On the cusp of its 100th birthday, Hangar 9 at Brooks City Base is poised to open a new chapter of its storied life.
Long since retired from the important work of housing “Jenny” aircraft during World War I, the historic wooden hangar will soon embrace a new role as an event space hosting weddings, quinceañeras, and more.
The public is invited to come see the lovingly restored hangar at a special ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, March 24 at 5 pm at 8081 Inner Circle Rd.
“There’s something special about this building,” said Leo Gomez, president & CEO of Brooks. “When you are standing in the open space, it’s not hard to imagine the old biplanes and the aviators in their goggles and leather helmets. Our intent with the restoration project was to find a way for the whole community to enjoy this space. We want folks to make new memories here that will endure for generations to come.”
Built in 1918, Hangar 9 is the oldest wooden aircraft hangar of its kind still standing in the original location. Many hangars of its type were constructed as temporary facilities as the United States entered World War I. Around 8,700 sq. ft. and 30 feet tall, the hangars were designed by noted industrial architect Albert Kahn to allow up to eight Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny” aircrafts to be housed at one time.
Hangar 9 was one of 16 structures arranged in a crescent-shaped hangar row at Brooks Field, so named for Sidney J. Brooks Jr., the first San Antonio native to die in a World War I aviation-related accident.
Saved from demolition in the late 1960s and restored through the efforts of the San Antonio community and the U.S. Air Force, Hangar 9 has served as an aviation, aerospace, and aeromedical museum. It was formerly dedicated to San Antonio native and NASA astronaut Edward H. White II, the first American to walk in space and who lost his life in the Apollo I capsule fire.
As the only surviving hangar from World War I, Hangar 9 is a rare and special tribute to the men and women who served in the Great War. It is a San Antonio Historic Landmark, a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, and is listed in the Texas State Historical Survey and the National Register of Historic Places
Restoring the all-wooden hangar took approximately one year and $2.8 million, including foundation and structural repairs, electrical upgrades, installation of new windows and doors, painting and siding replacement, new paving and landscaping, and accessibility improvements.
Hangar 9’s rebirth complements a recently completed $560,000 project to restore the Sidney Brooks gravesite and memorial. The upgraded memorial provides visitors easier access and creates an open-air gathering place with seating and lighting. Together, the gravesite, memorial, and adjacent Hangar 9 building comprise the historic heart of the century-old campus.
Like Hangar 9, the entire Brooks campus carved out a new life for itself after military operations officially ceased in 2011. With a mission to make Brooks an economic engine for the Southside, the former Air Force base opened its doors to developers and employers who could bring high-paying jobs and a great quality of life.
Today, Brooks is a vibrant, mixed-use community of 1,300 acres where people live, work, learn, and play. More than 3,000 people work at the 32 businesses that call Brooks home, including Mission Solar, Mission Trail Baptist Hospital, DPT Laboratories, VMC, Bridge PTS, the City/County Emergency Operations Center, the Brooks Academy of Science and Engineering Charter School, several market-rate apartment communities, and a variety of restaurants and retail stores.
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Brooks City Base will break ground today on a $2.8 million project to rehabilitate the nearly century-old Hangar 9, a national historic landmark and the oldest structure of its kind on its original site.
City Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran will join officials of the former Air Force base for a ceremony at 11:15 a.m. The 8,700-square-foot white wooden hangar is next to the Brooks Memorial and Gravesite at 8081 Inner Circle Road.
Brooks, now an open, mixed-use South Side campus covering 1,200 acres, has not had a military presence since 2011. It is named after Sidney J. Brooks Jr., a World War I-era flyer killed in training and buried near the hangar.
Brooks Chairman Manuel Villa said the project is timely, during the centennial of the first world war, and will “protect this important historic treasure.
“By making this investment, we will rehabilitate this building and bring new life to it, so that future generations can begin to make new memories here through family gatherings and celebrations and other community events,” Villa said in a release.
The hangar is the last of 16 built in the infancy of Brooks Field, which evolved as a flight training hub in both world wars and a center for aerospace medicine. The hangars were built as temporary structures in 1918 to each hold several lightweight World War I aircraft for repair or protection from bad weather.
“Since it was just a dirt airfield, all of the squadrons would simply be lined up out here. The hangars were really used not for storage of the planes as much as for maintenance,” John C. “Mac” McCarthy, Brooks vice president of facilities and infrastructure, said during a tour in December.
The Air Force announced its intent in the late 1960s to raze Hangar 9. But the Bexar County Historical Society raised funds to preserve it.
This new rehabilitation effort, financed by Brooks with capital funds, state historic tax credits and tax-free revenue bonds, will include foundation and structural repairs, new windows and doors, painting and siding replacement, in coordination with the Texas Historical Commission. Brooks officials have said they hope to make the hangar available for events next spring.
“Now that the Brooks campus is open and this beautiful hangar is being brought back to life, this will be a cherished location, rich with all kinds of new memories for decades to come,” Viagran said.
The hangar was used in recent years for reunions and other special events before it was closed in 2012. The upgrade follows last year’s completion of a $560,000 renovation of the memorial and grave site where aviator Brooks is buried.
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