By NASA // January 25, 2021
NASA & space history
On January 23, 1941, local authorities, military officials, and agency officials gathered in Cleveland to begin construction of the National Aviation Advisory Committee’s (NACA) new research laboratory. (NASA image)
(NASA) – On January 23, 1941, local authorities, military officials, and agency officials gathered in Cleveland to begin construction of the National Aviation Advisory Committee’s (NACA) new research laboratory.
George Lewis, NACA’s Director of Research, said: “I am confident today that this new aero engine research laboratory will be the Mecca for all aero engine engineers and researchers around the world.”
Eighty years later, the laboratory now known as NASA’s John H. Glenn Research Center is one of ten centers and a major economic force in the Cleveland area.
Exactly one year before the groundbreaking ceremony, the NACA officially proposed the creation of a new research laboratory for air drives. In the meantime, the committee evaluated the facility’s locations in the Midwest before selecting Cleveland, Ohio in November 1940.
The Cleveland Chamber of Commerce planned a full day of activity for that cold January Thursday in 1941. In the morning, the cadre toured the Alcoa and Cleveland Pneumatic Tool Company plants.
The former was an important supplier of aluminum aircraft parts, and the latter produced landing gear for the Douglas XB-19 – at that time the largest bomber in the country.
The group then met with 240 local business people in the Red Room of the Cleveland Hotel for a lunch hosted by Cleveland’s newly elected Mayor Edward Blythin and the President of the Chamber of Commerce, Frederick Crawford.
George Worthington Hardware Company presented NACA with a chrome-plated pick and shovel for the groundbreaking ceremony.
NACA officials described the site selection activities while Crawford reminded businesses in the area to keep their pledges in support of the NACA.
Lewis told attendees, “The future of aviation in terms of speed, efficiency and safety will depend to a large extent on the results that come from this laboratory.”
With the war in Europe on the front pages, Edward Warner of the Civil Aviation Authority ominously added, “What we are doing here today can mean the difference between America’s survival and submission. The difference between winning a war and losing a war can be the difference between a 1,000 and 2,000 horsepower engine, or the difference between the ability to fly at 20,000 feet or 30,000 feet. “
In the afternoon, the group traveled to the construction site next to Cleveland Municipal Airport.
Just after 3 p.m. Lewis hit the ground with the chrome pick to loosen the ground. Major General George Brett, acting chief of the Army Air Corps, then picked up. The moment was immortalized by a local newspaper photographer.
That evening Crawford held a dignitary dinner at the Union Club. Construction of the NACA laboratory began in the following days. Research began in May 1942.
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