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.
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.
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.