And Now You Know: GSA to sell Navy Park houses

Published 12:18 am Saturday, September 11, 2021

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Mike Louviere
And Now You Know

When Consolidated Steel was awarded contracts to build destroyers for the U.S. Navy and with the two other shipyards in Orange assumed to also be awarded similar contracts, the Navy knew it would be having a presence in Orange. The Navy would need housing for its personnel that would be coming to Orange, so they bought a tract of land near the shipyards and began a housing project.

The houses would consist of single, duplex, and triplex units. At the time they were built, there was no shortage of steel so the studs for the walls and the ceiling joists and rafters were made of steel. The outer walls were stucco. The housing units were sturdy and well made. The housing project was named, “Navy Park.”

After World War II ended, the Navy established a storage facility for surplus ships. The houses built by the Navy for naval personnel were still needed by the personnel of the new base.

By 1960, downsizing of the base was beginning and there was no longer a need for all the houses in Navy Park. The Navy contacted the General Services Administration, which was in charge of disposing of surplus property, to begin surveying the disposal of some of the houses.

The GSA announced in November 1960, that 125 housing units in Orange would be put on the market about March 1, 1961.

The agency would have to decide if the structures and the lots they were on would be sold individually or as one or more packages.

The decision would be made before the March 1 date. Certified government appraisers would make a survey and place a fair market value on the houses and lots and also develop information on the local housing market. The timetable and status report were given to representatives of the local government and the Navy command in a brief session in the office of City Manager Archie Walker.

J.K Winsor, chief of the Disposal Branch of the GSA office in Dallas came to Orange to attend the meeting at the request of Orange city officials.

In a session presided over by Orange City Mayor M.K. Thomen, Sr. Winsor stated that the Navy had certified 125 buildings containing 250 housing units as surplus to its needs and had asked the GSA to make disposition of the land and its structures.

The property was in three parcels located around the perimeter of the project. The Navy was retaining 249 dwelling units in the center of the project for housing for its personnel.

At the beginning of an earlier meeting, Thomen explained that the community had been asked to decide whether or not it wished to make any recommendation concerning the sale of the Navy blocs.

He added that Winsor had agreed to the briefing session in order to give city government and other community representatives information which they could base any recommendations on.

Winsor cited the law under which his agency disposes of surplus properties and commented, “We must endeavor to serve the best public interest.” He added that basically the GSA must dispose of Navy property by competitive means. However, he listed several public uses for which a sale or sales can be negotiated with other federal agencies or local agencies or governments.

Any negotiated sales, Winsor added must be approved by a congressional committee.

Winsor said it would be two or three weeks before his agency could accept responsibility for sale of the buildings. After that the agency’s certified appraisers would begin the study to set a fair market value and to determine local conditions in the housing market and how they would affect the offering of the property.

The GSA would then decide whether to offer the houses and lots as individual units or one or more packages. Winsor said this decision should be completed in time to put the property on the market about the March 1 date.

He added that the law provided for sealed bids or auction-type sales. A decision about this would be pending and would be governed by the appraisers report.

Attending the meeting for the city were Winston Lewis, President of the Orange Chamber of Commerce, Robert E. Dear, Executive Vice President of the Orange Chamber of Commerce, C.P. Smith, Floyd Aubin, J. Cullen Browning, E.W. Brown, Jr., and B.L. Morris.

Others attending were, Capt. R.K. Henderson, Texas Group commanding officer, Lt. James F. Schumann, base public works officer, Mayor M.K. Thomen, Sr., Councilmen James D. Gilliam, Rease Littlefield, City Attorney Charles Holcomb, and City Manager Archie Walker.

“And now you know.”