Celebrating 100 Years of Airmail Service – The Transcontinental Airfields


Transcontinental Airmail Route – Source: flyelkonevada.com

As a follow up to the first post depicting the airfields that served the New York City to Washington, DC flight corridor, this blogpost celebrates the series or airfields that served as the backbone of early airmail service across the continental United States. It’s amazing how this air corridor essential follows the same path as Interstate 80, which was built 30-40 years later.

While some of these airfields have faded into development oblivion, others still serve as the primary air transportation hub of the community. Here’s the list presented geographically from east to west:

New York City, NY

Hadley Field at night – Source: time.com

Bellefonte, PA

Bellefonte Air Field I at night – Source: bellefontearts.org

  • Bellefonte Air Mail Field I (see photo above) – from December 18, 1918 to 1925. Now the site of Bellefonte High School.
  • Bellefonte Air Mail Field II – from 1925 to September 1, 1927. Now farmland.

Cleveland, OH

  • Woodland Hills Park – from 1918 to 1920.
  • Glenn L. Martin Field (see photo below) – from September 8, 1920 to 1925. Later became Great Lakes Aircraft Corporation Field. Closed in 1937.
  • Hopkins Airport – from 1925 to September 1, 1927. Still in operation as Hopkins International Airport.

Glenn Martin Field – Source: dmairfield.com

Bryan, OH

Bryan’s Air Mail Field Marker – Source: hmgb.org

  • Air Mail Field I (see photos above and below) – from July 1, 1919 to July 1, 1924.  Situated on the 150 acre Willett Farm.  Remains a field today, but not for air service. The hanger remained for many years, but sadly has since been demolished instead of restored. Would have been an awesome place for a museum – instead it will be located to the Southwest in Fort Wayne, IN.
  • Air Mail Field II – from July 1, 1924 to May 1926. Located 1.5 miles north of the first site. Served as an emergency stop until September 1, 1927.

Bryan Air Mail Field I – Source: hmdb.org.

Chicago, IL

  • Grant Park – from 1919 to 1920. Moved inland for better flying conditions.
  • Checkerboard Field (Maywood, IL) – from 1920 to 1923. Operations moved across the street to Maywood Field.
  • Maywood Field (Maywood, IL) – from 1923 to September 1, 1927. Served as the primary maintenance facility too. Eventually was renamed Hines Field for the adjacent VA Hospital and closed sometime between 1937 and 1942. Now the site of Miller Meadows.

Map showing Checkerboard and Maywood Air Fields – Source: amazonaws.com

Iowa City, IA

Iowa City (Smith airfield) at night – Source: historyicpl.org

  • Smith Airfield (see photo above) – from January 8, 1920 to July 1, 1927. Airmail service between San Francisco and Chicago was taken over by privately operated Boeing Air Transport. Opened in 1918 and is the oldest municipal airport west of the Mississippi River. The airport remains in operation today as Iowa City Municipal Airport.

Omaha, NE

Omaha/Ak-Sar-Ben Field – Source: airfields-freeman.com

  • Ak-Sar-Ben Field (see photo above) – from May 15, 1920 to June 22, 1924. Wasn’t suitable for night flying. Site was destroyed by a tornado 10 days prior to moving to Fort Crook. Eventually absorbed by the adjacent race track. Today, neither the airfield nor the race track exist.
  • Offutt Airfield – from July 1, 1924 to July 1, 1927. Now Offutt Air Force Base.

North Platte, NE

North Platte Field – Source: airmailfield.com

  • North Platte Field (see photo above) – from 1921 – July 1, 1927. Constructed with private funds in 1921 to serve the Air Mail Service and bought by the city in 1929. Still in operation today as North Platte Regional Airport. In February 1923, the airport became the first electrically lighted airport in the United States.

Cheyenne, WY

Cheyenne Airfield in the 1920s – Source: findery.com

  • Cheyenne Airfield (see photo above) – from September 8, 1920 to July 1, 1927. Now serves as Cheyenne Regional Airport.

Rock Springs, WY

Rock Springs Airport – Source: flickr.com

  • Rock Springs Municipal Airport (see photo above) – from September 8, 1920 to July 1, 1927. Opened in September 1920 – closed in 1942 after a new airport was built. It became the site of the Sweetwater County Fairgrounds.

Salt Lake City, UT

  • Buena Vista Field – from September 8, 1920 to December 20, 1920.
  • Woodward Field (see photo below) – from December 21, 1920 to July 1, 1927. Originally 106 acres in size. Now Salt Lake City International Airport.

Woodward Field – Source: archives.sltrib.com

Elko, NV

  • Elko Airport(see photo below) – from September 8, 1920 to July 1, 1927. Begun on a open patch at the Elko Stockyards. Still in operation as Elko Regional Airport.

Elko Airport – Source: airspacemag.com

Reno, NV

  • Reno Air Mail Field (see photo below) – from September 8, 1921 to July 1, 1927. Renamed Blanch Field in 1924 in honor of a dead pilot. Replaced by Hubbard Field to the east, which is now Reno-Sparks International Airport. Blanch Field closed in the early 1930s and became part of Washoe County Golf Course in 1935.

Reno Air Mail Field – Source: airfields-freeman.com

San Francisco, CA

Source: airfields-freeman.com

  • Marina Air Field (see photo above) – from September 9, 1920 to February 1921. Located just east of Crissy Field. Now an urban greenspace/helicopter landing area known as Marina Green.
  • Crissy Field (see photo below) – from February 1921 to July 1, 1927. Was used as an intelligence language school during WWII. The site is now part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Crissy Field in 1921 (Marina Air Field is visible on the left edge of the photo) – Source: en.wikipedia.org

If this topic fascinates you as much as it does me, here are visual links to a couple of books about the dawn of airmail service that are available on Amazon*.

           

* A small commission is earned by us from purchases that are made using this visual link to Amazon.

Sources: 

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This entry was posted in aerospace, air travel, airport planning, airports, aviation, cities, commerce, Communications, economic development, geography, historic preservation, history, land use, logistics, Maps, placemaking, planning, transportation, Travel and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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