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OUT WITH THE OLD, AND IN WITH NOTHING GOOD

by ANDY MILLER Times Reporter

Two framed photographs hang in the Bryan Post office on one of the pillars there. Typed in fancy almost-calligraphy beneath them is: "The first aerial mail on the Woodrow Wilson aeropost route between New York and Chicago was delivered in Bryan, Ohio on Friday, September 6, 1918.

 "Max Miller piloting a Standard Biplane, made the 160 mile hop from Cleveland to Bryan in 2 hours and ten minutes, followed by Edmund E. Gardner, piloting a Curtis Biplane, making the 160 miles in 2 hours and 18 minutes.
"The air field was located on the 150 acre Willett farm on the north edge of Bryan.
"Special 16 cent postage stamps were received at the Bryan Post Office for this event."

An article ran in the paper Tuesday, Nov. 10, 1998 stating that the last airmail hanger in the United States (and, incidentally, the first ever constructed) was going to soon be torn down by its owner, one Putman Pierman Jr. Mr. Pierman (who still owns the property), only wanted $175,000 for the land, otherwise he was going to tear the place down. The steep cost, incidentally, was because, from what I've learned, Pierman won't sell the hanger without selling all the land that goes with it.

It's nice that Mr. Pierman put such a high price on history. Especially when the profits will be going into his pockets.
How patriotic.

Last week, I noticed that the hanger had undergone more damage to the roof. I even went so far as to get another picture of the hanger (damage and all) and updated an editorial I wrote a year ago that was too caustic for publication in the Bryan Times.

Then, a glint of light.

I found a couple of places on the internet that might have an interest in saving the hanger. One was a web page devoted to the air mail service and its history. The other was the aeronautic museum section of the Smithsonian Institute. I e-mailed both of them.

Wednesday afternoon, I got a reply from a Nancy Allison Wright. She wrote:

"I'm flabbergasted and delighted to hear there is still an airmail hanger standing somewhere on the old transcontinental route. Yes, as far as I know the hanger  at Bryan is the last one left in the U.S. Could you please scan or mail me a photo of it?

"Here is a bit of information you might find interesting; it's notes I've made from the book 'Aerial Pioneers: The U.S. Air Mail Service, 1918_1927' by William M. Leary: On My 15, 1919 the U.S. Air Mail Service inaugurated the Cleveland--Chicago schedule. Pilot Trent C. Fry flew a modified DH with 450 pounds of mail from Chicago to Cleveland (325) miles in 3 hours 13 minutes, including a brief stop at Bryan, Ohio (a refueling stop). Pilot Edward Gardner covered the westbound segment without incident in 3 hours 50 minutes. Postmaster General Albert Sydney Burleson disliked the approaches to the field at Bryan, especially the telephone wires on the west end; also poor drainage made the landing area treacherous after heavy rain. He was most impressed with Bryan field manager Warren E. ('Dad') LaFollette.

"That hanger contains some great history. I hope your editorial will inspire Bryan citizens to press for its preservation. Good luck and thanks for getting in touch."

Imagine my surprise, shock, and shame when I drove by the hanger Wednesday night to find nothing but a pile of rubble where the building had once been.

I had written an editorial that I'd hoped to rile up the people of Bryan so that something might have been done to save the hanger. It will never be printed because the point is now moot.

What we had here was the LAST (note that word please) original airmail hanger in the United States (for those of you who missed it in the paragraph above). It was the first built and the last one standing. We're not talking about something that every state has preserved. We're talking the last of its kind in the United States.

This is something Bryan had to be very proud of. This was something unique that no other city in the U.S. could boast of having.

This was the only original hanger left on the first airmail route between New York City and San Francisco, Calif. in a time when biplanes plied the skies and it took a 32 hours nonstop for the plane to make its way from coast to coast.

This was where it all started. This was where aviation went from being a cute (if expensive) hobby or something that could be used to scout out the enemy in war into something that was useful to the average man.

This was history. Now it's a pile of rubble. Thank you Bryan, Ohio, for teaching me, once again, never to try and do what is right.

What do you think they'll build there? Maybe a gas station: with the fuel industry gorging itself on inflated prices, you can't have too many of those. Or maybe a fast-food restaurant or another used car lot. Bryan could use more of either of those, couldn't it? Hey, I know.

How about a parking lot? That would be appropriate, wouldn’t it?

Last two photos courtesy Andy Miller 

Max Miller: In His Own Words

 

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