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Hangar One (Mountain View, California)

Hangar One is one of the world's largest freestanding structures, covering 8 acres (3.2 ha) at the Moffett Field airship hangars site at Moffett Field, California (near Mountain View), in Santa Clara County of the southern San Francisco Bay Area, California.

Hangar One
Hangar One, opening 1933
Hangar One (Mountain View, California) is located in San Jose, California
Hangar One (Mountain View, California)
Hangar One (Mountain View, California) is located in California
Hangar One (Mountain View, California)
Hangar One (Mountain View, California) is located in the United States
Hangar One (Mountain View, California)
LocationSanta Clara County, near Mountain View and Sunnyvale, California, USA
Coordinates37°24′46.47″N 122°03′13.91″W / 37.4129083°N 122.0538639°W / 37.4129083; -122.0538639Coordinates: 37°24′46.47″N 122°03′13.91″W / 37.4129083°N 122.0538639°W / 37.4129083; -122.0538639
Area8 acres (32,000 m2)
ArchitectDr. Karl Arnstein and Wilbur Watson Associates Architects and Engineers
Part ofUS Naval Air Station Sunnyvale, California, Historic District (#94000045[1])
Designated CPFebruary 24, 1994

The massive hangar has long been one of the most recognizable landmarks of California's Silicon Valley. An early example of mid-century modern architecture, it was built in the 1930s as a naval airship hangar for the USS Macon.

Design and constructionEdit

Designed by German air ship and structural engineer Dr. Karl Arnstein, Vice President and Director of Engineering for the Goodyear Zeppelin Corporation of Akron, Ohio, in collaboration with Wilbur Watson Associates Architects and Engineers of Cleveland, Ohio, Hangar One is constructed on a network of steel girders sheathed with galvanized steel. It rests firmly upon a reinforced pad anchored to concrete pilings. The floor covers 8 acres and can accommodate six (360 feet x 160 feet) American football fields. The airship hangar measures 1,133 feet (345 m) long and 308 feet (94 m) wide. The building has an aerodynamic architecture. Its walls curve inward to form an elongated approximate catenary form 198 feet (60 m) high. The clam-shell doors were designed to reduce turbulence when the Macon moved in and out on windy days. The "orange peel" doors, weighing 200 short tons (180 metric tons) each, are moved by their own 150 horsepower (110 kW) motors operated via an electrical control panel.

The USS Macon in Hangar One on October 15, 1933, following a transcontinental flight from Lakehurst, New Jersey

The hangar's interior is so large that fog sometimes forms near the ceiling.[2]

Standard gauge tracks run through the length of the hangar. During the period of lighter-than-air dirigibles and non-rigid aircraft, the rails extended across the apron and into the fields at each end of the hangar. This tramway facilitated the transportation of an airship on the mooring mast to the hangar interior or to the flight position. During the brief period that the Macon was based at Moffett, Hangar One accommodated not only the giant airship but several smaller non-rigid lighter-than-air craft simultaneously.

Similar structuresEdit

Hangar One is similar to the Goodyear Airdock in Akron, Ohio which was built by the Goodyear Zeppelin Corporation in 1929. At the time the Goodyear Airdock was built, the structure, located in Northeast Ohio, was the largest building in the world without interior supports. It provided an unusually extensive room for the construction of "lighter-than-air" ships (later known as airships, dirigibles, or blimps). The first two airships to be constructed and launched at the Goodyear Airdock were USS Akron and its sister ship, USS Macon, built in 1931 and 1933, respectively. These two airships were 785 feet (239 m) in length.

Other historic references date back to Europe. An outstanding example are the two "hangars d'Orly" for dirigibles at Orly Air Base near Paris. They were designed and built in 1921–1922 by French structural and civil engineer Eugène Freyssinet, the major pioneer of prestressed concrete, and destroyed in World War II.[3]

Another remarkable example of a similar concrete construction are the two airplane hangars for the Italian Air Force in Orvieto, Italy, by Italian architect and structural engineer Pier Luigi Nervi, designed in 1935 and built in 1938. They were also destroyed during World War II.[4][5][6]

1931 - 1932 ConstructionEdit

1965 - 2008 Historic HonorsEdit


December 8, Hangar One is nominated as a US Navy Historic Site.


Jan 3, Hangar One is designated as a Naval Historical Monument by the Navy Chief of Naval Operations.

Hangar One is listed in the Santa Clara County Heritage Resource Inventory.

Patrol Squadron 31 Detachment Alfa begins using Hangar One.


October, Hangar One is designated as Historic American Engineering Record CA-335, State of California Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks by the San Francisco section, American Society of Civil Engineers.


Feb 24, The Shenandoah Plaza National Historic District is accepted into the National Register of Historic Places.

  • Criterion A, association with coastal defense and naval technology that has made a significant contribution to the broad pattern of our history
  • Criterion C, distinctive type, period, method of construction and high artistic values found in the 1933 Hangar.

Hangar One is specifically significant for its contribution to expanding coastal defense capabilities of the U.S. Navy and airship technology during the country's peacetime era between 1932 and 1941. Hangar One has been determined singly eligible for an individual National Historic Building listing in the National Register of Historic Places if so desired.

The Department of Interior and National Park Service attribute the same significance to National Historic Sites and the buildings therein, and to National Historic Buildings. The difference in the designation is simply that a site is a collection of items of historic significance vs. a single building.

The entire historic district is listed in the National Register of Historic Places at the national level of significance under Criterion A for the association with coastal defense and naval technology that has made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history; and Criterion C reflecting the distinctive type, period, method of construction and high artistic values that are represented in the 1933 station plan and buildings.


Patrol Squadron 31 is disestablished due to closure of naval Air Station Moffett Field.


May 20, Hangar One was listed as one of the 11 most endangered historic places in the U.S. by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.[7][8]

2003 - 2012 Hazardous substancesEdit

Exterior panels removed, September 2012

There has been an ongoing debate over the future of Hangar One. As the 21st century began, maintenance shops, inspection laboratories and offices along its length helped to keep the hangar busy, and plans to convert it to a space and science center were proposed.


Plans to convert it to a space and science center were put on hold with the discovery in 2003 that the structure was leaking toxic chemicals into the sediment in wetlands bordering San Francisco Bay. The chemicals originated in the lead paint and toxic materials, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), used to coat the hangar. Proposed options included tearing down the hangar and reusing the land, or cleaning the toxic waste from the site and refurbishing the hangar for future preservation.


An offer to clean the hangar and coat its outsides with solar panels to recoup the costs of cleaning was proposed by a private company, but the plan never saw fruition due to its cost.[9]


August, The US Navy evaluated options for remediating the PCBs, lead and asbestos; the Navy proposed simply stripping the toxic coating from the hangar and leaving the skeleton after spraying it with a preservative.[10] The Navy claimed that to reclad the structure would cost another $15 million and that this is NASA's responsibility. This was regarded as a partial victory by campaigners.[citation needed]

September, NASA indicated that it was still urging the Navy to restore the hangar, but that it is willing to help save the structure; in particular, NASA is in favor of re-covering the structure at the same time as it is stripped.[11]


In December the US Navy began remediating the PCBs, lead and asbestos, and NASA is evaluating options for reuse of the hangar. Some historic and nonprofit groups would like the hangar preserved as a historic landmark,[citation needed] as the hangar is a major Bay Area landmark and historic site.


April, After months of planning and preparation, work to remove the exterior panels began, requiring "the biggest scaffolding job in the history of the West Coast." The work was completed in mid-2012.[12][13]

2012 - 2017 RestorationEdit


October, Google top executives Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt proposed paying the full $33 million cost of revamping Hangar One, in exchange for being able to use up to two-thirds of the floor space to shelter eight of their private jets.[14][15]


September, it was reported that proposals to restore the hangar had been rejected by NASA administration, and that the government would instead direct its efforts toward leasing (or selling) the Moffett facility.[16]


NASA & GSA select Planetary Ventures (a subsidiary of Google) to manage Hangar One and Moffett airfield,[17][18][19] and Google pays $1.16 billion over 60 years for the lease.[20][21]


In May, Google announced that it is prepared to begin testing different techniques to remove the toxic chemicals from the hangar.[22]


In May, it was announced that the restoration of the hangar would be completed in 2025.[23]

Popular cultureEdit

In popular culture, Hangar One can be seen in various episodes of the Discovery Channel TV show MythBusters. For instance, the show used one of the smaller hangars to disprove the myth that it is not possible to fold a sheet of paper in half more than seven times. The sheet of paper covered nearly the full width of the airship hangar. Other episodes of Mythbusters have utilized the hangar to test myths such as "Inflating a football with helium allows longer kick distances" and "Airworthy aircraft can be constructed of concrete."[citation needed].

See alsoEdit


Hangar One with opened orange peel doors, 1963
  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15.
  2. ^ "US Naval Air Station Sunnyvale, CA Historic District (Moffett Field)". California's Historic Silicon Valley. National Park Service. Retrieved 2007-03-13.
  3. ^ "Paris: Airship Hangars, Eugène Freyssinet". Essential Architecture. Retrieved 2014-09-30.
  4. ^ Williamson, Mitch (2007-09-12). "Air Plane Hangars by Pier Luigi Nervi". War and Game - Wargaming and History. Archived from the original on 2011-08-16.
  5. ^ "Pier Luigi Nervi: L'Architecture comme défi" (Press release, pdf) (in French). Archizoom, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. 2013. p. 12. Retrieved 2014-09-30.
  6. ^ Masiani, R. "Architettura delle (Infra)Strutture. La forma strutturale nel progetto di Architettura. 5 aprile 2002" (in Italian). Archived from the original on 2008-05-22.
  7. ^ "2008 List of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places Announced". National Trust for Historic Preservation. 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-07-11.
  8. ^ Barrett, Devlin (2008-05-21). "Threats to history seen in budget cuts, bulldozers". Yahoo! News. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 2008-06-03.
  9. ^ "NASA: New Use For Old Moffett Field Dirigible Hangar? Could Become Massive Solar-Power Facility". Aero News Network. 2005-09-06.
  10. ^ "Navy has an obligation to restore Hangar One". Mountain View Voice. 2008-08-08. Archived from the original (Opinion) on 2011-09-27.
  11. ^ "NASA ready to help save Hangar One". Mountain View Voice. September 5, 2008.
  12. ^ "Hangar One: Stripping down of 79-year-old structure nearly complete". San Jose Mercury News. 2012-06-18. Archived from the original on 2013-01-28. Retrieved 2012-09-21.
  13. ^ DeBolt, Daniel (2012-07-19). "A piece of history: Hangar One skinning job wraps up as last piece is removed from frame". Mountain View Voice.
  14. ^ Wolverton, Troy; Marschall, Kristen (2011-10-09). "Google founders offer '100 percent' funding to save Hangar One, NASA considering offer". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 2011-12-11.
  15. ^ DeBolt, Daniel (2011-12-08). "Google execs offer to save Hangar One: NASA HQ has no word on offer after two months". Mountain View Voice.
  16. ^ Daniel DeBolt (2012-09-07). "Hangar One's fate: NASA Inspector General won't back down". Mountain View Voice. Retrieved 2012-09-21.
  17. ^ Messier, Doug (2014-02-10). "NASA, GSA Select Google-Owned Planetary Ventures to Manage Moffett Field". Parabolic Arc. Retrieved 2014-02-10.
  18. ^ DeBolt, Daniel (2014-02-14). "Google wins Hangar One lease". Mountain View Voice.
  19. ^ Wilson, Alia (2014-02-13). "Naked no more: Hangar One to be reskinned". San Jose Mercury News.
  20. ^ Northon, Karen M. "NASA Signs Lease with Planetary Ventures LLC for Use of Moffett Airfield and Restoration of Hangar One" NASA, 10 November 2014.
  21. ^ 1
  22. ^ Noack, Mark (25 May 2016). "Google's clean-up plan for Hangar One to get a test run". Mountain View Voice. Retrieved 28 June 2016.
  23. ^ Noack, Mark (24 May 2017). "Hangar One restoration to take until 2025". Mountain View Voice. Mountain View Online. Retrieved 21 July 2017.

External linksEdit