Kansas Aviation MuseumEdit profile
NOTE: As of late October 2008 the B-29 "DOC" is not on view at the Museum. It has been moved at least for the winter months to Building 10 (odd shaped building just east of the Museum) at McConnell Air Force Base on the Kansas Air National Guard side for storage. The general public cannot enter that building with the exception of the McConnell open house and air show.
History and Architecture
Source: * Kansas Aviation Museum
The Kansas Aviation Museum is in the Terminal and Administration building of the former Municipal Airport in Wichita. The building and landing area are constructed on ground that had never been plowed and was known as the California section. The Park Board purchased 640 acres (2.6 km 2) in 1928 and, with Glen Thomas as architect, started the building on July 1, 1930, but construction soon halted due to the Great Depression and lack of funds. The building sat uncompleted until 1935 with a dedication on Sunday March 31, 1935. Wichita was the last stop before crossing the Rocky Mountains to Denver or Los Angeles in those days. The airport was greatly needed for fuel and more importantly weather updates. As told in story after story, many people who landed,ate at the restaurant and milled about were legends of industry and film. Fred Astaire, Bob Hope, Howard Hughes and countless other famous people all walked the terrazzo floors in what is now the Kansas Aviation Museum. It was tagged the "Country Club without dues". During the oppressive heat of the 30's people would come out to the airport at night,spread out a blanket,enjoy the cool breezes and watch the incoming and outgoing aircraft. The building and its grounds set about 75 feet (23 m) higher than downtown and always have a breeze blowing. The runways were paved in the late 30's as a WPA project as was finishing the building in 1935. During World War II the airport became the fifth busiest in the United States being a convenient stop off in the middle of the US and with the endless flight testing of tens of thousands of aircraft being built in Wichita for the War effort. The additions on the east and west end of the building were added in 1942 and 1943. The upper part of the control tower was added in 1940. It was the first control tower to have slanted windows. After WWII and into the 50's a new division of the military called the US Air Force decided they needed an air base in centrally located Kansas which would later become a Strategic Air Command base. They didn't want to spend years designing and building an airport, they wanted one now. The Air Force and the City of Wichita came to an agreement on price (it wasn't all wine and roses) and the building was sold to the Federal Government in 1951. The city bought land,designed and began construction of the new Wichita Municipal airport on the west side of Wichita. Both civil and military flights shared the airport until October 1954 when the last commercial flight took off. The Air Force continued to use the building (called Building One) until about 1984 when they shut the doors and abandoned it marking it off as surplus. It sat empty and partially gutted for at least six years until the Kansas Aviation Museum was formed in 1990 and began work. An application for the building to be placed on the Historic Register was filed on March 6, 1990 and was later approved. The outside of the building has been restored but still needs some work. The south part of the building now looks very close to how it looked in 1935. Much remains to be done to the inside and millions more will have to be spent to bring it back to its 1930's heyday look. The building is without a doubt one of the most beautiful buildings in Wichita and possibly in Kansas. The architecture of the building is Art deco with its strong and obvious geometric shapes and sharp angles. At the front above the triple doors to the lobby is the famous Bas-relief of the Spirit of St.Louis crossing the Atlantic with Ireland in sight. A bas-relief sculpture is raised or sunken and not a flat piece of art work which makes it stand out that much more. the building was also constructed in the Art Deco theme.