Poplar Grove Manley 1
By Kathryn Menue
BOONE COUNTY – Since the opening of the new Manley Belvidere Ford and Lincoln facility at 1800 N. State St. in Belvidere on Monday, Sept. 7, the old Manley Motors location is no more.
The old location, located at First and State Street in Belvidere, finished the deconstruction process the week of Monday, Jan. 25. However, not all of Manley’s was lost in the tear-down.
According to Steve Thomas, owner of Poplar Grove Airport, the bowstring trusses from the old Manley Motors facility will be reinvented into four new airplane hangars at Poplar Grove Airport.
Thomas said that the inclusion of the trusses will allow Manley’s history “to live on at the airport,” especially since Manley Motors has their own history with airplanes.
According to Thomas, the old Manley’s facility was constructed in 1930 to sell automobiles. However, when World War II broke out, Manley’s converted to selling airplanes.
With Manley’s rich history in Boone County and their connection to airplanes, the incorporation of Manley’s in the airport’s four new hangars was a no-brainer.
Thomas said when he was driving by the old Manley’s dealership, he thought the “truss design was attractive” and that he liked that the dealership featured the same design as a 1930’s airplane hangar.
“When I drove by it [Manley’s] and saw those trusses, I thought those would be great hangars,” Thomas said.
So, Thomas contacted the Manley’s and made a deal to use the old trusses from Manley’s former dealership to design four “retro-art-deco” hangars at Poplar Grove Airport.
The plan is to give the new hangars a 1930s design and locate them close to the museum so they can house vintage airplanes to highlight the aviation history in Boone County.
Thomas enlisted the help of Ollmann and Ernest Architecture to design the new hangars.
“We know them [Ollmann and Ernest Architecture]. They’re a good company and understand aviation,” Thomas said about his decision to hire Ollmann and Ernest Architecture for the hangars design.
Ollmann and Ernest have already been working hard designing the new hangars. Ollmann and Ernest finished the designs the week of Jan. 25.

Poplar Grove Manley
They even found the blueprints to the 1930’s Manley dealership, which aided the design process.
Paul Ollmann said that if they hadn’t found the blueprints for the trusses, they would have had to re-engineer the built-up trusses.
The next step will be to collect bids from construction companies and file for a building permit in the hopes that the hangars will be completed this spring/summer (2016). From there, the hangars’ construction will begin with sandblasting, repainting, and inspecting the trusses to insure they are viable to use in the new hangars.
The new hangars will help exhibit the numerous planes at the Poplar Grove Airport.
“If you ever get the chance, go out to the airport,” Ollmann said. He also said the airport has a lot of aviation history to offer with roughly 480 planes on the grounds, which would make the Poplar Grove Airport the home of the most planes in Illinois.
With aviation history and now an inclusion of Manley’s in the new hangars design, the Poplar Grove Airport and museum is a fine resource of Boone County history.

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