Camp Butner museum opens Saturday

A museum dedicated to Camp Butner, the World War II Army training camp that preceded the town that bears its name, will open one day a month starting Saturday.

The museum, stocked with shells, uniforms, photos, maps, documents and other artifacts, is housed temporarily in the town’s Soldiers Memorial Sports Arena, one of the few surviving structures built for the camp. Organizers hope to eventually move the museum into a permanent home in a wood-frame building that was built in 1942 and likely served as a soldier’s lounge.

Camp Butner officially opened in August 1942, six months after the War Department began acquiring land in former farming communities in southwestern Granville County. The 40,000-acre training camp was designed to house and train 40,000 soldiers and included a hospital for wounded soldiers and a prison camp for captured Italians and Germans.

Camp Butner officially closed in January 1947. More than 20,000 acres were sold back to farmers, while more than 13,000 acres, including the streets and buildings that make up the town, went to the state. It established several institutions at Butner, including a N.C. National Guard training base, an agricultural research farm and John Umstead Hospital for the mentally ill.

A group of volunteers that make up the Camp Butner Society will open the museum from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the sports arena at 416 24th Street in Butner. For more information, go to the Camp Butner Society’s page on Facebook.

Richard Stradling: 919-829-4739, @RStradling