A building seemingly tucked away at the edge of the Manchester-Boston Airport runway holds many keys to New Hampshire’s aviation past, and I suspect also has great significance for its future. I had the wonderful opportunity to tour there today, with acting director Wendell Berthelsen as my guide.
Before you even enter, you will find the architecture itself intriguing. The structure was built in 1937 (by the WPA) in art deco style. In 1995 it was saved from demolition, moved to the east side of the airport where it now sits, and is in pristine condition, being well preserved by the New Hampshire Aviation Historical Society.
The building inside is amazingly larger than it seemed standing outside. There are eye-popping, hand-painted murals in the lobby immediately as you enter. Next are easy-to-understand time lines and significant facts about the building and the airport itself. From there you are escorted into a larger area, with displays of a section of a real antique airplane (the Doodle Bug), flight simulations (Race to the Finish), and countless displays and artifacts from notable New Hampshire aviators, both male and female. (Kudo’s to this museum for the obvious effort that they extended in including women in their displays and histories).
I recognized many of the New Hampshire aviators, having written articles here (i.e. Brigadier General Harrison R. “Harry” Thyng, Bernice Blake Perry, Professor Thaddeus S.C. Lowe, Christa McAuliffe, and the Granville Family for example), but I learned about many more interesting people and saw fascinating artifacts I didn’t know about on the tour. It is obvious that a great deal of research, collecting, and a flair for presentation went into every single thing I saw.
The Aviation Museum and the NH Aviation Historical Society does not just dwell on the past. What is marvelous about this place is that they are connecting with the present and future. “Fully accredited, aviation class for Manchester High School juniors and seniors….The class, based on a NASA program called Virtual Skies, will be held and taught at the museum. The classroom has been setup with desks, donated by the FAA in Burlington, MA and outfitted with a “state of the art” projection system called Brightlink. (per the NH Aviation Museum web site).
I hope my readers realize that the museum didn’t just sprout up overnight. Its been a real labor of love, produced through many paid and volunteer person-hours, and by the generosity of individuals and corporations– donations large and small. Every bit helps, and so you should help too. If you have personal photographs, stories or artifacts of New Hampshire aviation at any time in history, this is the perfect place to bring them, so that others can enjoy them now and in the future.
And so, on leaving the NH Aviation Museum today, blinking as I moved from the cool dimmer light of the building into the sunlight, I was struck by the sight of the modern airport that faced me across the tarmack. Past, present, future–it all meshes at some point right there in the doorway of the museum. You have to go see and feel it for yourself.
The New Hampshire Aviation Museum is located at 27 Navigator Road (used to be Perimeter Road). [Click here to see their official web site directions]. Standard Hours are:
Friday and Saturday — 10 am to 4 pm
Sunday — 1 pm to 4 pm. The Museum can also be opened at other times for visitors, groups, and special events.
A Window Into World War II: Grenier Field aka Manchester (NH) Airport