After many years of good ideas, negotiations, offers, false starts and close calls, Richland County has now sold the historic Curtiss-Wright Hangar at the Jim Hamilton–L.B. Owens Airport (CUB) to a private developer.
The purchaser is Hangar Owners, LLC (formerly known as Hangar Preservation Development, LLC), which plans to restore the hangar and lease it to the owner of Hunter-Gatherer Brewery & Ale House in Columbia for use as a microbrewery. The sale price for the hangar and the surrounding compound was $176,000, which is the “fair market value” as required by Federal Aviation Administration regulations.
Richland County Councilman and Airport Commission Liaison Greg Pearce is elated about the sale.
“Hallelujah,” Pearce said. “We’ve been working on getting to this point for nearly 20 years. We were quickly running out of time to save this bit of important American aviation history. This is a milestone for me that I can check off my County Council ‘bucket list.’”
The historic hangar was constructed 86 years ago by the Curtiss-Wright Corporation under the watchful eye of Columbia Mayor L.B. Owens when the airport first opened in April 1930. The corporation was established by famous aviators Glenn Curtiss and Orville and Wilbur Wright.
Richland County Airport Commission Chair Jim Christopher was relieved about news of the sale closing.
“In this (commercial real estate) market, bringing deals to fruition is especially challenging,” Christopher said. “There were times when our confidence that the sale was actually going to take place was ebbing a bit. We are very pleased that our partner in this transaction, Hangar Owners, LLC, stuck with it and did not get distracted or discouraged. I’m sure that the final result will be well worth the wait.”
Hangar Owners, LLC, is headed by local attorney Robert Lewis, who is a board member of the Historic Columbia Foundation and was also involved in another prominent local restoration, 701 Whaley Street. As required in the sales contract and a historic preservation easement, the restoration of the hangar will be to standards established by the National Park Service and administered by the South Carolina Department of History and Archives.
The historic preservation easement will be held by the Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation.
“Like many of our projects throughout the state, they sometimes move in ‘fits and starts,” said the Preservation’s executive director, Michael Bedenbaugh. “We are excited that this long-neglected historic treasure will be neglected no more as a result of this public-private partnership.”
The Curtiss-Wright Hangar is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.