Two weathered wooden cabins in Scottsdale that are among the last remaining artifacts of the area’s military role in World War II will be saved from demolition and restored to become a historical exhibit, possibly in Papago Park.
The recently formed Tempe Historic Preservation Foundation, an independent nonprofit group, will soon take ownership of the structures that once served as barracks for German sailors and soldiers at a prisoner of war camp near Scottsdale and Tempe in the Papago Park area.
"Having tangible things like these (cabins) to tell the story is invaluable to preserving our history," said Darlene Justice, president of the foundation, which formed earlier this year.
The group raised private funds to move the buildings from the south Scottsdale lot where they have sat for more than four decades. They’ve been used until the past few years as rental units by property owner Evans Rust.
Rust had all five known remaining POW cabins on the site when he decided in 2003 to pursue leasing the three-quarter-acre property near Thomas and Scottsdale roads for commercial development. Unable to afford to relocate the buildings, he faced having to demolish them if no one responded to his offer to give them away.
Scottsdale resident Jim Lawrence took two of the cabins. Phoenix resident Matt Moreno took another. But the remaining two cabins had waited for a taker for most of the past year, and Rust said he probably was going to wait only a few more months before having them torn down.
The preservation foundation has arranged to store them at one of Tempe’s public works facilities.
Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman said he supports the effort and has talked to individuals and civic organizations about donations.
The mayor’s mother, Evelyn Hallman, had been helping organize the foundation and work on the cabin project before she died earlier this year.
Work also is under way to find a permanent location.
John Driggs, chairman of the Phoenix Heritage Commission, said he is in discussions with Phoenix officials and top officers at the Arizona Army National Guard base in Papago Park about placing the cabins where the POW camp once stood.
If a site for the structures can’t be arranged at the former POW camp site, the foundation will look at locations in Tempe’s section of Papago Park that could accommodate the buildings, Justice said.
The group is talking about refurbishing one cabin with only the types of furnishings it contained during the war, while the other would house a display of World War II-era memorabilia.
Justice said the foundation has estimated the project will cost about $8,000.
Some assistance may come from the Papago Trackers, a group that focuses on Arizona military history, particularly in the Papago area.
"We’re excited to hear about this," said Don Prior, a former Scottsdale City Council member and a Papago Trackers member.