After a last minute inspection, NASA officials have decided that Hangar One's 4,638 unique windows aren't worth saving, a disappointment for preservationists and Navy history buffs.
The decision was explained in an email from United States Navy official Scott Anderson. An April 28 inspection by NASA found "significant damage to the corrugated windows (cracks, rust, water tightness), and the window attachments (rust, putty, water tightness)," Anderson wrote.
"NASA has determined that it is not economically feasible to keep the windows in-place or to save the windows at all. NASA indicated to the Navy that they were no longer asking for the Navy to save the windows or keep them in-place."
A few of the windows will be saved for history's sake, Anderson said, but the rest will be taken to a landfill.
Lenny Siegel of the Save Hangar One Committee (SHOC) accepted the decision after participating in talks with NASA about the windows last week.
"This is quite disappointing, but we are still in a position to ensure that Hangar One is restored," said Siegel, director of the Center for Public Environmental Oversight, in an email.
The hangar's upper rows of windows are corrugated and wire-reinforced, making them costly to reproduce. They were made to withstand a hydrogen explosion, as hydrogen airships still existed when Hangar One was built in 1932 at Moffett Field to house the U.S.S. Macon airship.
Work is still underway to begin removing the siding of the hangar, which was scheduled to begin in April. As of May 2, panels had yet to be removed, according to aerial photos taken by pilot and SHOC member Steve Williams. A contractor has undertaken the massive project of putting up indoor scaffolding to remove the siding, which the Navy wants to remove because of the PCBs, asbestos and lead contained in the siding.
While NASA has requested $32.8 million to restore the Hangar, there are no guarantees it will be approved and there is no telling how long Hangar One will be left a massive, bare skeleton.
SHOC is calling on supporters of Hangar One to write letters to Sen. Diane Feinstein in support of Hangar One restoration funding.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation has already written a letter to Feinstein and others, calling Hangar One a place of "national importance."
"It is an excellent surviving example of early twentieth-century military planning, engineering, and construction in the Streamline Moderne style," wrote Stephanie Meeks of the NTHP. "It is emblematic of the region's contributions to aviation and space advancement, as well as technology research and development."
In 1994 Hangar One was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and in 2008 was placed on a list of the "11 Most Endangered Historic Places" in the U.S. by the national register.
Hangar One will be discussed at the next Moffett Field Restoration Advisory Board meeting at 7 p.m. on May 12 at the Mountain View Senior Center, 266 Escuela Ave.