Signing their names and writing notes on a petition, hundreds of people around the country are making it clear that Hangar One is an important piece of history to them, even as it is reduced to a bare skeletal frame in an environmental cleanup.
An online version of the petition to U.S. senator Dianne Feinstein had 226 signatures as of Wednesday morning. The passion of supporters was made clear in their comments next to their signatures. Many pointed out that restoring the hangar and reusing the 8-acre space inside would create new jobs in the area.
"The hangar is a symbol of our will to reach beyond our grasp," wrote U.S. Navy veteran Clayton Lambert of Palo Alto. "It is an Art Deco symbol of the birth of Silicon Valley. It is important to keep it, as a big reminder of our ability to realize our dreams ... even if they are bigger than life."
Mountain View resident Julie Lovins comments' may reflect those who see the removal of the hangar's siding as "painful."
"Hangar One is both a historic and an economic treasure, with many possibilities for productive reuse," Lovins said. "It is painful to watch it being systematically destroyed."
The most common message in petitioners' comments was that it is important to save the country's history, a message that came even from those living outside of the U.S.
"I lobbied for passage of the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966 to ensure Federal Agencies did not destroy our heritage," wrote local historic preservation activist Bonnie Bamburg. "Hanger One is the biggest Federal building in Northern California and it must be rehabilitated so that it can adapt to new uses and remain our visual connection to the lighter than air ships, WWII and the spirit that led us during that time."
About half of the asbestos- and PCB-laden siding on the hangar's southern end had been removed by a Navy contractor as of Tuesday, providing a view of the frame that has not been seen since it was built during the Depression to house the massive U.S.S. Macon Navy airship.
In the current economic downturn it is very uncertain whether Congress will fund a $32 million request for new siding in NASA's 2012 budget, despite the economic stimulus it could bring. The Republican-dominated House Appropriations Committee appeared to kill that request in July, reporting that it was waiting on a study from NASA of alternatives to restoring Hangar One. But local Congresswoman Anna Eshoo was recently able to have the consequential language removed from the committee's report -- " No funds are included for the re-siding project in fiscal year 2012," -- providing at least some hope that a wider vote by Congress could save Hangar One this year.