Franklin County is lending its support to a mostly volunteer effort to preserve a bit of beloved local history sitting on the east side of the Tri-Cities Airport.
The county commission dedicated $10,000 in historic preservation dollars to support restoration of the old control tower at Naval Air Station Pasco, on the Tri-Cities Airport’s east side. The board approved the request from the nonprofit Pacific Northwest Aviation Museum at its regular business meeting last week.
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It voted unanimously to endorse the citizen-led effort to preserve and celebrate Pasco’s often overlooked contribution to World War II.
Malin Bergstrom, president of Bergstrom Aviation and leader of the Save the Old Tower effort, said an anonymous donor has pledged to match all donations to reach the $100,000 goal.
“Not only do we have the Franklin County commissioners’ donation of $10,000 but we now have a matching donation of another $10,000 from an anonymous donor, so we’re on a roll,” Bergstrom said.
The Old Tower, as it is called, is being converted into a museum showcasing the history of Naval Air Station Pasco.
The museum leases the tower building from the Port of Pasco, paying $300 a month. It has a five-year deal that gives it time to pursue its preservation mission.
At its height, the base was the third busiest pilot training facility in the U.S. after Pensacola, Fla., and Corpus Christie, Texas.
Using a mostly volunteer crew, it has demolished the interior and began replacing electrical and plumbing systems, setting the stage for a museum to highlight its growing collection of memorabilia from the era. As word of the project gets out, Bergstrom said residents have brought items from that period to her business.
The Navy established Naval Air Station Pasco in 1942 and decommissioned it in 1947, after the war’s end.
At its height, the base was the third busiest pilot training facility in the U.S. after Pensacola, Fla., and Corpus Christie, Texas. More than 1,800 pilots trained in Pasco on Stearman (Boeing) Kaydet biplanes and later more modern aircraft.
The base was a miniature village complete with all the facilities and amenities needed to serve a community of thousands.
Naval Air Station Pasco had little to do with the region’s better-known contribution to World War II, namely the role the Hanford nuclear reservation played in the Manhattan Project.
Bergstrom called the aviation museum a natural complement to the Manhattan Project Historical National Park, which tells the Hanford story.
More than 1,800Number of pilots trained in Pasco on Stearman (Boeing) Kaydet biplanes and later more modern aircraft.
The 2005 Washington Legislature funded historic preservation through a bill that directed $1 from its $5 document recording fee to counties for historic preservation projects of public interest. Franklin County has about $106,000 available. It previously awarded contributions to support renovations to the Franklin County Historical Society, the Connell Museum and the Railroad Museum.