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How NASA Glenn Landed in Cleveland

Aerial view of the future site of Glenn Research Center
A late 1930s aerial view of the stands and parking lot for the National Air Races at the Cleveland Municipal Airport. A few years later this property (at the center of the photograph) would become the NACA’s engine research laboratory.

On Monday November 25, 1940 Vannevar Bush, chairman of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) announced that the NACA’s new laboratory would be located in Cleveland, Ohio. That evening, Cleveland City Council passed an ordinance to transfer 200 acres of land adjacent to the Municipal Airport to the federal government for $1 per acre.

NACA Executive Secretary John Victory noted, “There seems to be something in the spirit of the people in Cleveland that makes effective cooperation seem easy. We look forward with pleasure to the development of our engine research laboratory in such a city.”

Today that laboratory is the NASA’s Glenn Research Center, a leading research institution and key economic driver for the Cleveland area. Without the dogged efforts of local officials in 1940, however, NASA Glenn may have ended up at one of the 61 other cities fiercely contending for the facility.

As World War II broke out in Europe in the late 1930s, the NACA began dramatically expanding. This included a new laboratory to study aircraft engines. In the summer of 1940, localities across the Midwest submitted bids to host the lab. A team of NACA officials ranked the sites based on an impartial set of desired criteria.

Cleveland—home of the nation’s most advanced airport, local aircraft manufacturers, and the National Air Races—received one of the highest rankings. When local officials brokered a deal with the power company to discount its electricity rates in October 1940, Cleveland took the lead for good. Ground was broken for the new Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory near the airport on January 23, 1941.

To learn more about the NACA’s site selection activities, Cleveland’s aviation history, and efforts by city officials visit NASA’s Glenn Research Center history page.

Men in field with surveying equipment
Surveyors in the field taking measurements for the NACA’s engine laboratory in August 1941

Robert S. Arrighi
NASA ‘s Glenn Research Center