Place Where Plane Making Started Still Standing In 1978
Photo courtesy Western MD Room of WCFL
The small weather-beaten green shed still stands on a lot in back of the 800 block of Pennsylvania Avenue in Hagerstown. It was last used by a man who repaired cars as a hobby. Even though it has been a familiar landmark for so long, few who pass it either know or remember that one of Hagerstown’s largest industries actually had its beginning here. Just as great oaks from tiny acorns grow, so do great ideas and dreams originate in the minds of men who dare to imagine brave new worlds.
Lou and Henry Reisner, who lived on Belview Avenue, planned, and built their very first airplane in the basement of their home there. Many hours were spent working on their project and many dreams were dreamed as they worked.
At long last their wonderful machine was completed; their dreams were a reality, and they were ready to show their plane to the world.
Just one important thing went wrong. In no way could their prized machine be taken out of the basement workshop in one piece. It had to be taken apart, removed from the basement, and then reassembled. This was done, and the moment of truth was at hand. Hopes were high, but due to bad weather conditions and ice on the street, it was impossible to get the plane off the ground. It was obvious that a more suitable place must be found in which to work. The small frame building was purchased and hauled, in sections, to its present location by a neighbor who happened to own a horse and wagon.
At that time, this was really a family undertaking. The two young men were always helped and encouraged by their parents. Their mother sewed, at home, the canvas covers used to cover the bodies of the small experimental planes and their father helped with the mechanical details. The motors were assembled from surplus parts from World War I.
Unfortunately, the needed money was not available for developing and improving the plane. Mr. Ammon Kreider, president of a shoe company in Hagerstown, a former pilot very interested in aviation, heard of the Reisner plane and its difficulties. He immediately contacted the Reisners and offered the assistance they needed. Thus, was born the Kreider-Reisner Aircraft Company in the late 1920s.
In those very early days, they employed less than twenty men and the office force consisted of only two girls. In a short time, the growing new business moved to the building now occupied by the Boys’ Club. Still later, more and more people were hired, and a still larger building was required to meet the needs of this thriving giant of an industry.
Mr. Kreider died tragically in a crash while test flying one of their planes. With the almost certainty of World War II and the eminent importance and growth of the aircraft industry, the small family business had now become the famous and world-renowned Fairchild Aircraft.
Both Lou and Henry Reisner have since died, but their dedication and contribution to aviation will be always remembered by the people who knew them as friends and neighbors.
“In Retrospect” is courtesy of the Maryland Cracker Barrel magazine, the Sentinel of Washington County’s Heritage. Since June 1971, the quarterly publication has focused on local history and may be purchased at any of the more than 30 sites in Maryland and Pennsylvania or by subscription. Subscriptions ($17 annually) may be obtained by calling 301-582-3885 or writing to: Maryland Cracker Barrel, 7749 Fairplay Road, Boonsboro, MD 21713.