Historic WWII hangar in Gulfport to be restored for National Guard use

Historic WWII hangar in Gulfport to be restored for National Guard use
(Photo Source: WLOX)
(Photo Source: WLOX)

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - After a decade of sitting in ruins, a historic World War II hangar is about to once again play an important role in supporting the military.

Wednesday at the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport, Governor Phil Bryant helped unveil a rendering of what the restored hangar will look like.

The hangar was built in the 1940s and brings back a lot of great memories for architect Michael Lebatard, who is also a pilot.

"Myself, as well a couple that were learning to fly, would sneak into it to look at the airplanes,"said Lebatard." Now we look around today and I'm the architect to restore that building."

The $ 2.4 million restoration comes 10 years after Hurricane Katrina left the building in shambles. Still Gulfport Biloxi International airport officials never lost hope of saving the hangar. The airport is contributing $400,000 towards the project while the Mississippi Development Authority is providing the $2 million.

"It's been a long work in progress in restore and refurbish this hangar," said Clay Williams, airport director. "It's a World War II era hangar on the National Register of Historic Places. It's also a designated Mississippi landmark.

While the hangar has played such an important role in military history, the project is also about creating a better future for service members. The Mississippi National Guard will use the building to keep troops ready.

Major General Augustus Collins, Adjutant General for the Mississippi National Guard said, "At a time when we need additional training facilities here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and we don't have the federal dollars to acquire them, getting this hangar gives us that capability to be able to provide better training for our soldiers and airmen."

Williams believes news of the restoration is another bit of good news 10 years after Hurricane Katrina.

"We did lose so much. Homes. Commercial infrastructure," said Williams. "This is one of the few World War II hangars left in. It's one of two in this region. So any time you can salvage it and make good use of it and turn it into something that's going to be of benefit to our military it's wonderful."

Mississippi National Guard officials said gaining control of the hangar will improve base security by giving them a contiguous section of the airport, therefore, making it easier to have limited access entrances.

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