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New Plan Calls for Aviation Hall of Fame at Historic Terminal

Brent Warren Brent Warren New Plan Calls for Aviation Hall of Fame at Historic TerminalElevation via Moody Nolan.
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The latest plan for the original Port Columbus Air Terminal calls for the historic building to serve as the home of a new entity, the Ohio Air & Space Hall of Fame.

The building, located at 4920 E. Fifth Ave, boasts a long and interesting history. It was used as the main terminal for the airport from 1929 to 1958, hosted early aviation pioneers like Charles Lindberg and Amelia Earhart, and served as the initial transfer point in the nation’s first transcontinental air service.

There have been multiple efforts through the years to restore the building and find a suitable tenant for it.

Heartland Bank was interested in using the building and an adjacent hangar for its headquarters, but abandoned those plans in late 2015 after it became clear that retrofitting the hangar building would be too expensive.

The SunDown RunDown Group then announced plans for the building in the summer of 2017 that also went unfulfilled.

George O’Donnel, Co-Chair of a group called Preserving Original Columbus Airport Terminal (POCAT), is more optimistic about the latest effort, citing state funding – in the form of a $550,000 capital budget grant – and the involvement of Ron Kaplan, a former Executive Director of the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton.

“At this point, with the state behind Kaplan’s concept…and Ron’s ability to raise money and manage a nonprofit having to do with aviation, we have a leg up and a firm sense of direction,” he said.

O’Donnel and Kaplan are part of a group working to establish a nonprofit organization that would raise the additional funds required  – as much as two million dollars – to finish the building and get the hall of fame up and running. The group also envisions the space being rented out for events.

A second phase would expand the concept to the surrounding grounds and into the hangar next door, allowing for the display of historic aircraft and other larger artifacts that wouldn’t fit in the 9,000-square-foot terminal building.

“We’re very positive about the prospect of meeting those phase one (fundraising) goals,” said Kaplan. “Obviously there have been a lot of people and companies involved in saving the terminal, and they’re all still engaged and very enthusiastic about the prospect of having a tenant that is…thematically relevant.”

Ohio is one of about only twelve states without a state aviation hall of fame. Kaplan sees that as a missed opportunity, even with the presence of the national hall of fame in Dayton.

“There are the household names that we recognize – the Wright bothers, Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, Jim Lovell – but there are just so many individuals that have not been recognized that should be,” he said. “And the public, especially young people, should be aware of their contributions.”

The terminal building was initially restored in the 1980s, and was occupied by offices for many years before a second period of vacancy led to more problems, including a damaged roof. A fundraising campaign led by POCAT allowed for the building to be stabilized in 2016.

“The fact that (the building) just so happens to be an architectural landmark…that adds luster to whole package,” said Kaplan. “For the long-term, we think this solves a dilemma that’s vexed the airport and the public for years.”


Photos show the 1980s-era restoration of the building. Courtesy of George O’Donnel.

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