Little by little, the old terminal building at Hobby Airport is beginning to look like its old self again. Preservationists are restoring the building and turning it into a museum that will tell the story of how aviation transformed Houston into a international major city.
This is the terminal built in 1940 at what was then called Houston Municipal Airport. This relic of bygone days with the control tower bubble on the roof has been empty and decaying for decades since it was closed in the 1960s, until a few years ago when some local history buffs formed the Houston Aeronautical Heritage Society to save and restore it. Lynn Edmundson of the group Historic Houston says the old terminal was designed by architect Joseph Finger, who also designed Houston City Hall and other public buildings in the 30s and 40s.
This was Houston’s airport during World War Two and the Korean war, and it helped fuel the city’s growth and prosperity in the 1950s. Unfortunately, it fell victim to its own success because the city outgrew it. With the advent of the jet age in the 1950s, the city closed the old terminal when the bigger terminal was built on the other side of the airport property in the early 60s. Edmundson says it’s ironic but the new terminal is why the old terminal is still standing.
Phase One of the restoration is now complete. The north wing of the terminal has become the 1940 Air Terminal Museum, with a collection of aviation memorabilia and photographs of the way the airport and Houston looked in the terminal’s glory days. Edmundson says Phase Two is still a work in progress, but they’re getting close to their goal.
Edmundson says they hope to have the terminal completely restored within two years. Funding is coming from the State Historical Commission, Houston Endowment and other private donors.