A Thing of Beauty: Shushan Airport's Administration Building

Stop 4 of 7 in the Lakefront Airport tour

The art deco administration building epitomized a fine combination of form and function. Not simply a place for travelers to wait for their flights, the airport allowed white New Orleanians to relax and entertain themselves. Observation decks and loggias (porches) on the other side of the building encouraged people to watch the planes land while enjoying a meal in the climate controlled building. Locals could also view Xavier Gonzalez's artwork that graced the second floor or attend parties on the roof or in the banquet hall. The Orleans Levee Board believed that the luxuriously-appointed building showed the taxpayers that the $4 million had gone to good use, and it promoted the airport's image as an international transportation hub.

To learn about the Works Progress Administration’s improvements of the airport, walk across the driveway and through the lawn to the left until you reach the empty fountain.

Images

Main Entrance

Main Entrance

The administration building featured a statue of a man with wings, symbolizing what humans had achieved upon inventing the airplane. In the 1960s, the building was covered with concrete, but after Hurricane Katrina, the Orleans Levee Board began to restore the building to its former beauty. Abe L. Shushan Collection, Earl K. Long Library, University of New Orleans View File Details Page

Enrique Alferez's Friezes

Enrique Alferez's Friezes

The building's friezes on the North-facing side (as seen in this image) depict man's relationship with the airplane. The South-facing side (which you are now facing) depicts the story of Icarus, the man who flew too close to the sun. Abe L. Shushan Collection, Earl K. Long Library View File Details Page

The Old Control Tower

The Old Control Tower

The control tower on the opposite side of the building was made with heat-resistant glass to keep air traffic controllers out of the heat. A new control tower took over flight coordination in 1988, and this tower (along with the rest of the buildings) remains a reminder of the uniqueness of airports in the era before the federal government became involved in airport construction. Abe L. Shushan Collection, Earl K. Long Library View File Details Page

Main Lobby of Shushan Airport

Main Lobby of Shushan Airport

The administration building featured facilities found in other airports at the time, such as a waiting area, ticket offices, and newsstands. The airport also housed full medical facilities that allowed doctors to take x-rays and perform surgeries, which was useful in case of accidents. Abe L. Shushan Collection, Earl K. Long Library View File Details Page

Administration Building's Second Floor

Administration Building's Second Floor

The second floor housed Orleans Levee Board offices, a balcony featuring Gonzalez's paintings, and hotel rooms for pilots. Amelia Earhart stayed overnight here during her final flight in 1937. Abe Shushan Collection, Earl K. Long Library View File Details Page

"Rio de Janeiro" by Xavier Gonzalez

"Rio de Janeiro" by Xavier Gonzalez

This is one of the paintings that displayed on the second floor of the airport. Locals and visitors usually viewed these paintings when taking tours of the building guided by a hostess. This painting is currently held by the Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans. Courtesy of the Collections of the Louisiana State Museum View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Teresa Thessen, “A Thing of Beauty: Shushan Airport's Administration Building,” New Orleans Historical, accessed April 30, 2017, http://neworleanshistorical.org/items/show/606.
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