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Monday, January 24, 2022

History of South Bay: LAX’s Hangar One stands as the final link to the airport’s historic past

Hangar One, the first building built at Mines Field, now Los Angeles International Airport, has managed to survive as the last remaining link from the airport’s early days during the Golden Age of Aviation.

Mines Field was named after real estate agent William Mines, who leased the former Beanfield land to airport boosters. The mines inspired them to make the crude airfield the site of the 1928 National Air Race, one of the most popular sporting events of the time. The push was helped by promotion in 1927 from an unexpected stopover on the field by Charles Lindbergh and Will Rogers.

Its selection for the highly successful event led to the selection of Mines Field on September 25, 1928, as the site for Los Angeles Municipal Airport over two other competing locations. At first, most employees in the city’s new airport department worked at City Hall in Downtown LA, as the airfield had little office space.

Early aviation firm Curtis Wright came to the rescue, enlisting architectural firm Gable & Wyatt to design a $65,000 Spanish Colonial Revival building known as Hangar No. It was completed in June 1929. Curtis Wright built his own civilian flight school and several of his planes on site.

Hangar One was the first permanent structure built at the airport, even before the control tower, was built in 1930, and two other buildings were built shortly afterwards. Before the airport’s first control tower was built, takeoff and landing were handled by flag carriers signaling aircraft.

Another hugely popular event occurred later in 1929, when the giant German worthy Graf Zeppelin made a stop at the mines, drawing an estimated 300,000 spectators to the airfield on 26 August. Tall and twice as wide as modern blimps.

The next major wing at the airport was its official dedication as Los Angeles Municipal Airport, a two-day event held directly in front of Hangar One on June 7 and 8, 1930.

Commercial passenger flights were not part of its initial operations; Most of them took off from Burbank and Glendale. Private pilots and flight schools provided most of the business, and parachute jumping also became popular during the 1930s.

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The US military occupied the airport after the start of World War II, using camouflage to hide Douglas and North American aviation plants located there from potentially prying aerial eyes.

Everything changed for the airport after the war. The military returned control of the area to the Airports Department, which immediately set about making improvements based on a master development plan drawn up in 1943.

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The first commercial flight took off from the airport on 5 December 1946. On October 11, 1949, the airport received its new name, Los Angeles International Airport.

All these rapid changes removed the works focused on Hangar Forest and the cluster of buildings around it. The planes were also increasing in size. When it first opened, the hangar could hold about 18 aircraft, but its capacity dwindled with each new and larger commercial airliner.

The building was leased to a succession of businesses including North American Aviation, Rockwell International, Golden West Airlines and the helicopter passenger airline company Los Angeles Airways.

By the early 1980s, the vacant, now dilapidated building was locked and at risk of demolition, having been deemed unsafe for use a decade earlier. The airport’s first control tower had already been demolished in December 1974.

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