The Red Cross building at 176 Jackson Road, Devens, is currently owned by MassDevelopment and in need of either restoration or disposal.
As the Red Cross and MassDevelopment begin to iron out what the fate of the site will be, former Red Cross personnel remember the building as a landmark of old Fort Devens.
Fort Devens Museum board of directors member Dale Martin remembers her duties as a volunteer for the Red Cross in the late 1960s.
“Volunteers had to be available at both the hospital and at the Red Cross building for 24 hours a day so if a serviceman had a family death, his family could call the Red Cross and we would verify his problem with a doctor,” Martin said. “We had to verify the death first and then we had to call his commanding officer and find out whether or not the serviceman could go on leave. We also provided money for his transportation.”
The Red Cross building was one of the first administrative Red Cross buildings to be located on a military base in 1941 as the Associated Press published on Aug. 25, 1941. “Norman H. Davis, chairman of the Red Cross, said in a
separate announcement that the buildings would enable the organization better ‘to carry out its Congressional charter obligation of maintaining liaison between the military and civilian populations.'”
The building held offices, living quarters for Red Cross personnel, and lecture and reception rooms.
MassDevelopment Chief of Staff Meg Delorier worked at the Devens location as the last station manager before it closed in 1996 and remembers her time there similarly to Martin.
“No information went to a serviceman without being verified by the Red Cross first,” Delorier said. “We were also responsible for conducting typical Red Cross education training programs like CPR and emergency first aid. I also did all of the HIV and AIDS education at Fort Devens for both active duty and civilian workforce.”
When the site closed in the late 1990s, Delorier recalls that the Red Cross abandoned the building, at which time she transferred and moved to Arizona to work with the Red Cross at an Air Force base.
Once the building was abandoned, other groups inhabited the space. Fort Devens Museum President David Gordon remembers the site being home to the Harvard Youth Center for a couple of years.
“(The Fort Devens Museum) even looked at moving to the building at a period in time, but it really does need some work,” Gordon said.
“The site is really a historic point in what Devens used to be,” Fort Devens Museum executive director Kara Fossey said.
As plans for the future of the site remain unfinished, Delorier said the site hasn’t been used for its original purpose for over 20 years.
Fossey suggested the site could be a Devens Information Center if it was renovated.
“It would be nice to keep it up, but it is old,” Martin said.
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