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When David Robert, a helicopter pilot from Lafourche Parish, LA, flew over the Gulf Coast in 2005, he saw firsthand the destruction wrought by a trio of hurricanes that swept through the region: Cindy, Katrina, and Rita. Entire neighborhoods were drowned, and homes were shredded or sunk.
And yet, as he soared back and forth from Mississippi to Texas, he noticed one type of structure consistently standing. "There were lots of buildings, even metal ones, that were destroyed, but these Quonset huts were all intact," he says. "I only saw one or two destroyed, when something had fallen on them."
Cindy had come right over the top of Robert's own home, and he and his wife, Maureen, were among those evacuated during Katrina. Enough, they said. So they found 22 acres of high ground in Carriere, MS, an hour northeast of New Orleans. Atop it they built their very own Quonset hut. Their beloved, and safe, hut is now for sale for $134,900.
Wait, what's a Quonset hut, you say?
It's a prefab structure based on the British Nissen hut built during World War I, featuring a semicircular, corrugated metal roof stretched over arched steel ribs -- think airplane hangar, but cute. Some called them "tents of tin."
After the war, at the Quonset Point Naval Air Station in Rhode Island, Americans improved and renamed these structures, making them lighter, faster to build, and more flexible. They become temporary housing for soldiers ( even in New York City!), offices, bakeries, horse stalls, theaters, farm storage, and, even, ahem, latrines. These days, you can build a high-modern home with a Quonset hut kit. Or a cute little Quonset cottage.
Robert and his wife bought their 2,000-square-foot Quonset hut from a manufacturer that shipped it in panels, and they put it together themselves. "It has over 5,000 bolts holding it together," Robert says.
Though the property is close enough to New Orleans for a weekend retreat, the couple moved up full time from Lafourche and, while they were building the hut, lived in a camper, relying on an outdoor shower and an outhouse. Don't worry -- the Quonset hut has a bathroom, and laundry area, inside.
The bulk of the hut is dedicated to a workshop, but walk through it and you enter an 800-square-foot, one-bedroom residence with a den and open kitchen.
"We built the inside with all 2-by-6 construction, sheeted inside and out with plywood," Robert says. "Anywhere my wife wanted to hang a picture, all she had to do was put a nail in the wall."
Outside they built a deck, tended to the gardens, added chicken coops, and stocked the pond with bass. Eight of the acres are cleared, and the others are laced with sweet gum and hickory trees. The property is at the end of a gravel road, with acres of privacy.
But perhaps its ability to withstand the force of nature is the home's finest attribute. The land is 200 feet above sea level, and the structure can sustain winds of up to 150 mph. Also: It's quiet as a church mouse inside. "The only way we know there's a storm is because the dogs will start panting," says Robert. "You can't hear the wind, you can't hear the rain."
The couple expected to spend their golden years there, but, Robert says, "the grandchildren came along, and we wanted to be nearer to them." The kids are back in Lafourche Parish, where the Roberts will be moving once again. But there were no Quonset huts available, so "we had to buy a house," he adds.