Bay Area's Biggest Fixer-Upper Looking for New Tenant

One of the Bay Area's most recognizable icons is in limbo, only halfway restored

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    NEWSLETTERS

    One of the Bay Area's most recognizable icon is in limbo; only half way restored. Joe Rosato reports. (Published Friday, May 31, 2013)

    Bill Parsons surveyed the hulking metal hangar, towering like a massive metal cocoon over Moffett Field.

    With its decaying outer skin removed, the historic Hangar One looked as if it had been assembled with an erector set.

    Parsons worked in the hangar back in the sixties, when he was an airplane mechanic with the Navy.

    “The enormity — spending a night watch in there by myself,” Parsons mused, “you wonder about the ghosts.”

    The ghosts of Hangar One loom large. It was built in the early 1930s to house the USS Macon, a dirigible so large it could haul three fighter planes and more than 200 people.

    The hangar was equally massive — large enough to house three Titanics or seven football fields.

    “In the summertime it was hot, it was cold,” said Parsons, President of the Moffett Field Historical Society. “It was a living, breathing entity.”

    Several years ago, the Navy removed the hangar’s decaying metal “skin,” which was corroded and leaching harmful toxins.

    But NASA, which owns the property, said it didn’t have the money to restore the structure — estimated at around $30 million.

    This week, NASA and the General Services Administration sent-out a request for proposals seeking private companies willing to pay for the restoration and occupy the hangar in a long-term lease. The government is using a provision in the National Historic Preservation Act to allow it to lease the property to a non-governmental agency. In the past, Google has shown interest in renting the hangar to store its planes.

    A source close to the project said other individual groups were also organizing in an attempt to lease the hangar.

    “In some extent this is almost like our Eiffel Tower,” said Bill Stubkjaer of the Moffett Field Museum. “It sorts of defines the era.”

    Stubkjaer said Hangar One represented one of the last links to the age of dirigibles like the USS Macon, which crashed at sea just two years after the hangar opened.

    “It was an extremely important period in time and this is what we have left,” Stubkjaer said. Parsons said he hoped the Moffett Field Museum could eventually be incorporated into whatever project moved into the hangar.

    "It’s a beautiful architectural piece," Parsons said. "Now let’s put the skin back on it and bring it back to life."