News

Historic "cork room" slated for demolition soon inside Hangar One

In August a unique artifact of the pre-WWII airship era is set to be destroyed -- a building inside Moffett Field's Hangar One known as the "cork room."

In the early 1930s, the massive Navy airship the USS Macon sailed over Mountain View and the Pacific Ocean like an airborne aircraft carrier with a handful of small fighter planes ready to be deployed from its belly. In its home base, the 200-foot-tall, 1,133-foot-long Hangar One, the cork room was a temperature-controlled environment used to store and maintain the Macon's fragile helium gas cells which kept the airship aloft. They were made from cow intestines before Goodyear came up with a cotton fabric that did the job, said Bill Wissel, founding board member of the Moffett Field Historical Society. The fragile cells had to be constantly inspected and patched because of chaffing on the airship frame.

The 30-yard-long, narrow steel-framed room with double doors on one end is likely to be last of its kind after a similar one in Lakehurst, New Jersey (the location of the fiery Hindenberg crash) was demolished, Wissel said.

"In my opinion, the cork room is the most significant historical artifact in the hangar," said Carl Honaker, the last chief executive officer at Moffett Field before it ceased to be a Naval base, in an email. "It's the only physical evidence of the USS Macon/Lighter-Than-Air era, which was the purpose for constructing the hangar in the first place."

Navy officials have said it is impractical to decontaminate the cork room for preservation. It is unclear what needs to be decontaminated, though lead paint is found throughout the hangar and the hangar's asbestos-laden siding is scheduled for removal this fall.

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The Navy currently plans to preserve a section of the five-inch-thick cork insulation and take photos of the cork room and other interior structures set to be destroyed.

"It is not the actual cork that is historically significant," Wissel said. "Cork is cork. The real technical value of the room is the design and its function. That is what makes it so unique. When you look at it, it is obvious what the room was designed for and how it worked."

Despite the asbestos and lead paint contamination which has kept Hangar One closed to the public for years, Wissel fondly remembers exploring the hangar when the Moffett museum was still located inside, saying it was "like shaking hands with Charles Lindbergh."

The last time Wissel was inside the cork room it was being used for storage, he said. But the sliding overhead hooks used to hold the gas cells were still there. The structure is located on the third story of a building inside the hangar.

If it can be preserved, Wissel believes it could make a "spectacular" walk-through museum exhibit.

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The room's cork insulation, believed to be about five inches thick, kept a temperature-controlled environment inside for the fragile gas cells. Naval officers would sometimes take refuge in during hot summers, Wissel said.

"The Navy vets I talked to said that on hot days they would go into this room and it would still stay remarkably cold," Wissel said.

"I don't know why the Navy is determined to demolish it," Wissel said. "There are lots of steel-framed rooms they are going to keep. To say this one won't survive doesn't make any sense."

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Historic "cork room" slated for demolition soon inside Hangar One

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Fri, Jun 11, 2010, 1:55 pm

In August a unique artifact of the pre-WWII airship era is set to be destroyed -- a building inside Moffett Field's Hangar One known as the "cork room."

In the early 1930s, the massive Navy airship the USS Macon sailed over Mountain View and the Pacific Ocean like an airborne aircraft carrier with a handful of small fighter planes ready to be deployed from its belly. In its home base, the 200-foot-tall, 1,133-foot-long Hangar One, the cork room was a temperature-controlled environment used to store and maintain the Macon's fragile helium gas cells which kept the airship aloft. They were made from cow intestines before Goodyear came up with a cotton fabric that did the job, said Bill Wissel, founding board member of the Moffett Field Historical Society. The fragile cells had to be constantly inspected and patched because of chaffing on the airship frame.

The 30-yard-long, narrow steel-framed room with double doors on one end is likely to be last of its kind after a similar one in Lakehurst, New Jersey (the location of the fiery Hindenberg crash) was demolished, Wissel said.

"In my opinion, the cork room is the most significant historical artifact in the hangar," said Carl Honaker, the last chief executive officer at Moffett Field before it ceased to be a Naval base, in an email. "It's the only physical evidence of the USS Macon/Lighter-Than-Air era, which was the purpose for constructing the hangar in the first place."

Navy officials have said it is impractical to decontaminate the cork room for preservation. It is unclear what needs to be decontaminated, though lead paint is found throughout the hangar and the hangar's asbestos-laden siding is scheduled for removal this fall.

The Navy currently plans to preserve a section of the five-inch-thick cork insulation and take photos of the cork room and other interior structures set to be destroyed.

"It is not the actual cork that is historically significant," Wissel said. "Cork is cork. The real technical value of the room is the design and its function. That is what makes it so unique. When you look at it, it is obvious what the room was designed for and how it worked."

Despite the asbestos and lead paint contamination which has kept Hangar One closed to the public for years, Wissel fondly remembers exploring the hangar when the Moffett museum was still located inside, saying it was "like shaking hands with Charles Lindbergh."

The last time Wissel was inside the cork room it was being used for storage, he said. But the sliding overhead hooks used to hold the gas cells were still there. The structure is located on the third story of a building inside the hangar.

If it can be preserved, Wissel believes it could make a "spectacular" walk-through museum exhibit.

The room's cork insulation, believed to be about five inches thick, kept a temperature-controlled environment inside for the fragile gas cells. Naval officers would sometimes take refuge in during hot summers, Wissel said.

"The Navy vets I talked to said that on hot days they would go into this room and it would still stay remarkably cold," Wissel said.

"I don't know why the Navy is determined to demolish it," Wissel said. "There are lots of steel-framed rooms they are going to keep. To say this one won't survive doesn't make any sense."

Comments

rem
another community
on Jun 11, 2010 at 3:04 pm
rem, another community
on Jun 11, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Save the darn room.

Will somebody in this area please stand up and YELL - SAVE IT>>>

NASA and our Congresstional delagation does NOT CARE


MIke Laursen
Monta Loma
on Jun 11, 2010 at 4:37 pm
MIke Laursen, Monta Loma
on Jun 11, 2010 at 4:37 pm

My crazy idea for saving the hangar: Offer to let The Mythbusters buy it to use as their new shop and experimental area. They've used it on more than one episode. And they probably can afford to buy it with the success of the program.


Steve Williams
another community
on Jun 11, 2010 at 5:32 pm
Steve Williams, another community
on Jun 11, 2010 at 5:32 pm

More on the history of the Cork Room and the effort to save it, with photos:

Web Link


Dominick
Waverly Park
on Jun 11, 2010 at 9:56 pm
Dominick, Waverly Park
on Jun 11, 2010 at 9:56 pm

Hydogen? I thought our dirigibles used Helium, which we had monopoly on. The Germans did not have access to Helium and used Hydrogen hence the tragedy of the Hindenburg at Lakehurst.


Lucky
Martens-Carmelita
on Jun 11, 2010 at 11:02 pm
Lucky, Martens-Carmelita
on Jun 11, 2010 at 11:02 pm

The Eiffel tower stands at 324 metres or 1063 ft including its TV mast.

Hanger One - 1,133-feet-long

Worth saving.


James Bond
Old Mountain View
on Jun 11, 2010 at 11:46 pm
James Bond, Old Mountain View
on Jun 11, 2010 at 11:46 pm

Hi folks,
I have to agree with the vets that did not understand the reason for the demolition of the cork room. Normally a historic building is only knocked down because it is unsafe and there are no funds to repair it. Next thing they will want to knock the hangar down.
If you want to see more on modern airships, past, present and future see: www.airshipblimp.com or if you just want a helium sniffing laugh try www.airship.me the worlds only lighter than air comedy site, with lots of funny pictures and U tube links fit for all the family.
Regards Bond, James Bond.
(Skyship blimp pilot in a View to a Kill)


John the Man
Old Mountain View
on Jun 12, 2010 at 7:25 am
John the Man, Old Mountain View
on Jun 12, 2010 at 7:25 am

If you want to save it, please feel free to pay for it yourself. No one will stop you.

Maybe you haven't heard, but there are other slightly more pressing economic and societal needs for public funds right now.


Mike Laursen
Monta Loma
on Jun 12, 2010 at 7:39 am
Mike Laursen, Monta Loma
on Jun 12, 2010 at 7:39 am

So, Lucky, are you suggesting the hangar be not just preserved, but stood on its end?


Lucky
Martens-Carmelita
on Jun 12, 2010 at 7:46 pm
Lucky, Martens-Carmelita
on Jun 12, 2010 at 7:46 pm

Why not, unbolt the hanger and reassemble it into a magnificent tower of wonderfulness.
You could have the Google bar at the top.

Better that than selling the steel to the Chinese.


fyuahgasdf
Shoreline West
on Jun 13, 2010 at 3:53 pm
fyuahgasdf, Shoreline West
on Jun 13, 2010 at 3:53 pm

I don't understand the fascination with the hanger. Why?


CC
Shoreline West
on Jun 14, 2010 at 12:10 pm
CC, Shoreline West
on Jun 14, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Save the hanger as it being the the last one in the U.S. , make a high tech mesuem out of it. Bay Area need to be more diversified in different area of business.


Mike Laursen
Monta Loma
on Jun 14, 2010 at 12:17 pm
Mike Laursen, Monta Loma
on Jun 14, 2010 at 12:17 pm

fyuahgasdf, it's big and old and a little bit historic. In all seriousness, though, I agree with John the Man. We need to realize we have a weak economy and huge financial problems at every level of government. We can't just spend public money on every project we think is cool.


Hmm
Cuesta Park
on Jun 14, 2010 at 1:55 pm
Hmm, Cuesta Park
on Jun 14, 2010 at 1:55 pm

"It's the only physical evidence of the USS Macon/Lighter-Than-Air era, which was the purpose for constructing the hangar in the first place."

Well, doesn't that make the hanger physical evidence of the USS Macon/Lighter-Than-Air era?


Seer
Blossom Valley
on Jun 15, 2010 at 10:13 pm
Seer, Blossom Valley
on Jun 15, 2010 at 10:13 pm

Get rid of the entire ugly mess. The obsession with the past is destroying our future. Want it preserved? Take some pictures!


The Eye
Old Mountain View
on Jun 16, 2010 at 5:05 pm
The Eye, Old Mountain View
on Jun 16, 2010 at 5:05 pm

"Posted by Seer, a resident of the Blossom Valley neighborhood, 18 hours ago
Get rid of the entire ugly mess. The obsession with the past is destroying our future. Want it preserved? Take some pictures!"

Seer, you are too blind (and probably too young) to appreciate the history involved here. Kindly go back to playing with your smart phone, and let the adults here talk in peace.


aviationFan
Blossom Valley
on Jun 16, 2010 at 9:55 pm
aviationFan, Blossom Valley
on Jun 16, 2010 at 9:55 pm

Speaking as someone with a passion for aviation history, and who works about 30 yards from Hangar 1, I'm not sure I agree that the cork room is the only physical evidence of the Macon and the LTA era. While it may be the most historically significant room in the hangar, I would like to believe the hangar itself is probably more important. Having said that, if indeed the room needs to be destroyed or can't be decontaminated at a reasonable cost, I'd like to see a replica at the Hiller museum become an LTA exhibit filled with Macon/LTA/Sparrow artifacts and photos... always thought the Macon exhibit there was kind of underwhelming. Just my .02


Seer
Cuernavaca
on Jun 22, 2010 at 8:34 am
Seer, Cuernavaca
on Jun 22, 2010 at 8:34 am

Thank you, Eye, for pointing out that you have no good response to my argument, and have to attack ME instead. You made my point for me. There are so many crying needs in our communities for things that help ensure the future that it makes no sense to waste money on preserving the past just to please a few people who won't be around much longer to go visit them. OK, how did that feel?

Oh, and by the way, you guessed my age wrong, probably by 30 years too low.


USA
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Jun 22, 2010 at 11:32 pm
USA, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Jun 22, 2010 at 11:32 pm

A storage room for gas bags -- sounds like the Capitol building.


Bill Crawford
another community
on Jun 23, 2010 at 4:24 pm
Bill Crawford, another community
on Jun 23, 2010 at 4:24 pm

You say you want comments: As a long time MV Resident , teacher, City employee ( cop) you apparently didn't want mine , cause you chose not to print it.

Don't demolish the cork room. It's a part of Moffett's history. Why save the shell and demolish the guts?

I'm using my REAL name! How come you're not printing it?


BOBBY
Castro City
on Jun 26, 2010 at 5:39 pm
BOBBY, Castro City
on Jun 26, 2010 at 5:39 pm

It could be turned into a nightclub or retail. There is surely a way to preserve the cork room and the hangar and make a buck.

The navy and nasa are too stupid to find a way to maximize the value of its historical assets.

A creative business person could make the place into a gold mine.


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