Great Lakes Naval Museum
The Great Lakes Naval Museum is one of 13 Navy museums that are operated by the Naval History & Heritage Command. As an official Department of the Navy Museum, the Great Lakes Naval Museum's mission is to select, collect, preserve, and interpret the history of the United States Navy with particular emphasis on the Navy's only "boot camp" at the Naval Training Station/Center at Great Lakes, Illinois. The museum’s permanent exhibits include material related to Recruit Training Command, the history of women and diversity in the Navy, and the History of Great Lakes Naval Station and its impact on the Navy as a whole.
Backstory and Context
In January 2009 the Great Lakes Naval Museum became an official Department of the Navy Museum operated by the Naval History and Heritage Command. The Great Lakes Naval Museum is located in Building 42 at Naval Station Great Lakes. Also known as "The Hostess House," the facility was designed in 1942 by prominent architect Gordon Bunshaft of the prestigious architectural firm Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill (SOM). The building was originally used during World War II for recreation by Naval recruits, and as initially constructed, it included spaces where the recruits could meet with guests. It included a reading and writing room, reception room, lounge, terrace and offices.
Building 42 is one of the New York architect's earliest works in the United States. The building played a historic role in the training of Naval recruits in World War II and served as a meeting place for tens of thousands of recruits, their families, and guests. After World War II, The Building served various functions until it fell into disrepair and was considered for demolition.
However, it was recognized as a classic example of modern American architecture and repurposed for the establishment of the museum which opened January 12, 2009. As part of a federally regulated review of U.S. government-owned properties slated for demolition, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA) determined that Building 42 is very significant architecturally and merits listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Hostess House is a classic example of modern American architecture. It represents a particularly early and significant use of glued-laminate wood construction. Constructed shortly after the United States entered World War II, steel was in short supply and Hostess House used relatively small amounts of steel. Its roof consists of a series of laminated wood frames originally exposed on the inside, which are supported at both ends by steel columnns. The exposed wood trusses project through both facades to the outside, uniting inside and outside, creating a dynamic atmosphere. Its original open spaced interior is well suited to serve the museum's requirement for exhibition space. Its historic significance would add another important dimension to the historic collections to be housed inside the museum. The museum building itself is part of the very history that the Foundation seeks to preserve and document with the museum.
The museum’s permanent exhibits include material related to Recruit Training Command, the history of women and diversity in the Navy, and the History of Great Lakes Naval Station and its impact on the Navy as a whole. The museum also offers guided tours, a lecture series, and educational programs. An active volunteer corps participates in all museum functions. The museum’s collection is open to the general public for academic research via appointment.