This poster is part of Preserving U.S. Military Heritage: WWII to the Cold War, Fredericksburg, Texas, June 4-6, 2019.
by Caitlyn M. Ewers and Brandy M. Harris
The former Olathe Naval Air Station (ONAS) in Gardner, Kansas, was developed in 1942 in response to the increased need for air stations and naval reserve aviation bases as the United States entered World War II. Over the course of its three decades in operation, ONAS’s role was constantly in flux: it first served as a flight training facility for naval cadets, then as a training center and support facility for the Naval Air Transport Service in the latter years of World War II, and finally as a training center for naval reservists in the early years of the Cold War. Nationally, the operation of American naval bases declined sharply after circa 1960, and the ONAS was decommissioned in 1969. Johnson County, Kansas, acquired the property in 1973 and it is currently operated as a regional airport known as the Johnson County New Century AirCenter. The overall landscape and many of the built resources that comprised the ONAS remain intact and actively in use.
Due to the proposed release of airport property at New Century AirCenter, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was developed to mitigate adverse effects under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act to a number of World War II and Cold War-era resources located on the former ONAS campus. In accordance with the MOA, one of the site’s three Cold War-era ammunitions magazines will be preserved in place. Burns & McDonnell historians have developed a preservation plan including methods for stabilization, public accessibility requirements, and interpretation via markers or signage. Identified in historic records as Ammunitions Magazine #129, this uncommon resource is a semi-cylindrical, board-formed concrete bunker that is partially concealed within a domed earthen mound. The entrance was originally covered by double-leaf steel doors and would have historically housed weaponry including guided missiles, propellants, and bulk high explosives. Due to its form, materiality, and location, Ammunitions Magazine #129 presents a unique array of preservation challenges related to physical conservation, access, and potential reuse.
This presentation and accompanying paper will provide a historic context for the development of ONAS, and its changing mission from the early 1940s through its decommissioning in 1969, and a summary of the preservation plan formulated for Ammunitions Magazine #129. In addition to physical examination of the resource in question, this study examines historic period blueprints, historic-age maps, aerial photographs, military log books, and secondary histories to understand the development of ONAS and the construction and use of Ammunition Magazine #129.
Caitlyn M. Ewers is an Assistant Cultural Resources Specialist at Burns & McDonnell Engineering Company, Inc. in Austin, Texas. Caitlyn is responsible for leading and assisting in cultural resource surveys, historic structure assessments, and archival research projects. Caitlyn received a Master of Science in Historic Preservation from the University of Oregon.
Brandy M. Harris is a Senior Cultural Resources Specialist and Architectural Historian at Burns & McDonnell’s Austin, Texas office. Brandy serves a Project Manager and Principal Investigator for historic resources surveys and assessments and archival research projects. Brandy received a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and a Master of Arts in Public History from Texas State University.