The Town of Huntsville is the new owner of 12 Yonge Street North, a small waterfront property with an airplane hangar it purchased for $260,000 from Tom and Sandy Hammond.
Huntsville Council instructed municipal staff to negotiate the purchase of the property located between the beach area and docks at Avery Beach.
The Hammonds approached the Town first to see if the municipality would be interested in purchasing the property.
“It’s the only piece of property we actually don’t own on the water between, basically, Centre Street and Orchard Park. There would’ve been somebody else interested in buying it and there was concern about what they might want to do with it,” explained Huntsville Mayor Karin Terziano.
Terziano said council has made a commitment to secure as much public water access as possible. “It’s also right next to the boat launch down there and we have issues with how many boat launches we have, so there may be a possibility to expand the boat launch area,” she said of the newly acquired property.
It was just a piece of property that we really felt we had to have for public access. It’s not a large piece, but it’s right in the middle of everything else we own.
~Huntsville Mayor Karin Terziano
The property had been in Tom Hammond’s family since 1963 when his father purchased it from Sid Avery who owned Huntsville Fuels. At the time, most houses were heated with coal and as a young boy Hammond, now 72, remembered a big barn in that location.
“It had a big blue coal sign on it. A lot of people in town burned coal in those years so there was a big coal depot there, on the land side of where the hangar is now,” he noted.
Hammond recalled Texaco and White Rose also had fuel tanks there. “At that time, the trains went by and they unloaded the fuel and diesel fuel and what not in the big tanks there and that’s where it was distributed from in those years. It was a fairly active place then but this lot was vacant, and coal business was falling off so Sid Avery was selling some of his stuff off so my dad bought the lot from him,” said Hammond.
A year later, in 1964, his dad, Frank Hammond, built the hangar for his personal airplane. Young Hammond shared his father’s enthusiasm for flying and learned to fly at the age of 14. “But I didn’t get my licence until I was 17 because you weren’t allowed to hold a licence,” said Hammond.
Since 1964, at least four planes have been housed in the hangar. The last one was a Piper PA-12. “It was red and yellow, many people knew it,” said Hammond. “People used to come over who lived around the bay and they would say how much they liked watching it land—they were kind of enthralled with it because they were interested in aviation that way.”
Over the years, Hammond met a lot of people who would stop in and have questions for him about the plane. “It was interesting that way for sure,” said Hammond of the people he got to meet. “I miss it already.”
Hammond said various factors played into his decision to sell the plane and hangar. Not only is he getting older but the engine of the plane required a major overhaul. “These airplanes are very expensive to maintain. They have to be overhauled every 2,000 hours and it was going to cost $40,000 to zero-time it, as they call it, or overhaul it.”
The increasing amount of boat traffic at the public boat launch also played a role in his decision to give up the hobby. “You try to fly out of there and it’s super frustrating, especially on the weekends, because it’s just nothing but boat traffic—and no one ever looks up.”
He said on occasion he’d try to land the plane several times but a boat would come out of nowhere, oblivious to the fact that there was an airplane trying to land from above. “So you make three or four tries and then you end up having to fly over to Vernon Lake and land and then taxi all the way back in,” said Hammond. “The boats also set up a terrific cross-chop in the bay because there’s so many of them and if you land in the cross-chop, it’s just going to flip you over. It just was an annoyance.”
Sometimes, people parked right in front of his hangar with their big trucks and trailers and he’d be unable to get in or out.
Then finally, the flooding last spring sealed the deal for Hammond. “We had a super big flood, as you’re well aware I’m sure, and the hangar flooded. I was in there on a dock with chest waders on and it was right up to my neck the water inside the hangar. It floated the airplane up and almost crushed it in the ceiling, and I had to sink it down and it almost got covered in water the other way, the water just went down in the nick of time,” he recalled. “It almost got wrecked and I think that’s going to become another big issue down the road because I think we’re going to see more and more of that flooding because of global warming.”
Hammond also said that he’s ready to pursue some other interests and by selling the hangar and airplane it frees up some funds to do that. He said he’s going to miss flying and the curious people he’s met through the years who’ve stopped in at the hangar to talk to him. The good news is if he gets an itch to fly, he’ll just have to drive a bit further. The new owner of the plane, who keeps it at Three Mile Lake over the summer, has added Hammond on the insurance so he can fly it when he wants.
The sale of Hammond’s hangar and property to the Town closed in late November.
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