Situated in Akron, Ohio, the Goodyear Airdock is one of the largest buildings in the world without internal supports. Originally, dirigibles, airships, and blimps were manufactured here. Semi-parabolic in shape, the building is 211 feet high, 325 feet wide, and 1,175 feet long. It has a floor space of more than 364,000 square feet. From afar, the airship hanger looks like a giant black slug, and it is clearly visible on the horizon when driving down U.S. Route 224. The building is so massive that it has its own weather system, and the whole structure needed to be put on rollers for easy expansion and contraction depending on the season.
Built in 1929 by the Goodyear Zeppelin Corporation, the Goodyear Airdock has many notable features. Its construction and engineering were nothing short of impressive.
Karl Arnstein, one of the most notable airship designers and engineers of the 20th century, came up with the design for the Goodyear Airdock based on the blueprints of a similar German airship hangar that was built in Dresden in 1913. Though originally built and owned by the Goodyear Zeppelin Corporation, the Goodyear Airdock was later taken over by Goodyear Aerospace. The construction of the airship hanger began on 20 April 1929 and ended just seven months later on 25 November . The estimated cost was $2.2 million, which is equivalent to $25.75 million today. At the time of its construction, the hanger was the world’s largest building without any internal supports.
The unique shape of the hanger is often compared to a silkworm’s cocoon that has been cut in half. It is 211 feet high, 325 feet wide and 1,175 feet long with an unobstructed floor space of over 364,000 square feet. There are 13 steel arches supporting the entire structure. On each end of the building, you will find identical, semi-spherical doors that weigh about 600 tons each. Six-foot-long hollow-forged pins are used for fastening the doors at the top. The doors have their own power plant, and they have 40 wheels which rest on railroad tracks.
The Goodyear Airdock has a total volume of approximately 1.5 million cubic meters or 55 million cubic feet. It also covers an area that is larger than eight football fields placed side by side.
Because of its mammoth size, the Goodyear Airdock has an indoor weather system that often creates indoor rain.
The airship hangar is so huge that the temperature inside the building is bound to be drastically different from the temperature outside. To prevent structural damage caused by extreme temperature fluctuations, a row of a dozen windows was placed on each side of the building, approximately 100 feet off the ground. Moreover, the entire hanger was mounted on rollers, which meant that the structure could contract and expand with changes in temperature. Inside the building, the combination of high humidity and sudden temperature change can create condensation. This condensation creates a mist and produces the illusion of rain!
After WWII broke out, the hanger was used for the manufacturing of airships until 1960. Since then, the hanger’s ownership has changed several times, and it has been used for various purposes.
USS Akron (ZRS-4) and USS Macon (ZRS-5) were the first two airships to be built and launched at the Goodyear Airdock. Airship manufacturing at the hanger came to an end in 1960 with the construction of ZPG-3W for the U.S. Navy. In 1980, the American Society of Civil Engineers designated the Airdock a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. As of 1996, Lockheed Martin owns the Goodyear Airdock. The hanger is closed to the public, but anyone driving down U.S. Route 224 can spot it on the horizon.