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TWA Terminal JFK Airport NYC 1964 Untapped CitiesTWA Terminal at JFK Airport circa 1964 via Flickr user amphalon. The photograph was taken by Balthazar Korab, a Hungarian-born architectural photographer who documented the work of Eero Saarinen. 

What we now know as John F. Kennedy International Airport was constructed as Idlewild Airport in 1942 on top of the Idlewild golf course in Queens. The project was undertaken to relieve LaGuardia Airport (built in 1939) of some of its traffic, as it quickly became too crowded. The original plans called for a modest 1,000 acre airport, but by the time construction was finished, the airport had grown to 4,930 acres with over thirty miles of roadway. Commercial flights began in July 1948.

In 1943, the airport was actually renamed Major General Alexander E. Anderson Airport after the Queens resident who had commanded the Federalized National Guard and died in 1942. In 1948, the City Council renamed it New York International Airport, Anderson Field, but people continued to call it Idlewild. 

Idlewild Airport NYC Life Magazine Untapped CitiesIdlewild Airport by Dimitri Kessel via Flickr user MidCentArc.

There were terminals for the major airlines of the time: American Airlines, Pan American World Airlines (Pan-Am) and Trans World Airways (TWA), where we went behind the scenes to show you this now empty masterpiece of modern architecture. The period from the 1950s-1960s was also a time when fans and paparazzi regularly greeted celebrities getting on or off planes on the jetway.

Marilyn Monroe Boards AirplaneMarilyn Monroe boarding an American Airlines plane for Hollywood at Idlewild Airport, 1956. Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS via Flickr user Kemon01.

On December 13, 1963, Life Magazine noted, “By the dozens, plazas, bridges, hospitals, schools, libraries, stadiums, parks, government buildings, causeways, throughways, freeways, expressways, highways and byways around the world were christened or rechristened in the name of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.” On December 24, 1963, just over a month after the president was assassinated, the airport joined the ranks of so many other buildings and was renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport in his honor.

American Airlines Terminal JFK Airport 1961 Life Magazine Untapped CitiesStained glass windows at the American Airlines terminal in 1961 by Dimitri Kessel via Flickr user MidCentArc.

Pan Am Terminal Idlewild Airport NYC Life Magazine Untapped CitiesThe Pan Am Terminal in 1961 by Dimitri Kessel via Flickr user MidCentArc. Today, despite preservation attempts, the terminal is being torn down.

Idlewild Airport Queens NYC Life Magazine Untapped CitiesIdlewild Airport in 1961 by Dimitri Kessel via Flickr user MidCentArc.

Idlewild Airport restaurant NYC Life Magazine Untapped CitiesPhoto by Dimitri Kessel via Flickr user MidCentArc.

2 Comments

  1. Jerry Ringstad says:

    I was a Bendix Teterboro, NJ products representative in the field office at Idlewild providing customer coverage for the three Port Authority Airports in 1959-60 at the beginning of the B-707 and Lockheed Electra aircraft passenger era. I remember the Golden Door Lounge. The TWA wheels up landing, the TWA L-1649 with the hole blown in the flight engineer station during failed cabin pressure check and the first flight of Air India where I was introduced to industrialist Tata responding to questions about a failed Compass Coupler on his flight.

  2. If you want to hear President Truman gush about air travel at the dedication of Idlewild, check out
    http://www.wnyc.org/story/201224-dedication-of-idlewild-airport-new-york-citys-golden-jubilee/

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