Up in Smoke: The Loss of Hangar 11

On the evening of Monday April 22, Hangar 11 at the Edmonton Municipal Airport burned to the ground. The loss marks a sad end to a heroic fight by heritage advocates to save the hangar from demolition. 

Built in 1942, the hangar was one of the most visible remains of the role that the airfield played in the Second World War. It served as an important link in the chain of the Lend-Lease program that moved thousands of American bombers and other planes via Alaska to Russia to sustain the Allied war effort. After the war, the airfield became the Municipal Airport which in turn was closed in 2013. 

Photo credit: Chris Wiebe

The white structure was built entirely of wood, with massive Bowstring trusses supporting its cavernous curved roof. The area for planes was surrounded by three-story office wings. 

With the decision to close the airport, a plan emerged to demolish the hangar and develop a new community on the airport lands. The hangar was featured on the National Trust’s Top 10 Endangered Places List in 2017. In 2018, after strong representations from the heritage community, the City agreed to consider options to repurpose the building rather than demolish it.  

A new plan took shape for the once-threatened hangar. In 2022, the city of Edmonton designated the hangar as a heritage resource. The hangar was to be sold to a developer and to feature as the centrepiece of a mixed-use residential project. The new plan was welcomed not only for saving an important heritage building but for related sustainability and environmental benefits, with the retention of embodied energy and keeping materials from the landfill. Construction was to start in summer 2024. 

The fire put an end to these plans. The hangar was completely destroyed in a matter of hours. Authorities are calling the fire suspicious.

Hanger 11 after the fire, on May 11 2024. Photo credit: Chris Wiebe

“It was so devastating to see over six years of work by Edmonton heritage advocates, planners, development community and City Council gone in just a few hours,” said the National Trust’s Chris Wiebe, who first got involved with the push to save Hangar 11 back in 2017. “I know the fire has been a real gut-punch for the city and its tight-knit heritage community. Edmonton is my hometown and I have seen it lose a lot of its heritage over the years, and that’s what makes this loss hurt even more. Hangar 11 was such a fantastic heritage conservation story, one poised to be the iconic centrepiece of an exciting new development. It should remind us all that heritage places are such a precious, precarious, and finite resource.” 

Heritage advocates work to save places that testify to important elements of our shared past.  Sometimes those efforts succeed and frustratingly often they fail. The fire which reduced the hangar to ash after the hard-won fight to give it new life is truly tragic. But it underlines why it is so important to fight for places that matter – because despite our best efforts, sometimes loss is inevitable. 



Redevelopment plans in question after historic Edmonton air hangar gutted by fire | CBC News 

Hangar 11 – National Trust for Canada (nationaltrustcanada.ca) 

Hangar 11 at Edmonton’s Blatchford Field designated historic resource – Edmonton | Globalnews.ca 

City of Edmonton plans to save Hangar 11, recommends sale of building to private developer | Edmonton Journal