Navy Project Would Demolish Consolidated Aircraft Historic District

by on January 10, 2022 · 11 comments

in History, San Diego

Aerial view map of the Consolidated Aircraft Plant 2 Historic District, San Diego. Courtesy Navy OTC Revitalization Draft EIS, Appendix H: Cultural Resources Technical Report, p. H-39.

By Amie Hayes / SOHO January-February 2022 Newsletter

The Navy’s Old Town Campus Revitalization project at NAVWAR has the distinction of being the only newly added site to SOHO’s 2021 Most Endangered List. This ill-advised, gargantuan project proposes to build a dense wall of high-rise buildings at 4301 Pacific Highway (known as OTC Site One) and the complete demolition of the Consolidated Aircraft Plant 2 Historic District. Previously known as Convair, this plant was once a massive manufacturing aircraft production complex that employed thousands of San Diegans during World War II and the Cold War. It is eligible for the National Register of Historical Places under three criteria.

Founded by Reuben H. Fleet and completed in October 1941, less than six weeks before the U.S. entered WWII, the plant focused on the design and production of planes, orbiting spacecraft, and missiles. Today, the district encompasses seven contributing historical resources, all at OTC Site One: administration buildings, warehouse facilities, a paint shop, and the pedestrian bridge (see map). The loss of these important resources would be devastating to the understanding and representation of San Diego’s national role in the war and the aerospace industry.

This plant is directly associated with WWII aircraft manufacturing and home-front labor, making it highly significant under Criterion A. Workers here, including countless women, designed and constructed B-24 heavy bombers and PBY Catalinas that were crucial to the Allied Forces’ success. During the Cold War, the Consolidated Aircraft Plant 2 Historic District saw the development and production of many significant types of aircraft, orbiters, and missiles. These include F-102 and F-106 interceptor aircraft, major components of spacecraft sent into orbit, such as Enterprise and Challenger, Ground Launch Cruise Missiles, and much more.

This district is also important for an association with Reuban H. Fleet (under Criterion B), who was the founder of Consolidated Aircraft, once the nation’s leading producer of military training planes. Inducted into the International Air and Space Hall of Fame and the National Aviation Hall of Fame, Fleet made highly significant contributions to aerospace technology.

The massive scale of these buildings and their design represent a property type from the Industrial Revolution that focuses on admitting natural light and air, making them significant for architecture under Criterion C. They represent permanent military architecture that functioned collectively as an assembly line of buildings. The district’s character-defining features include the immense size of these warehouse facilities, rectangular building forms, expansive interior open space, steel sash windows, corrugated iron exteriors, sawtooth roofs with skylights, and steel trusses between structures.

These seven structures serve as important evidence of San Diego’s role in the war effort and aerospace advancement on a worldwide stage. We must advocate for their preservation and not lose this irreplaceable National Register-eligible historic district! To read more about SOHO’s broad opposition to this misguided and overbearing project, see HERE.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Pete R January 10, 2022 at 4:08 pm

“The loss of these important resources would be devastating”

Let’s be clear that this is referring to those 3 hideous warehouses along I-5. Those are what you’re fighting to preserve? Really?


Greg January 10, 2022 at 6:29 pm

This reminds me of when people were crying about Natis being demolished. This is absurd.


Geoff Page January 11, 2022 at 12:59 pm

Absurd and, they did not demolish Nati’s, much of the structure was retained.


Frank Gormlie January 11, 2022 at 8:26 am

Just to be clear, these are not “warehouses.” They are the remains of a large WW2 aircraft manufacturing plant (know your SD history) that built military aircraft at least through the Vietnam war.

The comparison with Nati’s is so absurd, it doesn’t deserve a response.


Tyler January 11, 2022 at 10:01 am

Anything to prevent development……

I don’t know why I’m even entertaining this at all (maybe cause I’m a history nerd), but they can probably placate by saving a portion of one hangar and incorporating it into the development while making that particular segment a museum of sorts.

But to keep it all… is just absurd.


sealintheSelkirks January 10, 2022 at 11:57 pm

To be blunt, when they tear those buildings down I wouldn’t want to be downwind of the dust and debris that will be blowing in the wind. Not after what my father said about what was in those buildings when he was Chief Stock Clerk for Convair before he shifted to being a student at SDSU. His job was being aware of everything that came in or went out. It was the Cold War when anything and everything horrible was just fine to use…

Nor when they start digging into the ground underneath. Giant high rise monstrosities get a huge amount of dirt moved. Personally I think they are going to find a new highly toxic Superfund Site that will be open to the air for the first times in 75 years. Of course that all might not be made public… It’s going to be nasty, people. Anybody know if there is any serious ground and air testing for toxics that will be ongoing throughout the entire idiotic project?

I mentioned this before but there were radioactive materials in those buildings, and dad bragged about his ‘claim to fame’ by tracking down exactly where a used nuclear engine had gone off the premises and disappeared to. If I remember correctly, the story was that it was sitting in some vacant lot in some neighborhood somewhere.



Geoff Page January 11, 2022 at 1:04 pm

I have to agree, preserving all of this does not make sense. Pick something and make a memorial or a museum like Chris suggested. I love history too but we have plenty to remind us of wars fought, we don’t need these giant buildings.


Trevor van Leeuwen January 12, 2022 at 11:14 am

It’s a dilapidated factory. Nobody is going to build a plant there today.

Nobody is going to go to this place to remember San Diego’s contribution to WW2. Maybe try the Midway.


Frank Gormlie January 12, 2022 at 11:35 am

You know Trevor, as a peacenik since college, I don’t know why it would be useful for historic purposes to preserve maybe one of the sections, dress it up with camouflage like they did during the war, make a museum out of it and showcase the types of planes that were manufactured right there on that spot, except to demonstrate how thousands of workers, men and women, worked in the plants here, show respect to them and their labor, show how ordinary Americans came together here in ol San Diego to work together to fight fascism and imperialism.


Chris January 12, 2022 at 12:30 pm

I think to say “nobody is going to this to remember San Diego’s contribution to WW2” is a stretch. I mean we ARE a Navy town. I would agree preserving the whole thing is a waste but at least part of it and turn it into a museum would be nice. Well there’s always the Aero Club on India St. where you can get a stiff old fashioned or Manhattan.


Muir Avenue Ale January 13, 2022 at 12:03 pm

Two questions:

1. Didn’t the city update the Midway Community Plan not long ago? What does the plan say about these buildings? Isn’t the purpose of these plans (which cost millions of dollars) to evaluate historic resources and state what their future should be?

2. Is there a way to repurpose these structures? If compatible with the Community Plan, couldn’t conditions be placed on their development? Let the creative juices of the developer community flow!


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