Historic Structures

Building History Kreider-Reisner Aircraft Company - Fairchild Aircraft, Hagerstown Maryland

The Kreider-Reisner Aircraft Company (KRA) constructed its new factory in four months from May to August 1929. The architect, engineer, and builder are unknown. The original building consisted of a two story office section in front, and manufacturing area in the rear, comprising 35,000 sf. The building faced north at the intersection of Park Lane and Pennsylvania Avenue (U.S. Route 11) in northwest Hagerstown. The original address was 1 Park Lane, but it is now called 881 Pennsylvania Avenue. The office section measured 120 feet wide by 20 feet deep and was constructed in steel frame with brick sheathing. Two rows of continuous horizontal windows with industrial metal sash -- five lights high on the first floor, four high on the second -- ran the length of the front wall divided by four brick pilasters. The windows continued around the corner on the side walls, ending at a brick pilaster at the back corner of the office section. There were a total of thirteen 2x2 operable windows placed along each row. A central entrance bay projected 2" from the wall, with monumental pilasters on each side. The top of the entrance bay rose above the parapet wall. It featured a decorative stepped stone cap, in the shape of an abstracted Pegasus, a reference to the Fairchild logo. There was also one pilaster on either side of the facade, about 2/3 of the distance between the entrance and the corner. All six pilasters were capped with dressed stone, with set backs and a half-round top, an Art Deco-style detail.

The original assembly area was 250" x 120" (30,000 sf) and was used for the production of KR- 31 and KR-34 Challengers. The structure was composed of twelve bays of vertical steel beams. The walls were fully glazed with industrial windows, with three sets of windows in each bay, which sat on a 2 foot high brick wall. The sash in each bay was six lights high, in a five-six-five horizontal arrangement, with a two-over-three operable window in the center. The roof featured a 60" wide clerestory monitor supported by steel Warren roof trusses. Wood cross beams ran along the truss panel points, supporting wood plank sub roofing. The clerestory windows in the monitor were four lights high with two-over-two operable units. The structure allowed for open work space of 60 feet wide by 320 feet tall by 17 feet tall. There were one story bays on either side; some subdivided into separate work areas. The rear south end featured 12 foot high sliding doors to allow easy access for moving aircraft in and out. The boiler room was situated at the southeast corner of the rear, marked by a 30 feet tall 4 feet square brick chimney. "KREIDER-REISNER HAGERSTOWN, MD." was painted in white block letters on the lower roofs of the side bays, and "AIRPORT 4 MI." was painted on the monitor roof, with a north arrow pointing up Pennsylvania Avenue. There was a dirt access road from the rear of the building around the original Kreider-Reisner shed across the tracks to Pennsylvania Avenue.

KRA documented the construction process of the building through photographs taken from May to August 1929, mostly from the north corner at present-day Burhans Avenue. By 7 May 1929, steel columns had been erected on the west half of the assembly bay, topped by horizontal beams on the side bay. Concrete block and brick were being laid around the office section, serviced by a horse-drawn cart. A workman started inserting window framing for the front wall. By 14 May, the masonry continued up to the second floor in the office section, and the indentations for the pilasters had begun to take shape. Workers started erecting steel framing on the office second floor, as well as the Warren roof trusses in the assembly bay. By 21 May, the masonry continued up to the roof level, and the Art Deco concrete details sitting above the pilasters were completed. The industrial window sash was being installed on the first floor. On the assembly bay, wood plank sub roofing and window sash framing were being installed. A few days later, the entire exterior of the office was enclosed except for the front door. Sash framing, glazing, and the brickwork continued on the west wall of the assembly bay. An interior view shows plank sub roofing being installed over steel framing and a dirt floor. By 28 May, almost all sash had been installed on the first floor assembly bay, except for the bay closest to the office, which was probably kept open for access. The clerestory window work had not yet begun. No images exist for June and July, but Kreider-Reisner started to move in during this period. By 8 August, the exterior of building was basically completed. A horse-drawn cart was working in a trench in foreground, probably grading or digging a drainage ditch. The final grading and landscaping were still to be done. By September 1929, a view from the south showed the rear elevation of the newly completed factory, sheathed with corrugated siding. A square brick chimney stood in the southeast corner above the boiler room. A dozen Challenger bodies were rolled out through 12'x12' sliding doors, awaiting propellers and wings, which were to be installed at the airport hangar.

Kreider-Reisner had extended the main assembly area another 70' to the south by 1931, creating an additional 8,000 sf of work space. They also built two small special purpose buildings on the west side and two in the south rear at the same time. In 1935, the company completed a major 26,000 sf addition. This included a final assembly bay, built further south less than 50' from the Kreider-Reisner Shed, with a clear space of 120'x140'x17'. The original assembly bay was renamed the "sub-assembly" bay. This structure featured two wide monitor skylights running east-west, supported by subdivided Pratt steel roof trusses. Web joists supported the wood plank sub roofing in this system. KRA also built a 50'x140' dope and spray room just to the east of the new final assembly bay. A hammer room was installed along the west wall of the sub-assembly bay. Additional office space was added by installing a 40' wide second story loft above the north end of the sub-assembly bay. During this period the Kreider-Reisner division was officially renamed Fairchild Aviation Corp. This change was reflected by the painting of "Fairchild Aviation" on the roof of the factory by 1935. Hereafter the plant was known locally as Fairchild No. 1.

By 1941 Fairchild had constructed some free standing buildings 100" further south of the complex. The most distinctive were a set of three Quonset huts with interconnecting framing, forming a warehouse of 80'x 160'. A freight platform was built on the east side, which served a newly constructed railroad siding connecting from the Western Maryland Railway junction to the south. A 40'x60' warehouse was built on the other side of the siding from the Quonset huts. More additions were made to the treatment areas adjacent to the sub-assembly bay to the west.

Fairchild sold its flagship plant in 1965 to Roper-Eastern. Roper purchased additional land to expand to the east, and built a series of seven gable-roof sheds of varying lengths, oriented at ninety degrees to the main factory. They backed up to the Little Green Shed property to the north, and the Western Maryland Railway tracks to the east. These sheds were supported by steel girder roof beams, with strips of translucent fiberglass panels allowing light through the roof. They were all clad in vertical metal siding. A lone gable-roof concrete block storage shed was built on the southern end of the property, and a green steel water tower stood alone in the southwest corner. When a new tenant, Modular Systems, took over the office and sub-assembly bay around 1987, they had a ramp built from the north corner of Burhans and Park Lane, connecting to a door on the side of the second floor. After extensive growth in its first forty years, the complex has essentially remained in this footprint to the present day.