.

The playhouse was also used as a temporary heavy shop in 1982-83 after fire destroyed the regular heavy shop.

“It’s been used for a lot of different things,” said McMurdo construction coordinator Woody Haywood.

Now, however, the area will be used to build a communications center, consolidating Internet, telephone and satellite operations. Those facilities are now spread throughout town.

“We’re creating a new building that will be the hub of communications at McMurdo,” Haywood said.

Construction on the new building will begin during the winter. Until then, the workers will clear the site and prepare it for new construction.

The workers, Haywood said, haven’t found any material of historical significance, though he said they might when they tear up the floor later in the season. He said the crew would help preserve anything they find.

“When we do find some of that old stuff we just throw it in the bars so people can look at it,” Haywood said.

The workers are on the South Pole construction crew, working while they’re in town, before heading to the Pole. When they go, Haywood said, McMurdo construction workers will complete the project.