In 1943, with war raging in Europe and the Pacific, hundreds of civilian workers came to Layton to work in the Defense Industry at Hill Field and the Naval Supply Depot. The united purpose of these newly hired workers was to support the war effort and win World War II. These workers came to Layton from different geographical locations and had diverse backgrounds. Many workers found housing in a Federal public housing project called Verdeland Park.
Verdeland Park was an 85 acre parcel of land that the Federal Government purchased for the construction of temporary housing units. Between January 1942 and January 1943 four hundred buildings were assembled. The units were assembled on land that is now part of Layton Commons Park and the site of Layton High School. Verdeland Park was officially dedicated on December 20, 1943. Officials taking part in the dedication included: John B. Blandford Jr., Administrator of the National Housing Agency; Herbert Emmerich, Commissioner of the Federal Public Housing Authority, and George E. Briggs, President of the Town Board of Layton. Associate businesses that participated in the project were: Hodgson, Ashton & Evans, Architect Engineers; H. J. Craven & Sons, Associates; and Olsen-Lucas Construction Companies, Contractor.
Four hundred barrack type buildings were assembled at Verdeland Park. The housing units were pre-fabricated plywood buildings painted in pastel colors – pink, peach, gray, or olive green. Wooden steps led to a small porch in the front of each unit. Units had hardwood floors, a living room, kitchen, pantry, bathroom, and one, two, or three bedrooms. Single bedroom units were rented for $21.50, two bedroom units were $24.50, and three bedroom units were $31.50 per month.
Kitchens had wash and utility sinks, cabinets, a gas range, and an ice box. Smaller units had gas space heaters and larger units had a standard gas Heatrola in the living room.
The units were laid out in courts (the smallest court having eight buildings and the largest court having forty-two buildings) that were identified alphabetically from A to P. The courts were laid out in cul-de-sacs and the original dirt roads were eventually paved.
To qualify for Verdeland Park housing, tenants had to have one or two members of the household employed at Hill Field.
Verdeland Park was annexed to Layton City on May 3, 1944.
With time, Verdeland Park had an administration building, a public school (Verdeland Park Elementary School), and the first Day Care Center to be established in Utah. Building M-7 was set aside as a nursery facility for the working mothers of the park. Miss Ruth Malin, a graduate of the University of Utah, was hired as a head teacher for the Day Care Center. She was a government employee.
Verdeland Park Elementary School opened September 11, 1943. The school was of cinderblock construction and contained six classrooms, an office, and a gymnasium/cafeteria. The school was adjacent to the Verdeland Park Administration Building and the first students to attend the school were children of park residents.
The first faculty consisted of: Ronald Wiscombe, principal, with teachers Dorothy Adams, Martha Evans, Burt Trible, Mary Ware, and Barbara Watts.
In 1946, the school library was expanded thanks to citizen and community support. Verdeland Park residents, as well as other donors, provided books for the library and with time the school had a very respectable library for a school of its size.
Verdeland Park Elementary School was a government operated school. All employees of the school had to pass Federal government exams. Teachers received either an Elementary, Secondary Education, or a Special Education teaching degree. Also, teachers had to have good character and personal references.
in 1963, Verdeland Park Elementary School became the first school in Davis County to have an integrated faculty when Mrs. Ruby Jewell Price was hired as a first grade Diversity Teacher. In the late 1960s, a Kind Care Training Center was opened at the school and Mrs. Price became the supervisor of this program. The center offered schooling for special needs children.
Behind the school there was a large recreation area. This space went down the banks of Kay’s Creek and in the winter students loved to make large snow balls and roll them down the creek bank’s slopes. The school also boasted a large playground area.
Hundreds of Layton children attended Verdeland Park Elementary School. Many went on to attend North Davis Jr. High School, Central Davis Jr. High School, and many graduated from Davis High School. Ehen Verdeland Park was dismantled, the elementary school was closed and students moved to other area schools.
Following World War II, many returning GI’s and their brides lived in Verdeland Park. In the late 1940’s there were very few rental units available, and newly married couples found Verdeland Park a great place to begin their families. As new subdivisions were built in Layton, many people went from renters to permanent home owners.
The people who came to Layton to contribute to the World War II war effort learned to live together, work side-by-side, and bond into one large community family. Layton is more diverse today because the people of Verdeland Park represented attitudes that reflect the best that America offers. Verdeland Park residents represented various religions and cultures. However, by living together they added a unique dimension to Layton that offered balanced social perspectives that would be difficult to duplicate.
In 2015, seventy-two years have passed since the Verdeland Park Public Housing Project came into being. It is fitting that the government workers, teachers, and GI’s who lived in the park be memorialized. They were trailblazers and it is also appropriate that the “firsts” that Verdeland Park brought to this area, the first child day care center and the first African-American school teacher in Davis County, be remembered.
Verdeland Park is… a heritage to be proud of.
Located at Layton Commons Park at 437 N Wasatch Drive in Layton, Utah