From Hughes to Hercules
Saturday, October 24, 2015
In 2015, we held a very special tour of the Hercules Campus, the former Hughes Aircraft Company (HAC), in Playa Vista.
The Conservancy held a tour of this historic campus in spring 2011, when new owners The Ratkovich Company had just begun a preservation project to adapt the buildings to new uses. The 2015 tour featured many of the site’s transformed historic buildings which are now thriving and in use by technology and creative firms such as YouTube and 72andSunny.
About the Tour
The 2015 tour highlighted the historic aspects of the campus as well as the innovative adaptive reuse of the buildings and the landscaping. The tour included access to several interiors, including Building 15 (the enormous wooden hangar built to house construction of the H-4 Hercules heavy transport craft, more commonly known as the "Spruce Goose").
About the Hercules Campus
This site was one of the epicenters of Los Angeles’ aviation history. In 1940, aviator, inventor, and movie producer Howard Hughes began to purchase farmland between Culver City and Playa del Rey to build an aviation campus.
The first building opened in 1941, and construction continued through the early 1950s. The campus ultimately spanned over a thousand acres, employed over 30,000 workers, and housed the longest private runway in the world. Everything was painted a particular shade of light green that came to be known as “Hughes Green.”
It was here that Hughes and his team designed and constructed planes, helicopters, satellites, lasers, and most famously, the H-4 Hercules heavy transport craft, more commonly known as the “Spruce Goose.” Over two hundred feet long, with a wingspan of 320 feet, the H-4 still holds the record as the largest airplane ever to fly.
After Howard Hughes’ death in 1976, HAC was sold and operations gradually moved away from the Culver City location. Most of the historic buildings stood empty and decaying, and some were demolished.
The Ratkovich Company’s rehabilitation project first stabilized the buildings that were collapsing. They adapted all the buildings for new uses while preserving their industrial character, earning the project a Conservancy Preservation Award in 2014.
For more information and a photo gallery, see our page on the Hercules Campus.
Major funding for the Los Angeles Conservancy’s educational programs is provided by The LaFetra Foundation and by the Kenneth T. and Eileen L. Norris Foundation.