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An elegant hall

Visitors to Bronson Hall step into history

The iconic Bronson Hall is named in honor of 1st Lt. Deming Bronson, who received the Medal of Honor for heroism during World War I. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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Between World War I and World War II, Camp Lewis became Fort Lewis, which in turn took on a pronounced sense of permanence.

Many of the pre-WWI buildings were removed and replaced by Neo-Georgian brick buildings with brick facades, sash windows and door cases with fanlights.

With the parade ground (now Watkins Field) as the focal point, a chapel (Main Post Chapel), officers' housing (the Broadmoor neighborhood), headquarters buildings (I Corps Headquarters) and housing for the commanding general (Commanders' Circle) were constructed.

By the end of 1939, Fort Lewis had more than 400 new buildings laid out in the pattern visible in today's Joint Base Lewis-McChord's Garrison Historic District.

Bronson Hall, a beautifully built building standing just to the west of the Broadmoor neighborhood, continues to welcome guests.

Built in 1934, this two-story brick edifice was constructed to house bachelor officers.  After the end of WWII, it was known as the Senior Officers' Quarters.

The roof is comprised of clay tile, and other significant architectural features include a circular window with swag in the gable ends and front doors flanked by Doric columns.

Between 1985 and 1987, the building underwent a major renovation and conversion to the Visiting Officers' Quarters.  

On Nov. 30, 1987, Lt. Gen. William Harrison, commanding general of I Corps and Fort Lewis, dedicated the quarters to Medal of Honor recipient 1st Lt. Deming Bronson.

Over the years, a number of distinguished guests have stayed at Bronson Hall; one of the most notable is President George W. Bush, who visited Fort Lewis June 18, 2004.

During his stay at Bronson Hall, President Bush recorded a message at 10:30 a.m. about the economy to be aired June 19.

The news was good; it is news Bronson, who after WWI became an executive in a paint company, would have appreciated.

A forestry major who played football, he had graduated from the University of Washington in 1916. With the entry of the United States into WWI, he enlisted in the Army.

That decision led to an officer's commission and training at Camp Lewis.  Assigned to Company H, 364th Infantry Regiment, 91st Infantry Division, Bronson deployed to France in the summer of 1918.

During the morning of the first day of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, Sept. 26, 1918, near the village of Eclisfontaine, Bronson sustained wounds to his face and head from an exploding grenade.

Refusing to leave, he led his soldiers in an action over open ground that resulted in the capture of an enemy dugout and a large number of German prisoners.

During the afternoon of the same day, a bullet hit him in the left arm.  After receiving first aid, Bronson was told to move to the rear and out of harm's way.

Ignoring the suggestion, he rejoined his soldiers.

The next morning, Bronson led his company in its attack on the village of Eclisfontaine.  In taking the objective, he participated in the silencing of an enemy machine gun emplacement.

Soon after, Company H pulled back due to a heavy German artillery barrage.  The last soldier to leave the area, Bronson was wounded a third time.

Again refusing to go to the rear for treatment, Bronson stayed a second night with his soldiers.

The men he led did not forget him.

After an 11-year campaign by them for recognition of his heroism, Bronson received the Medal of Honor from President Herbert Hoover Nov. 19, 1929.

Like the man for whom it is named, Bronson Hall welcomes and protects visitors to JBLM.

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