Curtiss Hangar Restoration Groundbreaking Ceremony

The Curtiss Hangar Restoration Ceremony will occur on May 19th at the Igor I. Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Come celebrate the resurrection of this classic hangar built in 1928 which is set to become the new home of the Connecticut Air & Space Center.
The Curtiss Hangar Restoration Ceremony will occur on May 19th at the Igor I. Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Come celebrate the resurrection of this classic hangar built in 1928 which is set to become the new home of the Connecticut Air & Space Center.
The Curtiss Hangar Restoration Ceremony will occur on May 19th at the Igor I. Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Come celebrate the resurrection of this classic hangar built in 1928 which is set to become the new home of the Connecticut Air & Space Center.

After a campaign spanning nearly a decade, the Connecticut Air & Space Center will hold a groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday, May 19th to mark the formal start for their restoration of a priceless aviation artifact; the old Curtiss Flying School hangar. Located on the Igor I. Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the hangar dates back to 1928 and is one of the very first permanent structures set up at one of the nation’s most historically significant airfields. It was from this field that Sikorsky built his ocean-spanning flying boats, that Vought created the mighty Corsair, and where the first practical helicopters emerged. This hangar has played a significant role in that entire story, even sheltering the prototype XF4U-1 Corsair and one of Amelia Earhart’s aircraft. Charles Lindbergh frequented the hangar during his days as a Corsair test pilot in WWII, and many other well-known names of the 20th century have stepped through its doors….

A reproduction poster of an original dating from the time the Curtiss Flying School opened its branch at the Bridgeport airfield in 1928. (via Richard Mallory Allnutt)
A reproduction poster of an original dating from the time the Curtiss Flying School opened its branch at the Bridgeport airfield in 1928. (via Richard Mallory Allnutt)

The groundbreaking ceremony will take place beside the Curtiss Hangar (behind the Windsock Restaurant & Bar) at 295 Main Street in Stratford CT 06615. It will start at 12 noon with the expected arrival of the Yankee Air Museum’s B-17G Yankee Lady. The Igor I Sikorsky Memorial Airport’s FG-1D Corsair, under restoration with the Connecticut Air & Space Center, will also be on display at the event. Members of the Vought family, Corsair-designer Rex Beisel’s family, and test pilot Lyman Bullard’s family are expected to attend, with Johnathon Day, Beisel’s grandson giving a speech. The mayors of both Stratford and Bridgeport, brought closer together through the project, will also be on hand to officiate. The ceremony is free and open to the general public. It should last about 45 minutes and afterwards, light refreshments will be available at the Connecticut Air & Space Center’s main shop across the street on Sniffens Lane (only open to people aged 18 and over). Free parking will be available close to the Hangar at 295 Main Street in Stratford, Connecticut.

The FG-1D Corsair under restoration at the Connecticut Air & Space Center during a brief outing last year will also be on hand during the ground breaking ceremony for the Curtiss Hangar. (photo by John Lott)
The FG-1D Corsair under restoration at the Connecticut Air & Space Center during a brief outing last year will also be on hand during the ground breaking ceremony for the Curtiss Hangar. (photo by John Lott)
Corsairs taxiing during Corsairs Over Connecticut in 2010. The Curtiss Hangar is clearly visible in the distance. This scene is very reminiscent of similar images from the heyday of Corsair production during WWII. (photo by Richard Mallory Allnutt)
Corsairs taxiing during Corsairs Over Connecticut in 2010. The Curtiss Hangar is clearly visible in the distance. This scene is very reminiscent of similar images from the heyday of Corsair production during WWII. (photo by Richard Mallory Allnutt)

The project has involved immense efforts on behalf of the Connecticut Air & Space Center, especially when coordinating the niceties of local politics between the two neighboring cities of Bridgeport (who owns the airport) and Stratford (upon whose land the airport sits). While many people have been involved in this process, the museum’s Mark Corvino and Gene Madara played a major role in getting the job done, and deserve a great deal of the credit. There is significant funding in place, raised from state and town grants as well as donations from far and wide, but it will need supplementing as the project moves forwards (please contribute HERE if you can). This will be a formal restoration project, run by professional construction companies rather than volunteer labor, although doubtless, there will be plenty of volunteer involvement in the process. The main aim is to get the new roof in place, and the windows/doors renovated so that the building is buttoned up before winter arrives. This will allow work to continue inside the hangar during the colder months, as the Connecticut winters can be harsh. To learn more about the hangar’s history, please click HERE.

The north side of The Curtiss Hangar as it appeared in May, 2010. The paint has peeled significantly to reveal the old Curtiss logo from the late 1920's when the Curtiss Flying School this operated from this hangar. The greenish structure to the left is a lean-to added to the hangar some time after the Curtiss days. (photo Richard Mallory Allnutt)
The north side of The Curtiss Hangar as it appeared in May, 2010. The paint has peeled significantly to reveal the old Curtiss logo from the late 1920’s when the Curtiss Flying School operated from this hangar. But for this sign re-appearing, the hangar’s history would have likely been forgotten, and the dilapidated structure demolished years ago. The greenish structure to the left is a lean-to added to the hangar some time after the Curtiss days. (photo Richard Mallory Allnutt)

When completed, the hangar will become the museum’s annex and house the FG-1D Corsair they are currently restoring. CASC will place a representative Sikorsky helicopter alongside the Corsair (probably the H-19 they are refurbishing presently) and a replica of Gustave Whitehead’s Number 21 aircraft design dating from 1901. The hangar will also contain displays relating the history of aviation in Connecticut, and particularly Bridgeport/Stratford. This hangar is one of the very few aviation-related structures still standing that dates from the early days of flight. It will soon receive the resurrection it so richly deserves, and with luck and hard work, it should be ready for opening within the next three years. Not only will it become an internationally recognized landmark, but it will help bring a renaissance to this struggling area of town. For those who wish to contribute to its refurbishment, or to help the Connecticut Air & Space Center reach its full potential, you can help by contributing at the link HERE.

4 Comments

  1. Dear Warbirds and the people of Bridgeport and Stratford,

    I am thrilled that you are renovating the beautiful old Curtiss hanger shared by your two Connecticut cities. It will be testimony to your great respect for early aviation history. I am Glenn Curtiss’s cousin, first cousin, three generations removed, of Glenn ‘s mother, Lua Andrews Curtiss.

    Connecticut can also claim a part of Curtiss’s ancestry, because the Andrews were among the first New Haven planters.

    The hanger will be a piece of history, not just for Connecticut, but for all of the American people. Thank you so much.

    I wish I could be there for your first ceremony. Please know that I will be there in spirit, and I think that Glenn Curiss may be there as well. I wish you much success in you endeavors.

    Sincerely,

    Marcia Cummings Hubbard

    • My goodness Marcia! What an amazing heritage you have. Like you, we are thrilled that the hangar will be saved, and become a cornerstone of an important museum. We will be sure to keep you posted as the work progresses!

  2. Congratulations on the achievement, and compliments on the Whitehead exhibit idea.

    As an aviation historian who’s “on the fence” about the Wright/Whitehead controversy, and weary of the role that hometown/homestate allegiances (on both sides) have played in shaping that historic debate, I hope you’ll take a neutral stance on the issue until it’s seen more substantial research and analysis by cooler, less-biased, more neutral minds.

    But I very much DO think that there should be a few Whitehead #21 replicas on display (and other Whitehead designs, so far as they can be honestly replicated), with the appropriately neutral labeling, to help visualize the issue, and give at least some credit to an obviously inventive early aviator, and aviation engine pioneer.

    Richard Harris
    former Chairman, Kansas Aviation Centennial

  3. Breaking News Alert! “Gustave Whitehead: First in Flight”, a new book by Susan Brinchman is now available, for sale at Amazon’s CreateSpace eStore: https://www.createspace.com/4406920, and by June 2, on Amazon.com.

    “Gustave Whitehead: First in Flight” presents new, compelling evidence to credit Gustave Whitehead as “first in powered flight” and inventor of the airplane. This book reveals the fascinating truth about Whitehead’s successful powered flights in Connecticut, more than two years before the Wrights flew at Kitty Hawk. Learn the startling reasons why the Wright brothers aren’t “first in flight”, as you enter the hidden history of early aviation.

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