The 1940 Air Terminal Museum is a museum located in Houston, Texas, United States, at William P. Hobby Airport. Collections are housed in the original art deco building which served as the first purpose-built terminal for passenger flight in Houston. The museum currently exhibits several collections focusing on Houston's civil aviation history and is operated by the Houston Aeronautical Heritage Society (HAHS), a recognized Texas 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.
The terminal building is among the few surviving examples of classic art deco airport architecture from the 1940s. The terminal served Houston during the years when air travelers dressed in their best and embarked for destinations aboard roaring prop liners like the Douglas DC-3 and the Lockheed Constellation.
Designed by architect Joseph Finger (who also designed Houston's City Hall), the terminal was designed to meet Houston's growing role as a center for air commerce in the late 1930s. The terminal served as the only commercial air terminal for Houston until 1954, and was subsequently used by various tenants until 1978. In that year, Hobby Airport's manager James Delong proposed demolishing the 1940 terminal to free up ramp space, but enthusiasts blocked the demolition. The terminal was then unoccupied for nearly 20 years.
In 1988 Stephen Fox of Cite said that the terminal was "in very shabby condition."
The city of Houston stabilized the exterior of the building, and members of the Houston Aviation Alliance worked to save the terminal. In 1998, the Houston Aeronautical Heritage Society (HAHS), a nonprofit organization, was formed primarily to save the threatened terminal building.
The North Wing of the Air Terminal was opened to the public in February 2004 as the first phase of the museum. The restored North Wing of the terminal housed the museum's collection and gift shop and served as the museum's base of operations while completing fund raising and restoration of the remainder of the building.
The American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics (AIAA) designated the 1940 Air Terminal Museum a Historic Aerospace Site. The 1940 Air Terminal is the AIAA's 35th aerospace site recognized as a rare example of classic Art Deco airport architecture. In February 2010, the Houston Aeronautical Heritage Society was presented with a Good Brick Award for excellence in preservation for the 1940 Air Terminal Museum. Good Brick Awards are given annually from the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance. In 2008 the Houston Press declared the terminal the "Best Piece of Aviation History".
Cover image: "The 1940 Air Terminal Museum" by Bill Bradford licensed under CC BY 2.0. Information courtesy of Wikipedia.