Aviation Architecture Tour: Five Airports with Historic Hangars

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There was a time, especially in the golden age of aviation, when airports were judged by their hangars. Yes, trends in transport architecture produced spectacular terminals during the same period, but large and beautiful hangars were arguably more suggestive of the impressive machinery housed there.

Some hangars are quite famous, such as hangars 1 and 2 at Floyd Bennett Field in New York. Recently restored after years of neglect, they served as the backdrop for many important aviation events, including Howard Hughes’ record-breaking round-the-world flight in 1938. Hangar 1 in Lakehurst, New Jersey, famous for housing the Hindenburg zeppelin , is one of the best-known structures of this type.

But there are many lesser-known historic hangars at general aviation airports across the United States that make easy and interesting destinations for pilots. Some have been turned into museums while others are empty, waiting to be restored. Here are a few examples, and a little research might uncover more, perhaps closer to your home airport.

Shed 1

Cape May County Airport (KWWD)

Wildwood, New Jersey

Built from kit after the outbreak of World War II, this hangar was the center of Naval Air Station Wildwood, a training base for dive bomber crews from 1943 to 1945. It housed a number number of air operations after the war, but later fell into disuse. Restored in the 1990s, the hangar now houses the NAS Wildwood Aviation Museum, with a collection including a Grumman TBM Avenger and an F-14 Tomcat.

Ford Shed

Lansing Municipal Airport (KIGQ)

Chicago, Ill.

Famed architect Albert Kahn led the design and construction of this hangar in 1927 as part of Ford Motor Co. founder Henry Ford’s plan to build Ford Trimotor aircraft and link its manufacturing plants in the area to Chicago to Detroit. At a time when aircraft hangars tended to be poorly constructed, seemingly temporary structures, the Ford hangar set new standards. Its cantilevered roof allowed for an unobstructed floor by eliminating support pillars while huge windows let in natural light.

Curtiss Wright Hangar

Jim Hamilton – LB Owens Airport (KCUB)

Colombia, South Carolina

Curtiss-Wright Flying Service built this hangar in 1929 with the now classic high barrel roof and flat-topped side structures that characterized 1920s hangars. Curtiss-Wright, later known for building fighters during the World War II, also built and operated several airports between the wars. The National Register of Historic Places added the shed in 1998, and 20 years later, after restoration, it opened as the Hunter-Gatherer Brewery.

King Aerodrome Hangar

Taunton Municipal Airport (KTAN)

East Taunton, Massachusetts

What became Taunton Municipal Airport/King Field began as a private airfield on the King family’s dairy farm, known as King’s Field. The Kings built the hangar in 1919 and offered airplane rides and flying lessons in a Curtiss Jenny. The fleet grew to include an air taxi service, and the Kings’ operation essentially became an FBO as more pilots began to keep their aircraft on the ground. The National Register of Historic Places listed the shed in 1984.

Sheds Goleta

Santa Barbara Municipal Airport (KSBA)

Santa Barbara, California

These early 1930s hangars appear in many photographs of the airport during the golden age of aviation, when General Western Aero Corp. built planes there. In 1936, United Airlines operated its Boeing 247 airliners from the field. A decade ago, an airport improvement project threatened to destroy the buildings, and conservationists have worked to save them ever since.

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