Midway Island is about to go up for sale.
It's not the spot in the middle of the Pacific that played a major role in World War II, but a military-run housing development in the middle of Stafford County that played a very minor role during the war.
Nonetheless, this small military community possesses a sense of history all its own.
It was built to house temporary civilian workers from the nearby Quantico Marine Base in the hectic days of the war. However, the "temporary" 250 houses and school building, constructed to last four years, have served for 40 years as cheap housing for military personnel assigned to the base.
The development was named after the scene of the important battle. "We have a strong sense of the commemorative in the military," said Herbert S. Gibson, facilities planner for the base. This week the remaining wooden frame homes in Midway Island will be bulldozed, and the last vestiges of the little community that served the Quantico Marine Base for so long will be gone.
"It had its purpose, and we got more out of it than we bargained for," said Gibson. "We certainly got our money's worth. It's served us well."
Gibson said the decision to begin phasing out the Midway Island community began a decade ago, and the last families moved from their homes there last October. The general store and post office had closed some years before that, and the old cinder block school building long ago was converted to a community center. But the one-engine, two-man fire station will stay in operation until the last home is gone.
The approximately-160-acre property has been labeled surplus and probably will be sold by the General Services Administration, said Gibson. Stafford County has expressed interest in buying the land and the 100,000-gallon water storage tank on the property.
County Utilities Director Robert Bos has said the water storage tank could be linked to the North Stafford water system to provide water for county use along Rte. 637. County supervisors say they also are interested in buying the property, although they have not determined what it would be used for, said county spokeswoman Joyce Eaby.
Gibson said it will take months to complete the approval process needed before the property can be sold. He said that, if the sale is approved, Midway Island will be offered first to federal agencies, then to the state, and finally to the county. If no government wants to purchase the land, it will be put up for public sale, he said.
The property is zoned for military residential use and is surrounded by Marine training grounds on one side and residential track housing on the other.
"It could conceivably be rebuilt as a community of houses," he said.
Gibson said the base was ordered to close Midway Island because the cost of maintaining the community far exceeded the low rents charged to military personnel who lived there. He said that the frame houses were in constant need of repair, and it was estimated that it would cost more to bring the houses within fire code standards than the houses were worth.
"They weren't built to last," he said. "They did wonderful considering, but they had just come to the end of their time."
The loss of Midway Island has meant a decrease in affordable military housing for base personnel, said Gibson. But he said a homebuilding boom in Prince William and Stafford counties over the last decade has eased the demand for base accommodations.
"The civilian community has welcomed us to their neighborhoods," he said. There is a lot more housing available in the private sector than in the 1940s and 1950s, the heyday of Midway Island, he said.
Still, there are waiting lists for the 1,600 units of housing on the base and, depending on the applicant's rank, it can take months to get base housing, Gibson said. Midway Island was the only military housing offered off the base.
"It will be missed," said Gibson. "Housing allowances are higher, but it still hurts for the younger men with families to pay $500 for a month's rent plus utilities off the base."
Gibson said the base also has some sites for trailers as well as traditional military barracks.
"We're in pretty good shape," he said. "We could use more base housing but we can't really justify the cost of building more than we have now."