Iconic "Airstream Ranch" taken down to make room for new museum

- Anyone who has driven the central Florida stretch of I-4 between Tampa and Orlando is no doubt familiar with the odd display on the side of the highway featuring eight Airstream trailers jutting vertically from the earth. 

The curious installation, named Airstream Ranch, was first constructed nearly ten years ago by Frank Bates, the owner of Airstream of Central Florida, after a highly contentious debate with the county.

The widely-publicized controversy surrounding its construction brought a lot of attention to Airstream Ranch.

But Airstream Ranch truly became an iconic piece of roadside America because of the odd, eye-catching installation itself.  

Weary travelers on the bleak central-Florida stretch of interstate couldn't miss the peculiar sight.

Some would say it stuck out like a sore thumb. Or, maybe it simply stuck out like an octet of shiny chrome Airstream trailers protruding from the ground in an otherwise empty field.  

It earned the nickname "Airstream Stonehenge" for its visual similarity to the mysterious standing stones of England.

Whether you loved Airstream Ranch or thought it more eye-sore than eye-catching, it's safe to say that it became an iconic roadside attraction for the state of Florida. 

But like many pieces of classic roadside America, Airstream Ranch is now only a memory. Crews arrived Thursday morning and removed the chrome trailers from their perch alongside I-4.

The current owners of Airstream of Central Florida said that the Airstream Ranch is coming down to make way for an all new Airstream museum and Airstream of Central Florida dealership. 

This store will mark the sixth dealership for RVOne Superstores who purchased the facility from former owner Frank Bates in 2013.   

Bates is the man behind Airstream Ranch. 

The idea was inspired by the famed art installation "Cadillac Ranch" located in Amarillo, Texas that was created in the 1970s.  Bates saw the installation of a similar art piece using Airstreams as the perfect tribute to the company's 75th anniversary. 

The 17,000 square-foot facility is scheduled to open in December of this year. The new facility will feature a museum dedicated to its iconic founder Wally Byam as well as an interactive display called the Airstream Experience.  

"The Airstream trailers coming out of the ground do not represent the end of anything for us," said president and CEO Don Strollo, "They represent the beginning of new opportunities and exciting growth for the area which will be honoring the spirit of Airstream and American Travel in a much much bigger way."

Strollo wants the new facility to become a national destination.

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