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American University and WWI Washington, D. C.

After the entry of the United States into the first World War in April 1917, the American University offered its two buildings, Hurst Hall and the still unfinished McKinley Hall to the War Department. Those few students who were enrolled at the American University began to attend classes at home.

The War Department finished the McKinley Building in 1918 and initiated its chemical warfare research unit there, including experimenting with gases and explosives.

The area of the campus south and west of the two buildings was named Camp American University and Camp Leach. During the year and a half that American University was occupied by the War Department, hundreds of barracks and training buildings sprouted on what had been peaceful countryside.

The Army Corps of Engineers brought in thousands of soldiers for retaining before shipping them overseas to fight in Europe, making Tenleytown the site of the largest military encampment within the borders of the District of Columbia.

(from Tenleytown, D.C. Country: Village into City Neighborhood, Judith Beck Helm)

Photo: Library of Congress

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