NACA Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory

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Facility 587
2008 Front

Center: Langley Research Center
Location: Hampton, Virginia
Year Built: 1917
Historic Eligibility: National Register Eligible
Important Tests:

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[top] History

Money was appropriated on 29 August 1916 for purchase/construction of a site for NACA, and Hampton was chosen from six possible locations shortly afterwards. The property was transferred to the government 30 December 1916.

They broke ground for the first building, now known as Building 587, on 17 July 1917. The location was originally referred to at Plot No. 16 in Albert Kahn's design of the base. The new installation name of Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory was approved 22 April 1920. The building was dedicated 11 June 1920.

LMAL's oldest building exhibits classical features. The entrance has Doric columns, a projecting cornice, and limestone door surrounds and water table.

The building was transferred by NASA to the Air Force in 1977 and has undergone fairly major renovations to include several additions to either side of the original building. Over the front entrance remains the original "NACA" limestone embossed sign and the words "Research Laboratory".

The brass plaque is located on the right side of the front entrance to the building and reads:

"The First Aeronautical Research Laboratory of the US Government Erected in 1918 for the NACA (incorporated in 1958 in the NASA), this research laboratory building represents the start of America's drive to attain aerospace superiority through "the scientific study of the problems of flight with a view to their practical solution."

The following documents now at the National Archives provide some insight into the construction of the NACAs first building.


Dedicated with NACA's first wind tunnel on June 11, 1920, this facility was a focal center of national aerospace research and technology advancement for almost sixty years. It served as the headquarters of the NACA/NASA Langley Research Center until 1956. The official timepiece for the laboratory was a chronometer purchased on April 15, 1919 for the sum of $175. The clock still runs and is on display in the director's office. A plaque identifies the item "as the standard for the official time of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics in the conduct of all its research and business."


South Entrance
Building 587 was the technical management center for the nation's X-2, X-2, X-3, D-558 I, D-558 II, and X-15 Transonic, Supersonic, and Hypersonic Research Airplane Programs from 1945 to 1956, and between 1958 and 1962 was the home of America's first Man-In-Space- Program-- Project Mercury-- and the birthplace of Projects Gemini and Apollo. In the 1961-62 time frame, the building became the temporary headquarters for the Space Task Group (see 1958 Memo from Gilruth). "These halls have echoed the voices of many great aerospace pioneers and the triumphs of advanced flight concepts, technology, and demonstrations that paved the way for United States leadership in aeronautics and space."

[top] Photos

[top] Building


During ConstructionConstruction1917 Construction (right-middle)Construction


1920 Aerial1920 courtesy LAFB1954-10-29 Air Scoop, Yesterday and Today1921 Aerial1920 (NARA)courtesy LAFBcourtesy LAFBcourtesy LAFBcourtesy LAFB1924 courtesy LAFB1924 NACA Lab FrontFront (NARA)1926 NACA Lab Back1930 Front (courtesy LAFB)19321941 Addition1941Early architect sketch of entrance (NARA)Early architect sketch of entrance (NARA)1928 entry (NARA)1928 entry (NARA)< 1961 Exterior side view1961 STG Headquarters1961 STG HQ1971 Exterior view1971 Back view1972 Exterior view2008 Front2009 Historic Marker2009 Entry2009 Entry2009 Entry Header


1952-12-05 Air Scoop1948-01-16 Air Scoop Cafeteria in Administration Building1937 Cafeteria Serving Counter1937 Cafeteria1942 New Cafeteria1942 Lobby1947 Lobby with Lankes murals

[top] Personnel

1921-06-1 Patternmakers1921 Patternmakers1922 Howard Morris in Instrument ShopDraftsmen1923 Norton and Recording Manometers1927-12-1 Administrative Office1928 H.J.E. Reid1929-04-2 Division Chief Meeting1930 Shorts and Socks1936-10-10 Accounting Office1942 Receptionist in Lobby

[top] Visitors

1922 Orville Wright at Back Door1923 NACA Members1926 Annual Conference1926 Theodore von Karman Visiting Langley1928 Amelia Earhart1929 Collier Trophy Presentation1929-04-18 NACA Meeting1938 Reid, Bush, and Lewis1938-05-20 Harry Truman Visiting Langley1939 NACA Engineers1946 Executive ConferenceNACA 1443.jpgNACA 1443a.jpgNACA 1443b.jpg

[top] Aeronautical History Murals

In 2014, researcher Margot Shetterly uncovered a letter at the National Archives in Philadelphia from Langley director H.J. Reid to Orville Wright regarding an error in the murals.

J.J. Lankes, NACA 1946 Panel One of Mural Panel Two of Mural Panel Three of Mural Panel Four of Mural1949 at Murals1949 at Murals2011 Jeanie & Elizabeth Lankes, granddaughters of artist J. Lankes2011 Jeanie Lankes

Further Reading

A Brief History of Aeronautics. 1946

from Harry DeVoto regarding painting process. 1968

Memo regarding preservation of building and murals. 1976

Memo from J.B. Lankes with copy of 1946 Brief History. 1995

The Artwork of Julius John Lankes. 2013. Mary Gainer.

[top] Drawings

1922 Lunch Room1926 First Floor1926 Second Floor1935 First Floor1935 Second Floor1940 Proposed Annex1942 First Floor1943 First Floor1945 Second Floor1946 Colored Cafeteria1947 Floor Plan1947 Plot Plan1961 Addition1965 Floor Plan

[top] Documents

1921 The Tilting Manometer

1971 Inventory Form of Historic Places

[top] Interesting Memos

These memos are from the collection at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. The photos were taken by NASA retired researcher Joseph Chambers during his research in 2014.

Roofing ContractOffice LocationsOffice LocationsWater LeaksWater LeaksAcceptance of Donn & Deming, Architects1922 Personnel

Edward Donn

Edward Donn (1868? - 1953) was the son of a draftsman connected with the extension of the Capital Building. He was a graduate of MIT and Cornell.[1] From 1900-1902 he was appointed to the Supervising Architect's Office, which he left for private practise where he went on to form Wood, Donn & Deming, a partnership which remained until 1912. Donn & Deming remained partners afterwards until 1923 when both men formed individual practices.[2] Donn was an authority on early American architecture and pioneered restoration architecture until his retirement in 1931. He designed a number of houses in Chevy Chase, Maryland including his own (3810 Bradley Lane).

[top] References

  1. Architects to the Nation: The Rise and Decline of the Supervising Architect's Office.
  2. Architects and Builders, Montgomery County. (
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