A Quonset hut is a lightweight prefabricated structure of corrugated galvanized steel having a semicircular cross-section. The design was developed in the United States, based on the Nissen hut introduced by the British during World War I. Hundreds of thousands were produced during World War II and military surplus was sold to the public. The name comes from the site of their first manufacture at Quonset Point at the Davisville Naval Construction Battalion Center in Davisville, Rhode Island.
Quonset huts were manufactured by many independent contractors in countries around the world, but the first were manufactured in 1941 when the United States Navy needed an all-purpose, lightweight building that could be shipped anywhere and assembled without skilled labor. The George A. Fuller construction company manufactured them, and the first was produced within 60 days of signing the contract.
The original design was a 16 ft × 36 ft (5 m × 11 m) structure framed with steel members with an 8 ft (2.4 m) radius. The most common design created a standard size of 20 ft × 48 ft (6 m × 15 m) with 10 ft (3 m) radius, allowing 960 square feet (67 m2) of usable floor space with optional four-foot (1.2 m) overhangs at each end for protection of entrances from the weather. Other sizes were developed, including 20 ft × 40 ft (6 m × 12 m) and 40 ft × 100 ft (12 m × 30 m) warehouse models.
The sides were corrugated steel sheets, and the two ends were covered with plywood which had doors and windows. The interior was insulated and had pressed wood lining and a wood floor. The building could be placed on concrete, on pilings, or directly on the ground with a wood floor. The original design used low grade steel, which was later replaced by a more rust-resistant version. The flexible interior space was open, allowing use as barracks, latrines, medical and dental offices, isolation wards, housing, and bakeries.
Between 150,000 and 170,000 Quonset huts were manufactured during World War II, and the military sold its surplus huts to the public after the war. Many remain standing throughout the United States as outbuildings, and they are often seen at military museums and other places featuring World War II memorabilia--and some are still in active use at United States military bases. Many were also used around the United States for temporary postwar housing, such as Rodger Young Village in Los Angeles, California.