Splinter Village

Splinter Village

The benefits of the Servicemembers' Readjustment Bill of 1944 -- better known as the GI Bill -- brought hundreds of World War II veterans to Oswego to study. The overall postwar surge in enrollment, and shortage of places to house students, led then-President Ralph W. Swetman to acquire 25 former military barracks from Camp Shanks near Orangeburg in Rockland County to house for veterans and their families.

Construction of the relocated barracks began in spring 1947, with its 74 units open for living by June. Simple and fairly rough in nature, the buildings soon became known as Splinter Village. "The development had its own fire truck, snow plow and police protection, the residents recalled," a Palladium-Times article noted. "Splinter Village provided a valuable service ... to making available the greatest number of opportunities for higher education possible. At its peak time, about 225 persons a semester were residents of Splinter Village."

The end apartments held two bedrooms, while the middle two were one-bedroom units. Bedrooms were 10-by-11 feet, living rooms 10-by-15, kitchens a square 10x10 and bathrooms a cozy 5x6. David Kidd, a veteran and alumnus who penned a memoir on Splinter Village, recalled paying $18 per month for his family's one-bedroom unit.

As more housing options became available, some Splinter Village units were adapted into classrooms, labs, art studios or stages (the Blackfriars student theatre club redecorated and adapted one into its performance space and workshop). While much of Splinter Village was demolished in 1957, four buildings saw continued use throughout the 1960s. 

"Neither of the structures has been used since the six-building Academic Plaza opened last fall," a 1968 news release said in announcing the destruction of the last units to make way for the new Snygg Hall science facility. Nonetheless, these expected short-term structures became a part of campus lore while servicing more than two decades of students.