CCC Wash House and Dry Cleaning Establishment is now a museum. The black veteran Civilian Conservation Corps Camp #4755 arrived in Marion County in 1936. Their goal was to build a park and earthen dam that would cover an area of over 300 acres. They had energy for extra projects –– one was building a wash house and dry cleaning business.
Since the camp was composed of veterans of the Spanish-American War and World War I, they were much older than the junior CCC enrollees. Therefore this wash house may have been a result of very enterprising men finding a way to supplement their dollar a day pay.
The story of the building was discovered in their Cappy’s Camp Courier newspaper that was published by the camp’s journalism class.
In 1938, two years after the Civilian Conservation Corps Company V4755 enrollees arrived in Marion, this 12’x18’ native limestone wash house was erected through the leadership of Argo Bedford, Henry Reed, (buried in Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery) and James Warren. After work hours other men in the camp aided in its construction. Their newspaper admitted it was an effort to obtain some of the business that was going into the coffers of the downtown competition. The building had a concrete floor containing drainage facilities, hot water tanks, a sewing machine, tables, tubs, irons, a gasoline washing machine and a Hoffman pressing machine.
All underclothing, fatigues, socks, shirts, trousers, etc. –– unpressed or rough dry cost fifty cents per month. For $1.25 all clothing would be done and two dress G.I. uniforms would be cleaned and pressed twice per month. Laundry and dry cleaning bills were payable on payday and the men took advantage of the charge account. Business ran around the $200 mark per month.
The camp newspaper noted that this establishment was the only one of its kind in the entire CCC throughout the United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands with over 2,650 camps.
In April, 2007, the county commissioners gave permission to turn it into a museum commemorating the history of the park and lake’s construction by the CCC and highlighting the history of its continuation of being a great place to enjoy.
People were very interested in the project and it took off! All the work was done by these people, either by donating money, artifacts or labor. The process of getting it presentable began immediately by washing off 100s of mud dauber nests, removing junk, rotten windows, building a door, replacing electrical wiring, installing new donated windows, discovering inexpensive ways to display the artifacts, books and miscellaneous items, laying a cement stoop, purchasing a used desk and showcase. Even a photo of the lake dog, Whitey, a wise, adored and official queen of the area has been displayed.
This building along with the park and lake were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.
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