SAN ANTONIO– Brooks celebrated the grand opening of the restored Hangar 9, Friday, a $2.8 million project to transform the historic wooden hangar into an event space to host weddings, quinceañeras, businesses functions or galas, and other special events.
On the cusp of its 100th birthday, Hangar 9 has long since retired its work housing “Jenny” aircrafts during World War I and will soon embrace its new role as a community event space.
“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.”
Brooks officials paid tribute to the lovingly restored hangar at a special ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday with elected officials and members of the public. Special guests included Col. Alan Pease and his wife, Col. Ann Marie Pease. When Col. Alan Pease retired from the Air Force in 1998, his retirement ceremony was held in Hangar 9, at that time a museum with early aircraft and artifacts of early work on aerospace medicine.
“Hangar 9 was a special place for everyone at Brooks,” Pease said. “You could go there and have a sense of being surrounded by history and realize that you are now a part of it and are standing on the shoulders of those who came before you.”
The Pease family said they were pleased to see Hangar 9 restored and turned into an event space.
“Preserving the building is only possible if you make it something functional and economically viable,” said Col. Alan Pease. “Just as the mission of Brooks Air Force Base was about helping humans adapt to
the demands of the aerospace environment and new technologies, I think that seeing Hangar 9 adapt from its original purpose to this kind of venue is very fitting.”
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 square feet and 30 feet tall, the hangars were designed by noted industrial architect Albert Kahn to allow up to eight Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny” aircraft 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 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 South Side, 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.
Connie Gonzalez (210) 878-9336