Once the commercial hub of an exciting new way to travel, this art deco air terminal is a time capsule of a bygone era full of ambition and design.
Thanks to the Houston Aeronautical Heritage Society (HAHS), this window into aviation history and architectural treasure has been preserved. Gatekeepers of Houston’s aeronautical history, the society was actually formed to save the terminal in 1998, born out of the Houston Aviation Alliance and made up of enthusiastic lovers of architecture, aviation, and history from all walks of life. The organization has taken on responsibility for the long-term care and restoration of what was the first (and for a long time, only) commercial flight terminal in the city.
The 1940s were a time of great change in America, and while hard battles were fought and lessons were learned, great innovation and inspired art and architecture also blossomed. The William P. Hobby Airport was an example of both, its sleek art deco design inviting to the air travelers dressed to the nines, ready to take the first commercial flights into the friendly skies. The only commercial terminal in Houston until 1954, it didn’t fall out of use until 1978. Set for demolition, the terminal was immediately championed by historically inclined citizens, and was given clemency.
The HAHS took restoration slowly and in phases, removing asbestos and lead and restoring the mezzanine and atrium as funds allowed. In 2004, the first section of the terminal-turned-museum was opened to the public, and the museum will continue to expand as restoration progresses.
Besides being an object of interest in and of itself, the terminal is now home to a collection of exhibits that tells Houston’s story of aviation history. A visit to the Museum also affords a front row vantage point to Hobby Airport’s diverse airport operations. Between airline traffic, business aviation and frequent fixed wing and rotary wing general aviation traffic, the Museum has an air show every day.