Larson’s Gym and the End of an Era
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.
About KaterI work at the National Museum of the Marine Corps.
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I spent years as a volunteer working on restorations. What is happening with their shop?
they’re renting a place just off Highway 234 in Dumfries.
So you are aware, Larson’s Gym was actually built with money that was appropriated in 1941 and approved by Congress in June of that year. It was an aircraft overhaul and repair (O&R) facility until the end of the war, where it was turned into the Marine Corps Aviation Technical Schools (MCATS). A school specializing Aviation Engineering, Ordnance, Navy Supply, Parachute Rigging and Survival Equipment. It operated in this capacity until just after the Korean War when it was closed due to down sizing and converted into the Base Gym as well as Base recreational activities.
I remember going there in 1966 when my dad was stationed at MCS Quantico.
They had basketball, weights and a cage where you needed to check out equipment (basketball, volleyball, medicine ball, jump rope)
It shared the building with a hangar
I recall standing my last guard duty (‘aircraft integrity watch’) as a young corporal in that hangar in Larson’s Gym, in late 1973/early 1974, while serving with HMM-263, just a few months before making sergeant in 1974.