The Buildings of Shushan Airport

Stop 2 of 7 in the Lakefront Airport tour

You are currently standing in front of the Lindbergh/Williams hangar. This hangar, the administration building behind you, and the Moffett hangar across the driveway were the airport’s original three buildings; space for nine more hangars and other auxiliary buildings remained available. The architectural firm Weiss, Dreyfous, and Seiferth executed the plans of William Arthur, who designed other modern airports in California. Shushan also consulted with aviation experts like Eddie Rickenbacker and Jimmy Doolittle, and he observed other modern airports to make certain that this one would have all the modern amenities. The construction companies hired local unemployed men because this was the Great Depression.

This hangar contains the first pile driven for the airport buildings, which was placed on May 20, 1932. While the buildings were under construction, the runways were active; the first plane landed in June 1932, though the airport would not officially open until November 1, 1933. In recognition of the airport’s modernity, the government installed a radio beacon. This hangar, along with the rest of the airport, filled and exceeded almost all of the government's expectations.

The experts who helped design the airport hailed it as the greatest in the country; though their opinion must have been biased, the airport was modern for the time, combining beauty and function. With a plan to accommodate bigger planes and heavier air traffic over the next five years, the architects and builders had the future in mind. By the time the buildings were completed, there was plenty of buzz about the airport from Arthur Brisbane’s national article and national advertising of the 1934 Pan-American Air Races.

To learn about the 1934 Pan-American Air Races hosted at the airport, walk toward the fence near the runway to your left.

Images

The Lindbergh/Williams Hangar

The Lindbergh/Williams Hangar

This art deco hangar had a wind tee and beacon on the roof and it contained machine shops, locker rooms, offices, and living quarters. The hangar was originally named after famed aviator Charles Lindbergh, who in 1938 was criticized for his association with Adolph Hitler. As a result, the Orleans Levee Board changed the name of the hangar to honor Harry Williams of the Patterson-based Wedell-Williams Air Service. Abe L. Shushan Collection, Earl K. Long Library View File Details Page

The Cutting-Edge Wind Tee on the Lindbergh/Williams Hangar

The Cutting-Edge Wind Tee on the Lindbergh/Williams Hangar

With the indicating dial on the ground, pilots could see the wind direction as they arrived to determine which runway they should use. Abe L. Shushan Collection, Earl K. Long Library View File Details Page

Modern Lighting at Shushan Airport

Modern Lighting at Shushan Airport

The beautiful lighting of the airport was also practical, as you will see on the next slide. Abe L. Shushan Collection, Earl K. Long Library View File Details Page

Runway Lights Mean Way More Flights

Runway Lights Mean Way More Flights

A central desk in the administration building controlled the lights, which allowed for night flights. The federal government urged airports to adopt runway lights because night flights meant more air commerce. In the 1920s and 1930s, aviation became a commercial enterprise, and businessmen found more applications as technology advanced. Abe L. Shushan Collection, Earl K. Long Library View File Details Page

One of the Only Airports to Host Land and Sea Planes

One of the Only Airports to Host Land and Sea Planes

A seaplane ramp was logical given Louisiana's many waterways and proximity to the Gulf. Abe L. Shushan Collection, Earl K. Long Library View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Teresa Thessen, “The Buildings of Shushan Airport,” New Orleans Historical, accessed June 24, 2017, http://neworleanshistorical.org/items/show/604.
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