As Warminster Township prepares to unveil the new park built on land filled with history and controversy, The Community Guide takes a look at the history of the area and how this park has come into existence. Dating back to 1682, John Hart was the first settler and major landowner in the area later known as Johnsville. He purchased 1000 acres of land for 20 pounds ($32.00 dollars), Wow! 3.2 cents per acre, not a bad purchase!
The land was used for agriculture and later was the site of a .military engagement during the revolutionary war on May 1, 1778 which started in Hatboro and ended in Warminster Township, known as the Battle of Crooked Billet. Washington's army passed along Old York Road several times during the duration ref the conflict. The battle was notable as it represents the first and only independent campaign assigned to the Pennsylvania militia, which was under rise command of Brigadier General John Lacey, Jr. of Bucks County.
Living in Warminster Township during the 18th and 19th centuries were John Fitch, inventor of the steamboat, and the Reverend William Tennent, who founded a school named Log College that served as the genesis of Princeton University.
Fast forward . . Brewster Aeronautical Corporation bought 730 acres of farmland and constructed an aircraft assembly plant in 1938. Brewster developed two successful types of aircraft for the Navy, a scout divebomber and a fighter (the buffalo) the Navy's first single wing allmetal fighter plane. In 1941, Brewster aeronautical corporation with $125 million in orders for the Buffaloes announced plans to construct a 5 million dollar aircraft plant in Bucks County. With Loans from federal agencies Brewster purchased an additional 367 acres of land in Warminster Township, which later became the core site of the NAWCAD (Naval Air Warfare Center Air Division).
Brewster opened the plant on December 19, 1941 and advertised that up to 5000 people would be employed at the plant, creating the largest industrial boom to the area in its history. Skilled workers were trained through an aircraft assemblytraining program taught at the Hatboro high School. The buildings and runways were completed in January 1942. The Johnsville plant was intended as a final assembly location. All flight tests were performed at the Johnsville plant. Brewster was initially noted as a pioneer in labor relations. Their contract with the United autoworkers (UAW) called for no strikes, no sit downs, and no slowups. Despite apparent workers' harmony, the plant seemed to be plagued with problems from the start, beginning with the plant construction running severely behind schedule. Within the first few months of operation, the Navy was questioning Brewster's production schedule.
On April 18th, 1942, the Navy, concerned over lack of production and poor management, took over all three of the Brewster Aeronautical Corporation's plants. The Company had failed to produce even one of the dive bombers they were scheduled to manufacture. The Navy stated that dissatisfaction with "existing private control" was the reason for the government intrusion. After the take over and appointments to restructure the plants, newly obtained contracts to build planes, layoffs of 8000 workers at Brewster, the UAW organized sitin demonstrations to protest wage curs from $1.06 an hour to sixty-seventy cents an hour.
Between l942 and 1943 the plant was frustrated with the UAW and the senates Truman Committee was asked to investigate the Johnsville plant. Adding to the company's woes, the British government, in September 1943, realizing that the planes they ordered from Brewster would be obsolete before they were completed, if they were ever built, canceled it's Bermuda dive bomber contract, resulting in the layoff of another 4,000 workers. The Navy finally cancelled it's dive bomber contract in November 1943. Despite contract cancellations, layoffs and cutbacks Brewster fulfilled their quota two days early on another contract for the Navy Corsair fighter plane in the spring of 1944.
In July 1944, as the war was winding down, the Navy took over Brewster's lease from the Defense Plant Corporation with the intention of using it as a development of guided missiles and the modification of service airplanes. The Hangers and runways were used to flight test after conversion and modification. The facility came under the command of the Naval Air Material Center and was designated the Naval Air Modification Unit. The facility tested the Gorgon, a shipto-air missile intended to defend against the Kamikaze planes. The war ended before the missile could be put into use. The NAMU also modified helicopters for airsea rescue.
The end of World War II meant that Aircraft modification was no longer needed on a large scale and the NAMU was renamed the Naval Air Development Station (NADS). The mission of the NADS was modified several times in the late 1940's, beginning with the construction of a new medical laboratory and human centrifuge and the Aviation Medical Acceleration Laboratory. The station was renamed the Naval Air Development Center (NADC) in June 1950. The NADC expanded in early 1951. The Navy purchased more land to extend the easewest runway 8000 feet making it necessary to close parts of Kirk and Newtown roads.
In the early 1950's NADC research began so expand and the base acquired. the world's largest computer, the Typhoon, which vas located in the Aeronautical Computer Laboratory. RCA laboratories in Princeton, New Jersey designed the Typhoon. It was the largest analog computer in the world, and with the ability to handle three dimensional guided missile flight problems with the rate of accuracy that surpassed any other computer at the time. Its use was cloaked in cold war secrecy, but it appears to have been a critical element in the design and development of US military's first rockets and may have been involved in the development of the Polaris Missile. It remained in constant use until 1962. The NADC was also involved with the space program using the centrifuge and a simulator for the X15, which resulted in work on project Mercury and Gemini. By 1970 NADC employed a workforce of approximately 1,000 scientists, 2,200 civilians, and 450 Navy personnel. In 1976 a 150 Foot tall red and white tripod tower was relocated from the Philadelphia Naval shipyard. This test tower was to evaluate the effectiveness of aircrew equipment (ejection seats) during simulated aircraft crashes.
On April 12, 1991 the NADC, which had been renamed The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD), was included on the list of base closure realignments, as a result of the base Closure and Realignment Act (BRAC) of 1988. Operations were transferred to Patuxent River, MD NAWCAD on September 30, 1996.
The buildings on the West side of Jacksonville road, the former main complex of NADC, were remodeled by a private developer and are leased as office and warehouse space. In 2001, Warminster Township received 243 acres of parkland from the Department of Interior. The parkland is located at the East end of the runway, along Kirk and Bristol roads. Ann's Choice, a retirement community is building on the West end of the runway bordered by Newtown and Street roads. New Victorean style homes are being built near the corner of Jacksonville and Kirk roads and behind the old barracks and enlisted club site.
The Warminster Community Park had itís Grand Opening and Warminster Day on Saturday, October 18th, 2003.