Glenn Hangar Has Long Been the Face of the Center

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Glenn Hangar Has Long Been the Face of the Center

A black-and-white photo of a crane lifting a large sign with the NASA “meatball” insignia onto the outside of a hangar building.
Painters completing work on NASA Glenn Research Center’s new hangar roof design in July 2016. It was the first time that the roof featured an insignia.
Credit: NASA/Bridget Caswell

The Flight Research Building, or hangar, at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland has not only housed the center’s aircraft and Flight Operations team for decades, but has also served as a visual representation of the center for the public. NASA has taken advantage of the hangar’s size and shape — along with its location near the center’s main entrance, the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, and multiple freeways — to raise awareness about Glenn to both the local community and Cleveland visitors.

In the fall of 1941, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) completed the first building at its Cleveland laboratory: the hangar. The letters “N-A-C-A” over a pair of wings were installed above its front and back aircraft entrances shortly thereafter. In 1946, “N-A-C-A” was painted in large white block letters onto the black roof facing the airport. This configuration remained in place for twelve years.

A black-and-white photo of a pilot posing as he climbs into a plane’s cockpit. Behind him in the background is a hangar with a large sign hung on it that has the letters “N-A-C-A” and a pair of wings.
Pilot Bill Swann climbs into the cockpit of a McDonnell F2H-2B Banshee at the Lewis laboratory in February 1958. Eight months later, the NACA logo on the hangar was removed as the NACA became part of NASA. Swann, who joined the NACA in 1945, spent 35 years flying Lewis aircraft before retiring in 1980.
Credit: NASA/Ernie Walker

On Oct. 1, 1958, the NACA disbanded, and the laboratory was incorporated into NASA — the nation’s new space agency — as the Lewis Research Center. The next day, the “C” on the hangar roof was painted over with an “S,” and two weeks later, the NACA wings on the front and back were taken down and replaced with small “N-A-S-A” lettering.

A black-and-white photo of a hangar on a cloudy day. On the hangar’s roof are huge painted letters: “N-A-A” with a space between the two A’s where a letter has been removed.
Transformation of the hangar to reflect the lab’s Oct. 1, 1958, transition from the NACA to NASA and its rechristening as the Lewis Research Center.
Credit: NASA

During this period, the new agency asked its employees to submit concepts for an official seal. In December 1958, the NASA administrator approved the design of James Modarelli, a graphic illustrator at Lewis and head of the Technical Publications Division. Soon thereafter, he was asked to create a simpler, easier to reproduce version to be used more broadly. In early 1959, Modarelli came up with the large blue insignia that later became known as the “meatball.”

In September 1962, a large NASA insignia was installed on the front entrance of the Lewis hangar facing Brookpark Road, where it remained along with the “N-A-S-A” letters on the back and roof for nearly 30 years. In an effort to rebrand the agency in the mid-1970s, NASA replaced Modarelli’s blue insignia with the highly-stylized logo type, also known as “the worm.” Although the change of logos was mandated, the meatball never fully went away, and it remained on the front of the Lewis hangar.

A black-and-white photo of a crane lifting a large sign with the NASA “meatball” insignia onto the outside of a hangar building.
Workers install the NASA insignia on the front of the Lewis Research Center hangar on Sept. 14, 1962. The new sign replaced small “N-A-S-A” letters.
Credit: NASA

With its fiftieth anniversary approaching in 1991, the center began developing strategies to improve its visibility in the community. The most significant action was a redesign of the hangar graphics. In November 1990, the large red worm logo was installed on the front, and “Lewis Research Center” was added below with lighting to make graphics visible at night.

The front of the hangar at NASA's Glenn Research Center. A sign above the hangar includes a small NASA meatball insignia and large text that says, "Glenn Research Center, Lewis Field." Trees and a road are in the foreground.
The Lewis Research Center hangar in December 1994 featuring the red NASA worm logo and the light fixtures to make it visible at night.
Credit: NASA/Tom Jares

In 1992, new NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin decided to reinstate the meatball as the agency’s insignia to improve morale. Two large new meatball signs were constructed in the center’s shops to replace the worm on the front of the hangar and take the place of the 35-year-old insignia on the back. To mark the occasion, the center invited the retired Modarelli to participate in a rededication event at Lewis on Oct. 1, 1997. Modarelli and many of the 250 attendees signed their names on the back of the emblem, which remained above the back entrance until 2022.

In 1993, Congress decided to rename the Cleveland facility the Glenn Research Center. By early 1999, the Lewis Research Center text on the front of the hangar was changed to “Glenn Research Center” with “Lewis Field” in smaller type underneath.

The hangar roof was painted white in the early 1990s, first with black “N-A-S-A” letters, then with pale blue ones. In 2016, the center chose to repaint the roof with a large NASA meatball insignia, with “Glenn Research Center” in text below.

The meatball remains today, a larger-than-life symbol of NASA Glenn’s presence in the community.

Read more about the development and applications of the NACA and NASA logos and insignias:

Robert S. Arrighi

NASA’s Glenn Research Center

First published at

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