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Link to airport's WWII roots



HOLLY M. GILL - The north hangar at the Madras Municipal Airport, built in 1943, has beennamed to the National Register of Historic Places.Madras Municipal Airport's north hangar was recognized last week for its role in the training of World War II pilots when the hangar was named to the National Register of Historic Places.

The wood-frame structure, which measures approximately 150 by 96 feet was one of two identical hangars built in 1943 to accommodate Boeing B-17 bombers, as the U.S. military developed the Madras Army Air Field to train bomber pilots for mobilization.

"This national registration brings a couple of major things with it — national recognition as a historic place in Oregon and the U.S., and it provides an opportunity to seek grant assistance to keep it in good repair," said Gus Burril, Madras city administrator.

Michele Quinn, administrative assistant to the Madras Public Works and Community Development departments, conducted most of the research for the grant application, with assistance from Maia Fiala, an intern from the University of Oregon, who wrote the application.

"We started on the listing at least a year ago," said Quinn. "We wanted to get a grant for the north hangar to do the windows, but to get any kind of grant, we have to be listed (on the historic register)."

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Army airmen parade with U.S. flags in front of the Madras Army Air Field north and south hangars during World War II, at what is now the Madras Municipal Airport. The photo is on 
display at the airport.So Quinn set about researching city records that dated back as far as 1910. "We were able to go into City Council minutes and get information from there, and some minutes from the Airport Commission," she said. "We were able to pull up some old maps (that showed) where sewer lines and water lines were."

"I learned so much," said Quinn. "Who would have known that there were 96 buildings up there at one time?"

Rob Berg, manager of the Madras Municipal Airport, is probably the most knowledgeable person on the subject of the two airport hangars, since he once lived in the north hangar, and currently runs his business, Berg Air, out of the other.

"We lived in that hangar when we moved here in 1977, when my dad (the late Ron Berg) was the airport manager," said Berg, noting that the city had modified the hangar in the 1970s to include two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a small kitchen and living room, on the east side of the building, where they lived. "It's just storage now."

Berg explained that during World War II, the U.S. military used the same blueprint to construct many similar hangars across the country. "Most of the hangars have just fallen apart — lost to moisture damage and fire," he said. "This is one of the few that are still standing and in terrific shape."

As a national historic place, the hangar will be eligible for grants to continue to restore the building. "The city's done a terrific job of preserving this, but they need some help; they need some grants to continue to restore the building in its original design," said Berg. "The city invested about $20,000 in windows last year and only got us about a quarter of the way there."

With the national recognition, Burril hopes that the city can continue "making incremental improvements to the windows, so as to protect the historic hangar from the weather and to keep it in good working order, as it is a utilized hangar even today."

The hangar will be on display to the public during the Airshow of the Cascades, Aug. 28-29, when it will once again house the annual dinner and band performances.

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