Construction Update November 2016

Thank you for your ongoing support, which has made great progress possible! But your help is still needed to turn historic Willow Run into a museum…

We’ve Been Working On: Important Planning Work…

In 2016, our primary focus has been on architectural, engineering, and infrastructure planning work prior to the next round of construction activities… and, of course, fundraising. We have partnered with ACM and Willow Run Airport and RACER Trust to determine the best way to re-do the utility and entrance infrastructure of the entire site, which we plan to commence with the 2017 construction season. (The utility infrastructure was by necessity demolished along with the main portion of the original Bomber Plant in 2014, and will have to be restored to our remaining portion.)

…and a Fresh Coat of Paint!

Thanks to some very generous companies and organizations, the historic WWII-era Willow Run Bomber Plant has a new paint job! Painting work commenced at the end of September, and not only greatly improves the looks of the building – more importantly it is protecting the building’s original gunite surfaces and the historic metal hangar doors through which over 8,600 completed B-24 Liberator bomber aircraft rolled out between 1942 and 1945.

This project began with power washing the exterior of the building by US Ecology with equipment assistance from the Alta Equipment Company. Next, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades [IUPAT] scraped the metal doors to remove all the loose paint that had not been removed by power washing. After this preparation, painting by the IUPAT workers began, with equipment assistance from Wolverine Rental & Supply. Historical photographs had revealed the Bomber Plant’s original WWII-era paint scheme, and we worked with the Behr/Kilz Paints to match it closely: a dark green for the metal hangar doors and light beige/off white for the gunite surfaces above those doors and on the West and East sides of the building.

The painting project was almost entirely donated.

These Companies and Organizations Helped Paint Willow Run:


A sincere thank you to these fine companies and organizations for helping to paint the historic Willow Run Bomber Plant!

US Ecology provided the exterior power washing at no cost.
Alta Equipment Company donated the use of the man-lifts through US Ecology for the power washing.
Behr & Kilz Paints donated all of the needed coatings, primers and finish coats.
The International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 1M Michigan [IUPAT] donated all of the painting work, using this as part of their Finishing Trades Institute training program.
Wolverine Equipment Rental & Supply provide significant discounts on the rental of lifts for the painters.

With these significant contributions, this project, with a finished value of well over $100,000 was 97% donated with the Michigan Aerospace Foundation providing the balance of the funding.

Painting of the most important face of the building, the South side with the big original hangar doors, was completed on November 1. With winter approaching, the painting has been put on hold until April when the IUPAT painters will begin where they left off, finishing the East exterior wall and then the West exterior wall.

…and Some Very Generous Organizations Are Helping Rosie the Riveter “Raise a Roof!”

On a more colorful, polka-dotted note, this summer the Yankee Air Museum and Save The Bomber Plant’s Willow Run “Tribute” Rosies kicked off the fundraising effort to repair a portion of the roof. When we purchased the Willow Run Bomber Plant in 2014, we knew that the roof on the Annex Building would need to be replaced. The annex will house the Archive and Preservation Wing of the future museum, along with reception rooms and catering facilities for donors and meetings. The Annex is not part of the original Bomber Plant. Rather, it was added by GM in the 1970s.

The cost of the roof replacement was $203,000. We applied for a Challenge Matching Grant from the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs to help replace the roof and were awarded $50,000. Our Willow Run “Tribute” Rosies diligently raised additional funding through their “Raise a Roof for Rosie” campaign at this summer’s Wild Wednesday and Thunder Over Michigan air shows. These funds along with funds allocated by the Michigan Aerospace Foundation and a generous in-kind donation/discount by RCI Roofing and Sheet Metal in Brighton, Michigan are allowing us to begin replacing the Annex roof this month! Going forward we can now begin plans for building out that section of the Bomber Plant project. Stay tuned for exciting photos in our next Construction Update.

Construction Update March, 2016

We saved a 144,000 sq. ft. portion of the historic Willow Run Bomber Plant from demolition in 2014. But there is still a long way to go to turn our piece of the Plant into a Museum. March, 2016 marks the end of one full year of restoration work, and there is a much progress to celebrate! With your continued help, we can turn Rosie’s WWII factory into the future NEW home of the Yankee Air Museum!

Highlights of our first year of restoration work include closing a hole in the roof while installing a roof access hatch, which was the very first piece of the restoration work!

This was followed by the removal of all post-WWII modifications to our saved portion of the Plant. As an example, the 2nd and 3rd floor mezzanine areas were enclosed by makeshift walls over the years, and these were opened up to their original WWII era configuration. The entire modifications removal phase took 3 months.

Power washing and cleanup was the next step, to remove over 70 years of accumulated dirt and grime! Interior and exterior washing took another 3 months to complete.

The demolition of the majority of the Plant left our remaining portion lacking in external support in some areas. We brought in the building’s original architects, the Albert Kahn Company to do a structural analysis. As a result, new steel reinforcements were added to the building in the summer of 2015.

The most striking improvements came when the “missing” walls on the north and west sides of the building — actually gaps left in the building walls when the rest of the building was demolished — were replaced with brand new walls, to fully enclose our saved portion of the building!

Our Architect, URS Corporation, designed the new exterior walls to echo the original design of the building while providing for a much more energy-efficient structure. Our general contractor Phoenix Construction, has worked diligently to suggest the best and most cost effective techniques to restore our 75 year old building.

A brand new, state-of-the-art hangar door was installed on the north side of the building, which will be used to bring aircraft in and out of the new Museum.

Temporary electricity has been installed in the Plant, to prepare for interior buildout work, which will begin in the summer of 2016. Meantime, 3 of the Yankee Air Museum’s historic aircraft were able to spend their first winter in many years, indoors at the Willow Run Bomber Plant! See exciting video of airplanes returning to the Bomber Plant after over 50 years here.

Read and download a PDF of the full report of our first year of restoration activities here.

Diagram showing original size of the Willow Run Bomber Plant, and the portion saved to be the future NEW home of the Yankee Air Museum.

The saved portion of the Willow Run Bomber Plant, after demolition of the remainder of the plant, but before the commencement of restoration work.

The first restoration project: repair a hole in the roof, and install a modern roof access hatch!

We stripped away the many post-WWII modifications to our saved portion of the plant, including removing makeshift walls on the mezzanine are… this area will become a viewing area for future Museum visitors, with your continued help!

Pouring concrete for the new hangar door on the north side of the building.

The historic Willow Run Bomber Plant after one full year of restoration work. With your continued help, we can finish the job and turn Rosie’s WWII factory into a Museum!

Planes return to Willow Run! The Yankee Air Museum was able to store 3 of its vintage aircraft out of the elements, and in the Bomber Plant last winter.

Planes return to Willow Run! The Yankee Air Museum was able to store 3 of its vintage aircraft out of the elements, and in the Bomber Plant last winter.

Construction Update May 11, 2015

Continuing to strip the interior while power washing the exterior. Scroll down for photos and a video...

Video of power washing the south exterior above the double bay doors taken May 4, 2015.

Construction Update April 2015

Below are a photo gallery, and a video, showing some of this month's work. We have begun interior demolition work with the goal of stripping away post-WWII materials to prepare for interior renovation. 

And here is a video of the work in progress of removing the extraneous Post WWII piping, conduits and non-critical elements from the East Wall.

Stay tuned to our Construction Blog to see construction and renovation as it progresses.

You can also stay updated by joining our Newsletter... see the sidebar on the righthand side of this page.

You can help us renovate the Willow Run Bomber Plant by donating... just click the big, red Donate button on this page.

You can learn more about the effort to save, preserve and renovate the Willow Run Bomber Plant as the future NEW home of the Yankee Air Museum by visiting www.SaveTheBomberplant.org.

Construction Update April 8, 2015

Bomber Plant roof inspection and new roof hatch installed...

Great view from the roof of the Bomber Plant... you can see the original control tower of Willow Run Airport, still in existence after 74 years, although not being currently used as the airport control tower. 

Construction Update March 2015

Below are some photos showing highlights of the March 2015 construction work on the former Willow Run Bomber Plant.

Stay tuned to our Construction Blog to see construction and renovation as it progresses.

You can also stay updated by joining our Newsletter... see the sidebar on the righthand side of this page.

You can help us renovate the Willow Run Bomber Plant by donating... just click the big, red Donate button on this page.

You can learn more about the effort to save, preserve and renovate the Willow Run Bomber Plant as the future NEW home of the Yankee Air Museum by visiting www.SaveTheBomberplant.org.