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Who Cares? - Issue #2
From the desk of Michael Speciale, Executive Director, New England Air Museum.
In this issue of "Who Cares?", I would like to review the history of the capital development at the Air Museum.
Many visitors to the Air Museum might assume that the Museum has always been located at its current site, but this is not so. When the Connecticut Aeronautical Historical Association (that’s our legal name!) began to operate a museum in the early 1960’s, the Connecticut Department of Transportation was always generous, allowing the Museum to operate in various locations at Bradley International Airport.
The last of the sites that the Museum had use of prior to its current location was a large outdoor area parallel to Route 75 more or less across the street from McDonald's restaurant. Many of the Museum’s larger aircraft were parked on display at this location. Farther up the road, the Museum was also given use of an old WWII era hangar in which the smaller aircraft were placed on exhibit.
In early 1979, D.O.T. officials notified the Museum that the two sites that we were occupying would be needed for the Airport’s continued commercial development and that the Museum would be given use of a new parcel on the west side of the airport. This new site is where the Museum is currently located at 36 Perimeter Rd. The move to the new site was to take place in 1980. This presented quite a challenge to the organization in that moving all the aircraft across the field would be immensely difficult and due to that fact that the new site was essentially undeveloped land with no water or sewer or gas lines. Furthermore, there were no funds on hand to construct a new hangar
Many of the problems were “resolved” when a tornado ripped through the area on October 2, 1979. It destroyed many of the aircraft on display in the outdoor area and damaged many more including those inside the old WWII hangar.
As a result of this disaster, the Museum was able to procure a $1M SBA disaster loan/mortgage with which to construct a display hangar on the new site; a telethon on Channel 3 (now WFSB) in Hartford raised some money for incidental expenses and a number of regional businesses pledged $50,000 a year for five years to assist the Museum in getting on its feet.
The new, current site included two parcels amounting to 58 acres. The Museum re-opened at this site with its new hangar and display yard in 1981.
If we fast forward to today, the original hangar – which is now our Civil Aviation Hangar has had its mortgage fully paid off. The original roof has been re-furbished and the siding has been replaced. In order, the following buildings have also been constructed on site:
I am pleased to say that all of these buildings have been fully paid for. Our well water has been replaced with city water from the Connecticut Water Company. Our septic system has been replaced with an MDC sanitary sewer. A natural gas main services our heating needs. We have a paved parking lot and paved roadways connecting our exhibits, restoration and cold storage hangar.
Is there more expansion in our future? Only time will tell!