News

Race to save last historic piece of Hangar One

Unique windows at stake as Navy contractors complete interior demolition

With Hangar One's restoration funding unexpectedly lost in last year's political re-shuffling in Washington, D.C., preservationists are fighting to save one last thing before it's too late -- the hangar's unique corrugated windows.

In just over two months, the siding and windows will be torn off the landmark building, which will be left a bare steel skeleton unless funding for restoration can be secured.

The windows on the top half of the hangar were designed to withstand the explosion of a 1930s airship filled with hydrogen, said architect and preservationist Linda Ellis in a presentation to the Moffett Field Restoration Advisory Board last week.

The Navy has been planning to send the windows to a landfill rather than clean off the caulking that may contain toxic PCBs. Preservationists say that disposing of the windows may not be the cheapest way for the United States Navy to meet its environmental cleanup responsibilities, and would make long-term efforts to preserve Hangar One as a historic building much more costly.

At the RAB meeting, Ellis passed around a square-foot sample of the wavy windows, which have what looks like a layer of chicken wire for reinforcement. Reproducing the unique glasswork would cost $200 a square foot, according to a quote from one custom glass maker, she said.

"Holding this in my hand, I can tell that you can't just go down to Home Depot and buy this," said Lenny Siegel, RAB member and director of the Center for Public Environmental Oversight.

As of late last year, the inside of Moffett Field's iconic Hangar One has been completely gutted of its interior buildings, along with the toxic asbestos and PCBs used on walls, floors and pipes. So far, 1,897 tons of debris and nearly 5,000 fluorescent light tubes have been taken to special landfills at Altamont Pass and Newby Island. During the project, water was used to keep down the toxic dust, which did not reach dangerous levels, according to air sensor placed just outside the hangar. The work took thousands of man hours, and there were no accidents, said Mike Shulz of U.S. Navy contractor AMEC Earth and Environmental.

Navy officials say that NASA, Hangar One's owner, needs to come up with $1.2 million if it wants to save the windows, a figure that was questioned at the meeting by preservationists who wanted to know how much it would cost to send the windows to a landfill.

"Saving the glass could be cheaper than disposing of it," Siegel said.

NASA Ames said last year that it is committed to finding $20 million for Hangar One restoration with new siding. But NASA Ames deputy director Lewis Braxton said last week that that is now more difficult without Congresswoman Anna Eshoo's $8 million earmark, lost when Republicans took over the House of Representatives late last year.

Paying for new siding is "not a wise thing to do when you can't point out where you will get the additional funding to finish it," Braxton said, later adding that "we're facing significant cuts throughout the agency to try to deal with what's going on" in Washington, D.C.

Braxton also announced that he had been called to work in NASA's Washington offices for a year, where he will be "trying to find that $20 million."

If the Navy doesn't reconsider its plans to trash the windows, possibly in April, preservationists hope a few wealthy donors come forward to preserve them. It could be a step towards building a Smithsonian-chartered air and space museum in Hangar One. To that end, preservationists have formed the Air and Space West Foundation.

"This will be a test as to whether we can raise that kind of money," Siegel said.

The foundation is not asking the public for smaller donations, at least not yet. "We would need a whole lot of $100 donations to get a million dollars," Siegel said.

Shulz updated the RAB on AMEC's efforts to save artifacts inside the hangar. The Navy contractor said it succeeded in saving numerous explosion-proof lights, a mural of Moffett Field and many cranes that were installed along the ceiling.

Also saved, mostly, is the most historic structure in the hangar, the temperature-controlled "cork room" where airship gas bags were stored. The steel frame was left intact, pieces of a conveyor system put into boxes and its wooden doors put in storage. But the cork walls and wood floors, which preservationists tried to save, were said to be contaminated with toxic dust and had to be taken to a landfill. Nevertheless, the cork room can be "reconstructed in the future," Shulz said.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Mark Costa
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 21, 2011 at 11:22 am

The foundation should reach out now for small donations. There is tremendous public interest in preserving this structure and individual donations would be a great way to send a signal to decision makers that there is wide public support.


Like this comment
Posted by Becky Sanders
a resident of Ventura
on Jan 21, 2011 at 11:32 am

Here is a short video that tells the history of this architectural ICON.

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Steve C
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 21, 2011 at 11:49 am

Another far-sighted bit of work by our fellow republicans. I shudder to think or the many public projects that would never have come to be over the last 200 years, had this country been under the curse of these short-sighted politicians.


Like this comment
Posted by David Epstein
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 21, 2011 at 11:51 am

As a Navy Reserve retiree who actually worked in this building, I am pleased to see that the world's largest garden shed in the shape of a potato bug is finally being dismantled. Hangar One was built for an airship that crashed just a few years after it was completed in the 1930s. Thereafter for over 60 years the Navy put it to use in various suboptimal ways. Most other Naval Air Stations put their P-3 Orions in purpose-built hangars. NAS Moffett Field had to make do with a drafty huge interior space. The Hangar could not be heated or lighted properly. Cheap buildings were constructed on the floor of the interior for classroom purposes as it contained far more space than even P-3s needed. Those interior buildings and other improvements are worthless. In the nearly two decades since the Navy decided to leave Moffett Field, no economically viable plan has come to light to utilize Hangar One. Now preservationists who couldn't wait for the Navy to leave want to create obstacles to disposing of this building. This week it's windows which few of us have ever seen. Next week it will be the toilet paper dispenser in the FASOTRAGRUPAC head. Then it will be the doorknobs of the Moffett Field Museum. Time to move on.


Like this comment
Posted by sell it
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 21, 2011 at 11:58 am

Can't they sell it to that zeppelin company that is operating out of Moffet? Even give it to them for free if they promise to preserve it. If even they are not interested, I can't imagine any reason to preserve this building.


Like this comment
Posted by Let it go
a resident of another community
on Jan 21, 2011 at 12:14 pm

I'm looking forward to the day it is demolished so we can enjoy broader views of the Bay. It is not a Gothic cathedral, it is an eye sour.

I agree with the Navy there is no point in wasting anymore money on this ugly over-sized gray metal tin can.


Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 21, 2011 at 1:04 pm

@ Steve C: Um, the funding was lost during the last Congress, not the new Congress. So if you're going to point fingers, you need to point them at the (then) Democrat Party controlled Congress (both House and Senate).

Get your facts straight.

And BTW - I voted for Eshoo, Feinstein and Boxer - but I can't stand BS posters of false accusations.


Like this comment
Posted by janet
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 21, 2011 at 1:46 pm

What a totally ridiculous waste of money. Tear the eyesore down and clean up all the pollution. Of all the projects crying out for $, this is the most idiotic waste of resources.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 21, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

The runoff from Hangar One is fully controlled and can be easily remediated with far less risk of exposure the the biosphere than destruction. Even without remediation the structure presents NO threat to human, animal or vegetable life.
This is a scam to bring down yet another military edifice, perpetrated by those who believe this nation is better off with no military.


Like this comment
Posted by Google Guy!
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 21, 2011 at 10:21 pm

Paging Eric, Serge & Larry!

This would be a good time to take out your wallets and do something for the community.

You land your private jets there. How about you hand over some cash for this iconic landmark????


Like this comment
Posted by Frank
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 22, 2011 at 9:01 am

In 20 years, this will be the size of a CostCo warehouse. They should buy the building now.


Like this comment
Posted by Truth
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 22, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Comment: The building can't be heated

Truth: A similar hangar in snowy Bonn Germany is now a tropical garden and water park used year round.

Truth: Smithsonian Stephen H. Udvar Hazy Hangar in Dulles, VA (smaller but similar none the less is maintained to a temperature of 72°±2°. A constant temperature is less harmful to artifacts that are kept in the building than one that rises and falls; thus, the 2° spread. In addition the humidity level is kept at 35%-45%.


Comment: Of all the projects crying out for $, this is the most idiotic waste of resources.

Truth: Preservation often is less expensive than rebuilding from weeds. In this specific case, the Navy, responsible for the environmental cleanup, has found that the preservationists have been correct, and the cost of the cleanup has been far less expensive than the slash and burn approach the Navy originally recommended. Tax savings have been achieved, simply because taxpayers required the Navy to be diligent.

Truth: The preservationists have demonstrated through their interaction that they are interested in saving historic integrity of a National Historic Site not prevent appropriate cleanup. It was the sheer size of the building and runway, along with the ideal location protected by coastal mountains and its proximity to a large waterway and major city that caused Charles Lindberg to recommend that a sister west coast research facility to Langley be located at Moffett Field, far from the German bombers. The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics in 1940 opened NACA Ames, eventually renaming itself to NASA Ames in 1958.


Comment: I'm looking forward to the day it is demolished so we can enjoy broader views of the Bay.

Truth: The only broader view of the bay for the average citizen that would be gained would be one from Highway 101, which will quickly be compromised by new cheap development or high rises. A restored roof, is in the cards, and it would not only bring about a fresh structure. The redeveloped building might even allow a visitor a trip to its roof top, and a view of the South Bay available only to pilots today. In addition, a visitor would see NASA Research Park and get an opportunity to appreciate the depth of its research facility. Most people don't realize that two National Historic Sites exist at Moffett Field. The Hangar, and the Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel.

In the end, we as citizens owe our fellow countrymen truth, fiscal prudence not rhetoric, a way to understand our past and a desire to envision a better future for future generations. Tearing down the past like Chauchescu, Hitler, and Stalin in wasteful haste is clearly not a model for our sustainable future on this planet.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 24, 2011 at 5:42 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

By far the least expensive solution is to retain the building and chemically control the runoff. This for a budget of thousands a year rather than the millions up front for demolition. There is NO current risk to anyone from Hanger One. NO RISK AT ALL!!!
The theoretical risk is minuscule. The demolition risks are known and major.


Like this comment
Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 26, 2011 at 10:45 am

"This is a scam to bring down yet another military edifice, perpetrated by those who believe this nation is better off with no military."

Au contraire. This is a well-considered move by our military to waste no more money propping up an outmoded edifice that outlived its usefulness 3 years after it was built. Use military funds for productive military activities, and let the people yelling to keep this albatross put their money where their mouth is.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Apply my test. Risk to the public from retaining building, negative. Risk to the public from demolition, significant. Cost to the public for retaining structure, insignificant. Costs to demolish, major.
It is by far less costly to leave Hangar One be than to demolish. Demolish/remove should be considered ONLY if less expensive.
Demolition just adds a couple of acres to the site, probably only as parking space. Hatred of the military is the ONLY reason to pursue demolishing.


Like this comment
Posted by Funny
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 28, 2011 at 12:12 pm

"This is a scam to bring down yet another military edifice, perpetrated by those who believe this nation is better off with no military."

And

"Demolition just adds a couple of acres to the site, probably only as parking space. Hatred of the military is the ONLY reason to pursue demolishing."

Love Walter's claims about so-called "hatred" of the military. No proof provided, naturally. But amusing to read his out of this world claims.
Of course, Walter should lay the blame on his beloved republicans:
Web Link
WHo would have thought that they hate the military?


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 28, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Beloved Republicans? I was Republican just long enough to vote for Shirley Temple Black. Been Libertarian ever since. Republicans, being smarter than democrats, are even more responsible for the demolition order.
Challenge my reasons. Tell me how the biosphere is harmed by runoff from this building. That is the stated reason for demolition order. Lacking a threat to public health and safety, the building should be retained.


Like this comment
Posted by Gary
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 28, 2011 at 6:18 pm

"By far the least expensive solution is to retain the building and chemically control the runoff. "

That is a true statement.


Like this comment
Posted by Chicken hawk
a resident of University South
on Jan 28, 2011 at 6:26 pm

So according to walter the republicans hate the military? How I love it when these chicken hawks and sunshine patriots start pontificating about service to the country.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 29, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Chicken Hawk? Sunshine Patriot? Republican? Moi?
None of the above.


Like this comment
Posted by Perspective
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jan 30, 2011 at 7:02 pm

Walter, don't let the trolls grab your ankles from under the bridges...You did a great job, thanks.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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