Defense Supply Center Columbus arrived in Whitehall more than 100 years ago -- although Whitehall didn't exist then.
At that time, what now is the city of Whitehall essentially was composed of a number of scattered farms in unincorporated Truro Township.
DSCC played a pivotal role in the development of Whitehall and its surrounding areas and continues to benefit the city in multiple ways, including as its major employer and the generator of the largest portion of its income-tax revenue.
World War I still was raging when the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps made the first purchase of 281 acres to construct a government military installation in April 1918.
Warehouse construction began in May that year, and by August, six warehouses were receiving material for storage -- mostly shipments of nonperishable food supplies, such as pork and beans, and later, weapons systems.
Ultimately, nine warehouses, each covering about 6 acres, were built. Some remain in use today.
This former site of swamp and farmland was selected at a time when the country's production effort reached a climax in 1918, as transportation lines to ports of embarkation for men and materials were filled to capacity. The site was advantageous because it afforded immediate access to three important railroad lines.
The lull between World War I and World War II reduced center operations to mostly reconditioning and sale of the stockpiles that had been needed earlier to ensure the nation's defense.
Commonly known as "the Depot," the facility employed around 10,000 civilian personnel during the peak of World War II. It became the largest military supply installation in the world, and anything associated with an army could be found at the installation.
In December 1942, an additional 295 acres were purchased as DSCC continued to play a large part in the overall war effort. Around 500 rail cars arrived each week on a spur consisting of 35 miles of track.
Some of the warehouses at the site were turned into secured barracks to house prisoners of war. German prisoners from Gen. Erwin Rommel's units in Africa had been brought briefly to work for 10 months as part of the process for their return home. They were assigned to temporary barracks that were constructed where a golf course exists today at the facility. Their work consisted mostly of building wooden shipping crates.
One well-known photo of a group of smiling prisoners shows that one of them carried a teddy bear with him. Another is said to have liked the area so much that he chose to later immigrate to the U.S., and permanently settled in a neighborhood just outside the facility.
Amid the wars, the conflicts and humanitarian relief efforts, the installation continuously has been used to establish direct and fast-moving supply lines to support American armed forces in all parts of the world.
DSCC's operational activities were assigned to the U.S. Army Supply and Maintenance Command in July 1962.
The following year, it became the Defense Construction Supply Center under what now is known as the Defense Logistics Agency. Thereafter, it was renamed Defense Supply Center Columbus, distinguishing it from other defense supply centers in Richmond (DSCR) and Philadelphia (DSCP).
The many job opportunities provided by DSCC spurred the establishment of housing in the Whitehall community from the beginning.
The city's first neighborhoods sprang up soon after the facility was built, including the Cedarhurst, Glencoe and Bernhard additions in the 1920s.
The 1940s saw the construction of the Jaeger addition along South Yearling Road. The 1950s brought the greatest amount of development of new homes, with the Norton Homes subdivision on the former site of Norton Air Field perhaps being the one most associated with the era.
Alongside these single-family residences came the construction of major rental communities that were aimed by developers at associates of the large military presence at DSCC, as well as U.S. Navy operations at Port Columbus (now John Glenn) International Airport, and residents stationed at the former Lockbourne Airbase south of the city.
Hundreds of apartments and rental homes were established in the city, including single-family homes in the Country Club Village and Truro Estates development, and attached homes in English Village, Woodcliff and Parklawn -- the latter receiving the Award of Merit from the National Association of Home Builders in 1952 for its "many modern amenities and attractive architecture."
Had DSCC not been built here, the ultimate shape that the community took might have been much different.
Perhaps the massive residential and commercial development that defined the city at that time might never have occurred, along with other facets that have helped to put Whitehall "on the map."
One can only speculate -- while being thankful for DSCC being a part of our hometown.
Steve McLoughlin is past president of the Whitehall Historical Society.