HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah Renovation work will start in the coming months on one of Hill AFB’s older buildings – Hangar 225, a 76-year-old structure built during World War II.
The estimated $40 million, six-year renovation project will primarily repair/replace a deteriorating roof on the nearly13-acre building that the 309th Aircraft Maintenance Group currently uses for upgrade, maintenance and repair work on multiple aircraft.
In addition to the size and scope of the project, the renovation will be unique because Hangar 225 was determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places in 2002 and is currently going through the official nomination listing process, said Anya Kitterman, Hill AFB’s Cultural Resource Program manager with the 75th Civil Engineer Group.
“If historic integrity has been lost,” Kitterman said, “rehabilitating structures to their original condition is highly encouraged. With Hangar 225, we plan to bring back some of those significant features from the 1940s which made the building unique during its early days and which help in its eligibility for the National Register.”
Hangar 225 is one of only five barrel-vault style buildings known to still exist in the Air Force. One is also located at Robins AFB, Georgia, and was constructed in the 1940s. The Robins building is nearing the end of a renovation project similar to what Hangar 225 will undergo.
Planning for the Hangar 225 project began several months ago and has involved forming a team that includes the 75th CEG, the 309th Aircraft Maintenance Group, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Utah State Historic Preservation Office. The Utah SHPO is involved in the project due to the building’s historic importance.
A Memorandum of Agreement between the Air Force and SHPO is being finalized because of the “adverse effect” to the historic property that renovation will entail. This adverse effect includes complete re-roofing of the four barrel-vaulted sections of the building and reconfiguring and replacing the middle section of the building with a flat top roof.
“The Air Force and SHPO have been working together to mitigate all adverse effects to the historic building,” Kitterman said. “We were also able to agree to rehabilitate portions of the structure that had previously lost their original 1940s condition.”
When completed, she said, Hangar 225 will once again have sky-lights in the roofs of the barrel-vaulted sections to allow for more natural lighting and an original paint scheme on the gables of the barrel-vaulted sections. Returning the sky lights is one of the energy efficiency upgrades being included in the project.
In addition to rehabilitating the building to its original appearance, the work will bring the building up to current building codes, and adding to the safety and energy efficiency of the structure. This will include meeting current standards for roof insulation. The main safety improvements will be to meet the current seismic requirements for the roof and updated lightning protection for aircraft hangars, both of which were not included in the original construction.
Ken Walter, 309th AMXG, became involved with the renovation project approximately 18 months ago. He said this isn’t a project you can do quickly, especially with ongoing aircraft maintenance and overhaul under way in the facility year-round.
“As this project has progressed, I have gone to places and seen up-close parts of the building that you don’t normally notice,” he said. “There is a lot of really cool architectural elements that are part of the building.”
Walter grew up near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, around historic structures from the 1700s and 1800s, so this project is especially important to him.
“The ‘back’ of the building facing the flight line has art deco designs that remind me of trips to see the Empire State Building,” he said. “When you have a chance to get up close to the roof structural supports, the steel work reminds me of the great bridges of this country – the Golden Gate or the George Washington. You look closely at the materials and there is tongue and groove structural lumber there; the builders used the best materials they had.”
The builders also used materials that are no longer in use because of health and safety concerns, such as asbestos and lead-based paint. These affected materials in the project area will be properly mitigated prior to work starting and replaced with modern materials.
“A lot of my time is spent addressing concerns like these,” Walter said. “The good thing about this project is that it is a team effort between AMXG, CEG and the Corps of Engineers.”
Walter said the renovation team meets regularly allowing questions and concerns to be raised and resolved. Only one part of the project has really intimidated him – “the edge.”
“I am afraid of heights and the building roof ranges in height from 40 or so feet on the flat sections to 90 or more feet on the peak of the barrel sections,” he said.
Hill AFB currently manages 84 properties that have been determined eligible for the National Register. The oldest building on the base is the Hobson House, which was built in 1921 for the Ogden Arsenal and is currently used as temporary lodging for distinguished visitors.
“Though I’ve worked on numerous building projects, MOAs and restoration projects, I have never been part of a project of this scale before,” Kitterman said. “The sheer size of what needs to be done is incredible.”
Even though the renovation cannot restore all of the changes that have been made to the structure through the decades before preservation laws were in effect, she said this project will restore some of Hill AFB’s history.
“To be able to bring back historical elements of the building and have similar views to what the pilots and maintenance workers saw in 1942 will be incredible,” she said. “Though we can’t take back all the updates, these few are a huge step to restoring this piece of history.
“When the project is completed in a few years, the pilots of today will be able to look down and see something very similar to what those 1940s pilots saw.”