The Myth:

Myth of an airship mooring on the Empire State Building.

One of many composites of an airship moored to the Empire State Building. Never happened! Photo credits: Public domain

The INTERNET is rife with images of airships moored to the Empire State Building. The only problem is, it never happened! The pinnacle of the Empire State Building was built as an airship mooring, but no great airship ever moored there and no crew or passengers ever diembarked an airship to enter the Empire State Building. The narrow, precarious pathway, the 103rd floor, still exists though is off-limits to the public; see this 2016 article by the Daily Mail, UK. Even though the desire to moor airships on buildings existed in the early 1900's, the idea suffered from a major problem: It was a very bad idea!

It's a grand idea, yes! But when the practical issues of the idea surface, one sees that it is a terrifically bad idea! This is why it never happened:

It was grandiose to romanticize the idea of disembarking a great airship through the nose of the craft moored to the top of a skyscraper, taken to ground level by one or more elevators. But imagine a great airship, attempting to hover above the bustling city dwellers below, needing to occasionally dump great quantities of ballast water on the unsuspecting pedestrians! Imagine the danger to the surrounding area as the airship approaches the mooring tower as it dumps ballast even blocks from the intended destination! Imagine the high wind conditions at the nose as the passengers pass from the airship to the mooring tower entrance - hundreds of feet above the surroundings with nothing between the passenger and certain death except a narrow walkway! The airship also must be able to turn in the wind so the nose can always be pointed into the wind so the mooring tower must be designed to permit this continuous swiveling as wind conditions change.

And imagine the difficulty of dropping a rope from the nose of the airship and having it grabbed by mere humans dangling from an access platform at the top of narrow structures at the top of skyscrapers! Positioning a great Zeppelin is far too complex to imagine this scenario ever working!

And how would the airship have been replenished? Fuel, water, crew supplies, food, hydrogen or helium lifting gas? Provisions would have certainly been needed, even if only an intermediate stop!

No, the idea of mooring towers on skyscrapers never passed the "dream" stage. It is a myth, only a myth, that giant airships ever moored on any building. But it still captures the imagination in the photoshopped images found all over the Internet.

The Truth:

The truth is, airships have landed on buildings! Not the great, rigid airships such as the Graf Zeppelin, Hindenburg, Los Angeles, R-100, R-101, or the Shenandoah, but small airships, "dirigibles", also known today as "blimps".

I've identified SEVEN airships that are known to have landed on building rooftops. These events were so long ago that they are long forgotten and have become generally lost to history! These are all detailed below. As I become aware of other, actual airship landings on buildings I will be updating this page.

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Identified Airship Landings on Buildings

Toledo, Ohio:

On the 30th of June, 1905, Roy Knabenshue landed his "Toledo No. 1" on the roof of the Spitzer building in Toledo, Ohio. (For more on the Toledo No. 1 see: Knabenshue Toledo No. 1)

1905 - Knabenshue lands on Spitzer Building

Photo credits: Roy Knabenshue Collection

There are two, known stereoscopic-pair images of the Knabenshue airship landing which permit the viewer to see this 100+ year old event in 3-D! Good luck!

1905 - Knabenshue Stereo pair

Photo credits: Public domain

1905 - Knabenshue Stereo pair

Photo credits: Public domain

The Spitzer Building still survives today at (Lat Lon) 41.652673 -083.536297.

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Los Angeles, California:

On Oct 21, 1905, the Los Angeles Herald reports that the police attempted to apprehend Herbert Burke for distributing handbills in the area of 5th St. and Broadway. Mr. Burke evaded the officers and ascended the store on 5th St to his awaiting "Man Angel" airship and he escaped apprehension! See the article on the "Man Angel" airship here: Reynolds "Man Angel"

Newspaper article

Photo credits: Los Angeles Herald.

The newspaper article does not specify which "Man Angel" was involved in the landing on the building at 5th St and Broadway, but it likely was the Man Angel No.2 seen here over the grounds at Chutes Park, though this is NOT Herbert Burke in the photo:

Man Angel 2

Photo credits: Public Domain

Nevertheless, regardless which of the Man Angel airships was used the landing was on a building at this intersection in present-day Los Angeles. Perhaps someday I will identify which building it was, and be able to determine if the current building is the original. In the mean time, the intersection of 5th and Broadway is at (Lat Lon) 34.048116 -118.250700:

5th & Broadway

Photo credits: Google Earth

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Bloomington, Indiana:

On the 14th of September, 1910, Capt George E. Yager landed his airship on the roof of the Klemm department store on the North side of the Courthouse square in Bloomington, Indiana.

Yager airship landing on the Klemm Department Store

Yager Airship on the Klemm Department Store. Photo credits: Public domain

The location of the Klemm Department store is at (Lat Lon) 39.167702 -086.534364.

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Red Oak, Iowa:

Some years before February, 1917, Capt Horace Wild, or one of his crew landed on the Johnson Hotel in Red Oak, Iowa. I could not find a date with this landing happened. The only reference I could find was a story in the "Hotel World" magazine, 3 Feb, 1917, where Capt Wild mentioned the landing in a speech he was making at the Hotel Sherman in Chicago. Here's the story:

"Another hotel story Capt Wild told with gleeful humor was this: It was in the days when we gave flying exhibits at state and county fairs. We were at Red Oak, Iowa. The proprietor of the Hotel Johnson there is Sam Payne and I gave him a pain before I got thru with him. He was joking about our flying and said he would pay the hotel bill of our crew if we would land on the top of some building. Well, next morning our airship was landed on top of the Johnson. And at the end of the week Mr. Payne drew a check for $250 to cover our hotel bill. And Mr. Wild threw a picture of the Johnson on the screen showing the airship on the roof!" (From the "Hotel World", 3 Feb, 1917. pg 45).

I take the phrase "It was in the days when we gave flying exhibits at state and county fairs" to mean that the landing was likely a good 5 years earlier, perhaps 1907-1912.

Although I'd like to find a real photograph of the Wild airship on the hotel, the best I've been able to find is a post card from the time.

Wild airship on Hotel

Wild Airship on Hotel Johnson Red Oak, Iowa. Photo credits: Public domain

The location of the Hotel was a bit hard to identify, but eventually I found that it is the present location of the Houghton State Bank, the Hotel having been long demolished. The location is at (Lat Lon) 41.008756 -095.230955.

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Cleveland, Ohio:

In May, 1919, U.S. Army A-4 landed on the roof of the Statler Hotel in Cleveland, OH. It was a stunt at the Staler orchestrated by the Cleveland section of the Society of Automotive Engineers where the meeting of the association took place.

Army A-4 landing on the Statler

Army A-4 landing on the Statler Hotel. Photo credits: "Flight" Magazine, 10 July, 1919.

A short entry in the July 10, 1919 "Flight" magazine records that the airship was piloted by James F. Shade and that the purpose of the demonstration was to drop off two passengers at the hotel to "show the progress that has been made in the development of dirigibles and the skill with which difficult landings can be made by experienced pilots."

I should point out that the A-4 was a very successful training airship for the U.S. Army and even once carried Brigadier General Billy Mitchell in February 1923! You can read more here: Army A-4.

The Statler hotel building still exists and is located at (Lat Lon) 41.500750 -081.684853.

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Akron, Ohio:

On 20 Jun, 1928, the Goodyear blimp, "Pilgrim" landed on the O'Neil's Department Store in Akron, Ohio.

Goodyear 'Pilgrim'

Goodyear Pilgrim. Photo credits: Public domain

Here is another great shot of the landing!

Goodyear 'Pilgrim'

Goodyear Pilgrim. Photo credits: Public domain, taken from Popular Mechanics, Jul, 1929, pg 31

Read more about the Pilgrim at airships.net. According to the article on airships.net, the Pilgrim was deflated in June, 1928 and fitted with a new, larger envelope so that modification must have taken place shortly after this publicity stunt.

The location of the landing was at (Lat Lon) 41.079314 -081.520568, and the building still exists:

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Washington DC:

In 1928, the Goodyear blimp, "Puritan" landed on a building in Washington DC. The Puritan first flew on July 2, 1928 and this landing took place 5 Oct, 1928.

Goodyear 'Puritan at launch, 1928'

Goodyear Puritan. Photo credits: Public domain

Read more about the Puritan in the October 25th, 1928 edition of "Flight Magazine", page 942.

Here is a photo of the early Puritan at an unknown location in February, 1929, described as "taken after the Puritan collected mail from a nearby post office roof."

Goodyear 'Puritan after mail run, 1929'

Goodyear Puritan. Photo credits: Public domain

The location of the landing was in Washington DC, and the name of the building on which the Puritan landed (the building no longer exists), was the "Emerson & Orme Building", 1620 M Street. [Thanks to fellow airship enthusiast, Bunky Wertman]. The building next to it still exists which provided the identity of the site! The building which still exists was the original "Sumner School", 1201 17th St NW, Washington, DC., at the NE corner of 17th and M Streets., NW. Therefore the building on which the Puritan landed, now long gone, was on the SE corner of the same intersection - now the site, fittingly, of the National Geographic Museum!

Goodyear 'Puritan landing on a building, probably 1929'

Goodyear Puritan. Photo credits: Public domain

Having identified the old Sumner School, the location of the landing of the Puritan was thus known and the "Emerson & Orme Building", long gone, was found. It was at 38.905378° -077.038108°, seen here on Google Maps:

Photo credit: Google Maps

And here is something unique! There exists a short video segment of the landing! The 90 year old, 48 sec video fragment is, sadly, shamefully watermarked by the image hawking site "Getty Images", but it is a wonderful video clip all the same.

Photo credits: Getty Images,
https://media.gettyimages.com/videos/goodyears-puritan-airship-coming-for-landing-on-roof-men-moving-about-video-id1126199966
(Also found watermarked at https://filmlibrary.shermangrinberg.com/).

A newspaper article implies that other landings on buildings had been made by the Puritan. Perhaps one day, those will be recovered!

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