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Volunteers dismantling old aircraft building

March 05, 2006|By DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ

HAGERSTOWN

The cradle of one of Hagerstown's largest industries, which also gave rise to one of its greatest heartaches, slept quietly for decades behind a house in the 800 block of Pennsylvania Avenue.

But the Little Green Shed, a name it took from its now-imperceptible shade of paint, was not entirely forgotten.

For the past two weekends, a group of people brought together by their mutual respect for this small, 16-foot-by-30 foot structure has spent its time carefully taking the barn apart with the hope of, one day, finding a more fitting place to reassemble, restore and display the source of what brought Fairchild Aircraft Corp. to Hagerstown.

It was here, behind a home at 851 Pennsylvania Ave. and across the street from Fisher's Auto Repair, that Ammon H. Kreider and Lewis E. Reisner came together to form the Kreider-Reisner Aircraft Co. Kreider-Reisner later was bought by Sherman M. Fairchild, who served as president of Fairchild Aviation. At its height around the 1950s, Fairchild employed as many as 12,000 workers, according to published reports. Fairchild shut down its operations in the 1980s, according to published reports.

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"We've known this existed and drove past it many times, but it came to a point where in the not-too-distant future, it was going to start falling apart," said Kurtis Meyers, president of the Hagerstown Aviation Museum. "If it wasn't for Kreider-Reisner, Fairchild would never have been here."

Meyers said he is hoping to move the museum, which now has space at The Discovery Station at Hagerstown, into its own space. Once that happens, he wants to reconstruct the barn inside it, combined with two of the structure's products - an original Kreider-Reisner Challenger and a Fairchild F-24.

Christopher Marston, a Historic American Engineering Record architect for the National Park Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior, said the barn was built around 1888 on Walnut Street, where it served as a shoe repair shop. Piece by piece, it was moved to Pennsylvania Avenue around 1925. It was there that Kreider and Reisner entered the aircraft manufacturing business.

The two would travel to races across the country showing off their handiwork. At one race in Philadelphia in late 1927, they placed first with their KR Challenger, Marston said. It was there the two met Fairchild, and the three decided to go into business together in 1929. After completing the deal in April, Kreider died the same week in a mid-air crash in Detroit.

Douglas Reed, owner of Preservation Associates and a representative to the board of the Maryland Historical Trust, said having passed by the structure for years, walking past it countless times as a child, he was surprised to learn of its true significance in Hagerstown aviation. Aesthetically, he said, "You just can't get excited about the building."

"It's been a real, real eye-opener," Reed, the son of a Fairchild worker, said of the project.

Reed, who was asked by the Maryland Historical Trust to oversee the project, has helped the group plan how to take apart the building, and is preparing a report on not just its history and chronology, but also on what options Meyers and the museum will have to restore it. He said the report is being funded with a $5,000 grant from Preservation Maryland.

Reed said he expects to have the barn taken apart and put into storage by next weekend.

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