Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Three Lost Airports: Uniontown, Rockville and Miami

Buried in a pile of movie stills in the back of an antique store in southern Maryland, I found these three 8x10 prints of diverse airports. Clearly, these were printed as a series, given the text in black on the photo's border, and the store's proprietor said he thought that there were more and they'd probably been purchased. The notations in white within the image indicate that these were produced by the Army Air Corps.

Burgess Field, Uniontown, Pennsylvania - January 25, 1927 

My first stop on the research journey was Paul Freeman's invaluable website Abandoned and Little Known Airfields. For Burgess Field, though, I came up empty. A check of Google Earth shows a Burgess Field Road, which, along with the surrounding roads and features, match the old photo. Unfortunately, I could find no other information or history of this field, when it was established nor when it disappeared.

The farmland as it looks today, with Burgess Field Lane running
diagonally in the foreground.

Congressional Airport, Rockville, Maryland - August 21, 1934

Unlike Burgess Field, Freeman's website has a wealth of information on Congressional Airport. The Army notations list it as in Washington DC, although in reality it was in Rockville. The airport was established in 1928 by the Congressional School of Aeronautics, which later participated in the US' Civilian Pilot Training Program.

Google Earth's view rotated to approximate the view of the original
A couple of references state that the man responsible for founding the airport was "noted aviator" Major Harry Horton, but I've yet to find any good information as to what made him notable (he does not, for instance, appear on any of the Ace lists that I could find).

Aviatrix Helen Richey, who would go on to become the first female commercial airline pilot in the US, set an international class altitude record of 18,448 feet in May, 1936, during a flight from Congress Airport to New Market, Virginia.

The airport closed in 1957, as nearby residential development began to encroach of the airports operational area, and land values were steadily climing. It was replaced partially by a residential development which contains a street still named Congressional Lane, and a shopping and business complex (big surprise there) named Congressional Plaza. The last vestige of the airport was one of its hangars, which continued to be used as a roller skating rink until it was torn down in 1984. The location of the hangar in our photo appears to be now occupied by a US Post Office branch.

All American Airport, Miami, Florida - April 26, 1931

The photo of All American Airport, Miami, is perhaps the hardest one to reconcile with later photographs. Freeman's web entry for this airport has several early images, but it's hard to see a correlation between our photo and the later ones on Freeman's site of the airport, which became known as Master Field when the City of Miami bought the land to build the first Miami International Airport.

All American/Master Field was build right next door to the Miami Executive Airport, where Amelia Earhart set out on her ill-fated around-the-world flight. During the 1930s, the airport was the site of the All-American Air Races. In 1942, the Navy acquired both airports and folded them into NAS Miami, which then became MCAS Miami in about 1955.
Two biplanes and a dirt parking lot - humble beginnings

A Google Earth view of the region from about the same angle as our photo. A few
traces of the runways from Master Field can still be seen on the campus of Miami-
Dade Community College-North Campus.
By 1962, part of the Navy facility was turned over to Dade County and became Opa Locka Airport. Other parts of the land, including the acreage that formerly held All American, was developed into the North Campus of Miami-Dade Community College. Today, only a few fragments of the runways survive as parking lots.

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