Last Chance to Speak Up for Hangar One
By Margaret Foster | Online Only | Sept. 22, 2008
In Silicon Valley, Calif., where new trumps old, preservationists, locals, and members of Congress are fighting for a massive hangar built in 1932.
Last week, about 70 people gathered at a rare meeting hosted by the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, which usually conducts business from Washington, D.C.
Located at Moffett Field Naval Air Station in Mountain View, Calif., Hangar One is a modern building that encompasses eight acres, a structure so huge that fog accumulates inside it. The 351,000-square-foot structure is one of the two largest freestanding buildings in the country.
Two years ago, the Navy announced plans to demolish the midcentury modern structure but reconsidered after public outrage. (The National Trust for Historic Preservation named Hangar One to its 2008 list of America's Most Endangered Historic Places.) In a new plan, Navy will strip toxic panels, windows, and doors off the hangar, leaving its steel shell exposed. One of the Navy's plans includes painting the steel frame the original color of the hangar.
"Let's just say this would be somewhat like taking a thanksgiving turkey carcass and painting feathers on the bones. It won't hide the basic appearance of the skeleton," Brian Turner, a lawyer at the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Western Office, said in his testimony at the Sept. 17 meeting.
"Our constituents have overwhelmingly supported a re-skinning of Hangar One, and it is critical we do everything possible to see that Hangar One is restored so that it remains an icon in the Bay Area," wrote 13 members of Congress, including Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the house, in a Sept. 17 letter to the Secretary of the Navy.
A group called the Save Hangar One Committee has suggested that the Navy replace the asbestos siding with Teflon-coated fabric. About 40 people spoke in support of the hangar.
"Many people spoke very poignantly about its significance on the local landscape," says Cindy Heitzman, executive director of the California Preservation Foundation. "It's their Golden Gate Bridge." In 1931, locals raised the money to buy the land for the federal government to house the USS Airship Macon. NASA took over the site in 1994, but the final decision is in the hands of the Navy.
About 100 people attended the last public meeting, on July 26, and 50 spoke against the hangar's destruction, Turner says.
The Advisory Council is accepting public comments on the proposed stripping of Hangar One and will submit its comments to the Navy on Oct. 6. The Navy is expected to make its final decision early next year. Comments can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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