These two mammoth blimp hangars were built in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor to house the manned airships that patrolled the coast of California looking for enemy submarines. At 17 stories high and over 1,000 feet long, they tower over the houses in the Orange County town of Tustin, and are still among the largest freestanding wooden structures on the planet.
The Tustin military base was built in 1942 to keep and maintain the lighter-than-air (LTA) airships operated by the U.S. Navy. The giant hangars were made almost entirely of wood as steel was in short supply due to the war effort. Each hangar covers about 7 acres of enclosed space, enough to house six lightweight helium blimps each about 250 feet long. The sheer scale of the structures would earn them recognition as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, not to mention some impressive film and TV cameos.
After the dirigibles war program was shut down in 1949, the obsolete blimp hangars were used for Marine helicopter training with the outset of the Korean War. The base, then known as the Marine Corps Air Station Tustin (and nicknamed “Hangar City”) operated until 1999 when it shut down for good. The disused hangars still stand today, though the future of these historic relics of airship warfare is uncertain.
Know Before You Go
Take the Jamboree exit off Interstate 5 at Tustin, California. The former Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) is now a planned community called Tustin Legacy, adjacent to The District shopping center. One of the hangars is currently open and rented out for events; the other was closed after the roof was damaged in a storm in 2013.
Check with the Tustin Chamber of Commerce's website for activities inside the hangar. In March there is a Half Marathon and 5k that runs through the South Hangar. In November they hold a Food & Wine Festival.