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News Story
Updated: 06/12/2014 08:00:01AM

From flying fields to a treatment center: A brief history

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ARCADIAN PHOTO BY SUSAN E. HOFFMAN, shoffman@sun-herald.com
Elise Zarli, a retired DJJ nurse, and Luke Wilson, a retired DJJ mechanic, pose by one of the murals they painted in the facility's hallways. The inspiration for the design of the set of murals came from residents, who sought ways to express their feelings on how to improve their lives.

© 2011 GOOGLE
What was the main administration building during World War II is shaped like an airplane as seen in aerial view. At the top on a small cupola sits a model airplane. The building opposite this was also similarly designed, but over the years additions to the building changed its outline.

ARCADIAN PHOTO BY SUSAN E. HOFFMAN, shoffman@sun-herald.com
Chain link fencing and razor wire still encircle some of the buildings at DJJ. No plans for future uses have been revealed for the buildings and property that once served as Carlstrom Field and, later, as the G. Pierce Wood Memorial Hospital before it was converted to a juvenile justice center.

ARCADIAN PHOTO BY SUSAN E. HOFFMAN, shoffman@sun-herald.com
Reflections of a brighter day appear in the tinted windows of the former administration building. What the future holds for the former Carlstron Field, G. Pierce Wood and DJJ property is unknown.

ARCADIAN PHOTO BY SUSAN E. HOFFMAN, shoffman@sun-herald.com
A replica of a World War II-vintage airplane sits atop what was the administration building during the Carlstrom Field days. The building itself was shaped like a plane, seen from above. The fate of the property -- and of the miniature airplane -- are now uncertain.

PROVIDED BY CHESTER KEENE

This was in John Paul Riddle's diary showing the WWII-era Training Area blueprint or building plans. CHester Keene found this onion skin copy in a trash pike by the home of Nate Reece Jr., who was the general manager (and also the grandfather of Chester's son-in-law). The diary, he said, tells about the cadets' accidents and deaths and the hardships of flying during World War II.

PHOTO PROVIDED

Carlstrom Field during World War I, looking north along Highway 31. Hangars were made of wood during this war, and their foundations are yet visible.

PHOTO PROVIDED

Ariel view of Carlstrom Field, taken in 1943. The top of the photo faces north, and airplanes can be seen at the bottom, contrasted by the black asphalt. Inside the circle at the top and bottom are buildings built in the shape of airplanes, the north building housing the administration and the south being the cadet's canteen.

PHOTO COURTESY OF CHESTER KEENE

This sign stood at the corner of Highways 70 and 31, giving directions to Dorr and Carlstrom Fields during World War II. Photo courtesy of Chester Keene.

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/436

Kettering Bug flying machine, Spring 1919. developed to be a flying torpedo during World War I, but mothballed after the war. It was tested at Carlstrom Field with unsatisfactory results. Henry Ford designed the motor that flew the unmanned aircraft, which was designed to carry a large bomb to be dropped. Hitler's buzz bomb was a modernization of the idea.




PHOTO PROVIDED

The ill-fated Kettering "Bug,"

PHOTO PROVIDED

Aerial view of G. Pierce Wood Memorial Hospital, taken during the 1990s. With each improvement over its 55-year existence, the facility resembled a college campus more.

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/2449

Aerial view of Carlstrom Field in Arcadia, undated.

By LUKE WILSON

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Travel seven miles southeast of Arcadia, Florida down Highway 31 and you’ll find a ghost town. There are no signs to inform you that you’re within the city limits, just vast acreage of concrete and metal buildings, standing vacant and desolate, resembling a scene from a 1950s end-of-the-world movies, wherein everyone has suddenly disappeared. Welcome to what remains of pilot training fields from both world wars, a mental facility, and a prison for teenagers.

The former Carlstrom Field, G. Pierce Wood Memorial Hospital, and the Department of Juvenile Justice stand in eerie silence today, but they do have stories to tell.

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