Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations, and Airfields
Naval Surface Warfare Center, Corona Division
(Naval Hospital, Corona including Sprada Annex; Naval Ordnance Labratory, Corona; Detachment Corona, Naval Weapons Station, Seal Beach)
Naval Hospital, Corona
By Justin M. Ruhge
Goleta Valley Historical Society
The Corona Naval Hospital facilities had their beginnings in 1928. It was then that a local developer named Rex Clark built a luxury resort costing $3.5 million at Corona on 678 acres. A playground for the rich and famous frequented by silent screen stars, the private resort complex sported a gambling casino, golf course, 55-acre artificial lake, a hot sulfur spring spa, Olympic pool, an airport and a magnificent 5-story hotel. Located on top of a knoll, the hotel had a commanding view of Lake Norconian and the surrounding countryside. However, during the years of the Depression beginning in 1929, the Norconian Club slowly declined.

Rex Clark agreed to sell the Lake Norconian Club to the Navy for $1.6 million on December 6, 1941, one day before the attack on Pearl Harbor. On December 8, 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the papers that completed the purchase. That day has been set by the Navy as the official date for counting the anniversaries of its service in Corona. On that date Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox commissioned the institution a hospital ship.
Captain Frederick L. Conklin, M. C. was the first commanding officer of the Hospital. He was succeeded by Captain Harold L. Jensen, M. C. in January of 1942. Captain Jensen was in command of the hospital ship Solace, which was in the thick of the attack on Pearl Harbor before coming to Corona.

The Naval Hospital was expanded over the years. The Administration building with surgery headquarters and special rooms for officers, along with the Spadra Annex, which were built shortly after the war started became known as "topside." A second unit was added in 1943 exclusively for tubercular patients while a third unit for rheumatic fever and polio wards was added shortly thereafter.

The Hospital newsletter was called the Corona Beacon.

The Naval Hospital was also a teaching hospital or nurses and doctors. A large contingent of WAVES was stationed there.

The peak load of patients was reached in 1945 when there were 4,500. This number fell to 2,700 in 1947. The Hospital was disestablished on November 1, 1949. The few remaining patients at that time were transferred to the Long Beach Naval Hospital and the Navy's new Hospital at Balboa Park, San Diego.

In 1951, the Corona Naval Hospital was reopened to care for Korean War casualties after almost $2 million was spent to re-equip and refurbish the facility.

The Hospital newsletter during that period was called The Norconian.

With the end of the Korean War in 1953, the patients at the Corona Naval Hospital gradually decreased. In September 1957, it was announced by the Navy that the San Diego Naval Hospital and a hospital ship in Long Beach Harbor would be able to take care of all the medical needs of the Navy in Southern California. On October 15, 1957 the Corona Naval Hospital was closed. It was turned over to the General Services Administration (GSA) for disposal.

On March 2, 1962, California Governor Edmund G. Brown stated that the GSA would donate the hospital buildings and grounds included in Units I and III to the State of California for a narcotics addiction rehabilitation center.

In the meantime, other Navy organizations moved onto the grounds of the Hospital and into Unit II of the Hospital buildings. At first this was the Nation Bureau of Standards (NBS) in 1951. In 1953, the NBS programs were transferred to the Navy who then formed the Naval Ordnance Laboratory Corona (NOLC). Since than a number of Naval organizations have occupied the property, adding buildings and changing the missions. In 2005, the organization is named the Corona Division, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Norco. This organization with some 800 employees still use some of the original World War II and Norconian Club buildings.
References: A Tribute to 60 Years of Service to the Navy, Corona Division Naval Surface Warfare Center, Navsea, 2002.
Map of World War II Corona Naval Hospital

Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Corona Division
by globalsecurity.org (copied with permission)

The Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Corona Division - a Naval Sea Systems Command activity, is the Navy's only independent analysis and assessment center. The mission of the NSWC Corona Division is to "Gauge the warfighting capacity of ships and aircraft, from unit to battlegroup level, by assessing the suitability of design, the performance of weapons and equipment, and the adequacy of training." In order to carry out this mission, NSWC Corona Division possesses a number of unique capabilities. Foremost among these is the Warfare Assessment Laboratory - the cornerstone of an integrated approach to warfare assessment and the focal point of internal and external interconnectivity.

NSWC Corona Division is comprised of three Centers of Excellence, four departments, and more than 950 scientists and engineers, 700 contractors, and one of the Navy's largest scientific and engineering computer operations. More than 180 critical programs are assigned to the Center with about $180 million dollars of annual expenditures.

The site of the NSWC Corona Division was once a playground for the rich and famous. A 700-acre luxury resort once operated here in Norco, built by Rex Clark in 1928. Frequented by silent-screen stars, the complex sported a gambling casino, golf course, 55 acre lake, a hot sulfur spring spa, an airport, and a magnificent, 5-story hotel. Sitting atop a knoll, the hotel had a commanding view of Lake Norconian and the surrounding countryside. With the stock market crash of 1929, the resort plunged into a 12-year decline culminating in Clark agreeing to sell the complex to the Navy for 1.6 million dollars December 6th, 1941, one day before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The Navy quickly began to convert the complex into a hospital. Behind the ornate facade of the main building, murals were removed from the walls, chandeliers were taken down, furniture was stored, draperies and Persian rugs were removed, and soon the elegant hotel was turned into an aseptic, strictly functional hospital. Even the sulfur baths were converted to functional hydrotherapy mineral baths. By 1944, there were 100 officers, 184 nurses, and 1200 corpsmen at the hospital, and that year alone, they cared for almost 12,000 patients.

Under the direction of Dr. Robert D. Huntoon, most of the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) Missile Development Division began to move to the west coast and Unit II was formally designated as the NBS Corona Laboratories. Under Dr. Huntoon's leadership, the organization rapidly expanded to 250 scientists, technicians, and necessary support personnel. This staff continued to concentrate on missiles and improving methods of guiding and fusing them.

In 1952, there occurred a key event in the evolution of the NSWC Corona Division. By that year, the Navy's Terrier guided missile had completed development and was considered ready for full-scale shipboard firing tests. Recognizing the need for accurate and objective evaluation of these firings, the Navy assigned responsibility for this task to the government group whose work on guided missiles it had been sponsoring for more than a decade-the NBS Corona Laboratories.

By 1953, the NBS Corona laboratories were in full operation with a staff of more than 400. On 24 July of that year, following a decision that weapons research and development were more properly a function of the military than NBS, the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of Commerce jointly announced plans to transfer seventeen NBS technical divisions to the Department of Defense. As part of that transfer, the NBS activity at Corona was transferred to the Department of the Navy, redesignated the Naval Ordnance Laboratory, Corona (NOLC) and assigned to the Bureau of Ordnance, thus becoming an official part of the Bureau it had served since 1941.

The Naval Warfare Assessment Division of the Naval Ordnance Center dedicated a new 48,000 square-foot Warfare Assessment building April 6th, 1994. The $9,425,532 Warfare Assessment Laboratory provides a consolidated secure facility to analyze fleet readiness and capability during world-wide multi-service training exercises.

Administration Building, Corona Naval Hospital in the 1950s

Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station Corona Detatchment

The site now occupied by Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach Detachment Corona was once a playground of the rich and famous. In 1928 City of Norco founder Rex B. Clark built a 700-acre resort hotel complex on the site that included a lakefront casino, golf course and airport. The location became a hit with Hollywood celebrities, but experienced tough times following the stock market crash of 1929.

On December 6, 1941, one day before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Clark agreed to sell the complex to the Navy for use as a naval hospital. Naval Hospital, Corona was established on December 15, and served wounded Sailors and Marines throughout World War Two. The hospital was disestablished in 1949, but was reestablished in 1951 to care for casualties of the Korean War.

Also in 1951, as the Navy's guided missile development efforts began to expand, personnel from the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) Missile Development Division began arriving. The organization was designated as NBS Corona Laboratory in 1952 and initially shared property with the naval hospital. In 1953, the NBS laboratories were transferred to the Department of Defense, and the Corona Laboratory was re-designated as Naval Ordnance Laboratory, Corona.

This was just the beginning of what would become a long and proud history of weapons research and assessment work at the Corona site, culminating with work done by the detachment's current primary tenant, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Corona Division.

The naval hospital was permanently closed in 1957, and in 1962 this portion of the property was turned over to the State of California to be used as a narcotics addicts rehabilitation center, and later as a prison.

In 1971 weapons operations in the Southern California area were consolidated, with assessment work at Corona coming under the command of Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach. Throughout the ensuing decades, several additional re-organizations took place as the Navy sought to maximize efficiencies in both its weapons laboratories as well as its shore-based infrastructure in general.

Finally, in July 2005, the Corona site was re-designated as a detachment of Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach, with the facility's primary tenant, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Corona Division, retaining its own command structure.

Corps of Engineers Real Estate History

The United States government acquired a total of 713.665 acres of land in fee and direct purchase for the former Corona Naval Hospital, located in the city of Norco, Riverside County, California. The site was originally a resort hotel located on a 694.555 acre tract. This tract was purchased by the Navy Department from Rex B. Clark on 9 December 1941 through condemnation proceedings. Three additional parcels associated with this hospital site were purchased by the Navy Department as follows: 1.322 acres acquired in condemnation proceedings from Rex B. Clark on 22 September 1942, 4.458 acres acquired in condemnation proceedings from the North Corona Land Co. on 30 March 1943, and 13.33 acres acquired by direct purchase from George E. McCauley on 26 February 1946.

The Navy Department converted the main hotel building into a hospital. Additional buildings were constructed to house additional patients and Navy personnel. By conversion and additions, the hospital had a capacity of 2,160 beds. The site was exclusively under Navy control during the periods of ownership and use.

Disestablishment of the hospital was declared by the Navy on 1 November 1949. The hospital was reopened on 1 June 1951 and the Navy inactivated the hospital again in September 1957. On 21 September 1959, 580 acres of the former hospital site were transferred to Bureau of Naval Weapons for use by the Naval Ordnance Laboratory. The remaining 115 acres were declared excess and recommended to the General Services Administration for disposal. On 30 March 1962, 92.3553 acres were transferred to the State of California for use as a Narcotics Rehabilitation Center. On 15 May 1962, an additional 14.6014 acres were transferred to Corona Unified School District, Corona, CA. On 4 June 1985, 141.86 acres were transferred to Riverside Community College District.

Approximately 219 acres were transferred by quitclaim deeds to two private owners on 19 May 1967 and 23 June 1972. These parcels were subsequently purchased by two housing developers Lewis Homes and Crestwood Homes. The Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station currently controls 245.75 acres.

Source: Los Angeles District, US Army Corps of Engineers, 1999

Additions to Corona Naval Hospital

1000-bed Unit 3 in 1943
Unit 2 in 1945
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Updated 8 February 2016