Larson’s Gym is currently being demolished. When I first started working at the museum, this building housed the restoration staff on one side of the building and the Quantico Marine Corps Band on the other side. The building itself was old, with asbestos, lead paint and infested with small wildlife. It was not a great place to work in its final years standing, very hot and humid in summer and freezing in winter-but it had character.
I never had to work in Larson’s Gym and went to when I needed to confer with our top notch restoration crew. I always had fun going to the building to see them and their work. They spent several years restoring an SBD Dive bomber rivet by rivet. Having the opportunity to see the plane, which spent 50 years at the bottom of Lake Michigan, come back to live is one of the neatest projects I’ve ever witnessed. The plane is now hanging in the National Museum of the Marine Corps
Larson’s Gym started life as an aircraft hanger in the 1930s as the current Quantico Airfield was under construction. Sometime later in life, half of the hangar was converted into the base gym, until it started caving in. The museum’s restoration shop took over the other half. After Barber’s Gym opened, the Quantico Band used the site for practice until it was unsafe to use any more.
Larson’s Gym also had a profoundly bittersweet event too: the last flight of an H-34 Helicopter that is now on display in the museum as well. The group that donated the Vietnam serving helicopter flew it to the museum for a short program, then it flew over to hangar where it was prepared to go into Leatherneck Gallery. On the last flight of the old helicopter, it buzzed the museum’s spire and flew off into the sunset.
It is a neat building and I’m sad to watch its slow destruction as I drive by it every day to go to work.
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