Once an Army Air Field, Always an Army Air Field

FAU might have blossomed into a massive campus, but there’s no mistaking that a few remnants of the Boca Raton Army Air Field are still left behind. Here are a few examples:

A 1940s aerial photo of the Boca Raton Army Air Field shows many similarities to the modern-day Boca campus. Remember Lee Street on the north end of campus? It was actually the Army Air Corps’ east/west runway during World War II. Know that huge parking lot that runs behind PBCC? That’d be the north/south runway during the war.

Lot 5 still has markings left over from the Army Air Field, such as this “X.”

The northeast/southwest base runway is now a Boca Raton Airport runway. The northern half of the north/south runway is FAU’s Lot 5. The northmost section has been demolished.

The intersection of the old north/south and northwest/southeast runways now belong to lots 23, 24 and 25.

These smaller side runways are still noticeable today. One’s even being used as part of Lot 56.

Timeline of Major T-Building Events:

1940: British begin developing radar technology in England. However, the London Air Raids and lack of funding force them to abandon the project. Rad Lab in Massachusetts takes over.

Early 1942: The 800 T-Buildings are erected in less than four months for $12 million.

May/June 1944: Radar cadet Robert Davey trains on the Boca Raton Army Air Field.

Sept. 17, 1947: Hurricane “George,” a Category 4, 155 mph monstrosity tears into Fort Lauderdale and floods the entire BRAAF base.

Oct. 12: Just 25 days later, another Category 4, Hurricane “King,” forced most of the Army Air Corps off the base. The aftermath? More than half of all T-Buildings were wiped out.

1953: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers secretly conducts biological warfare testing just a hair north of FAU’s Research and Development Park.

1959: The Army Air Force (now called the Air Force) evacuates, becoming the last military presence on the base until ROTC returned to T-11 in 2007.

1965/1966: Lynn Laurenti has a Shakespeare class in T-6, becoming part of the first student body ever to graduate at FAU.

1990s: Architecture professor Ralph Johnson publishes “Air Corps Technical School for Radar” – the first-ever massive evaluation of the standing T-Buildings and how they should be preserved.

2002: BRAAF Preservation Society is formed with Sally Ling as chairwoman.Former FAU President Anthony Catanese threatens to demolish every single T-Building on campus (which at that time numbered nine).

June 18, 2004: The first T-Building Advisory Committee hearing is held.

Late 2004: T-4 is demolished to clear a path for T-3’s parking lot.

Summer 2005: BRAAF member Lynn Laurenti submits a state grant proposal to help fund the restoration of the T-Buildings. The application is denied from a field of 119 applicants.

Sept. 15: President Frank Brogan sets aside $300,000 from the university budget to replace roofs on T-6, T-10 and T-11.

August to November: Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma wreak destruction on the Boca campus, leaving T-8, T-9 and T-15 too unstable to keep around.

May 6, 2006: A rededication ceremony is held in T-3 to celebrate its reopening as a future office space.

May 16: A freak lightning strike burns T-3 to a crisp.

Summer: BRAAF petitions FAU administration to sandwich T-8 in between T-10 and T-11, making it safe from demolition. The plea is ignored.

Feb. 22 to Mar. 2, 2007: T-15, T-8 and T-9 are demolished.

April: The T-Building Planning Committee is formed with Azita Dashtaki as chairwoman.

May: Twenty months later, T-6, T-10 and T-11 finally get roofs.

September: Historical Architect Susan McClellan is hired to conduct a four-phase survey on T-Buildings for future grant proposals.

February 2008: McClellan presents Phase 3 findings from her survey.

Summer 2009?: BRAAF plans to draft another state proposal to fund the T-Buildings’ restoration using the results of McClellan’s survey.