For many years, these buildings housed the KNOM complex. At left, the "Green House," later "Community House" was a dormitory that included the volunteer kitchen. It was attached to St. Joseph Parish church, steeples seen above it. To its right stood a pre-fabricated garage. In the center of the picture was a rental, later managers' residence, later volunteer dormitory that due to its alarming electrical wiring was named by volunteers "The Fire Trap."
Behind it, the top of its door barely visible, was a dormitory that volunteers dubbed "The Crooked House," see detailed photo below. Behind the Crooked House, Gleeson Hall served as parish hall, and later, dormitory space.
Except for the garage, all of these buildings were flimsy prefabricated "KD" (Knock Down) buildings erected by the US Army in 1941 and 1942, anticipating the Lend Lease program during World War II, for which Nome was the final stop en route to Russia. They were intended as quick, temporary structures, and were not meant to last.
Nome had suffered a devastating fire in 1934, and after the army left, many Nomeites used the "temporary" buildings for homes and businesses. By the time this photograph was taken in 1987, 45 years later, these KDs were among only a few still standing.
At right, the KNOM studio building was constructed as a tiny family home in 1947, with four major additions in the intervening years, the left-most portion added in 1970 to enlarge it for KNOM studios and offices, with volunteer housing upstairs. Although better insulated than the others, during a cold winter, it would consume more than 4,000 gallons of heating fuel.
(Left) The "Crooked House" in 1987. Originally a KD refrigeration building, the volunteer dormitory tended to shift on its foundations even more than its counterparts.
Scroll down to the next image to see why.
(Right) Nome is underlain by permafrost, frozen sand, gravel and muck that begins about a foot below the surface. Like virtually every home in Nome at the time, the KNOM buildings' foundations were simply blocks of wood laid on the ground.
And so, the buildings were extremely unstable and needed leveling at least yearly, by jacking their supports and adding shims to some points and removing shims from others. This southwest corner of Gleeson Hall was typical. It was not unusual to spend $50,000 to $75,000 a year in maintaining these failing buildings.
By as early as 1985, all of the structures were determined to be dangerous, due to frayed old wiring, and they were increasingly expensive to heat. In time, buildings were demolished or sold as storage shacks, and with hiring of some permanent staff, the number of volunteers decreased. Thanks to grants and many thousands of contributions, volunteer quarters were replaced with a 7-bedroom dormitory in 1992, and the studio building was replaced in 1993. Both of the new buildings are super-insulated, with 15-inch-thick walls and 37 inches of insulation in the floor and ceiling.
We thank and honor everyone who made the new, safe, fuel-efficient facilities possible!
Copyright © 2010 KNOM Radio Mission