Reclaiming Land: Creating Shushan Airport

Stop 1 of 6 in the Lakefront Airport tour

In the 1920s, all of this land, including what is under your feet, was marshland and fishing camps. In 1922, Abraham Shushan, the President of the Board of Commissioners of the Orleans Levee District, pushed for a lakefront improvement project to beautify the shore after consulting with other waterfront improvement project leaders, such as the coordinator of the Coney Island redevelopment project in New York City.

The project's $15 million costs would be covered through the sale of bonds and land on the improved lakeshore. The airport part of the project cost $4 million. Shushan had the support of Governor Huey Long; both men saw the need for a modern airport. They hoped to compete with Chicago as a transportation hub and link New Orleans with Latin America. In the Golden Age of Aviation (1920s and 1930s), having an airport was imperative for a modern city. Louisiana’s landscape of waterways and difficult land routes made the area a good candidate for air transportation.

The lakefront project was one of many improvement projects that Long supported to modernize the state. With the cost of land inhibiting airport construction, the Orleans Levee Board thought that it was a good idea to put the airport on land “reclaimed” from the lake. Also, the land under bodies of water was considered public domain, which meant that the anti-Long political factions in New Orleans could not exercise much control. During the legal battles with Long's political enemies and the fisherman living on the lakeshore, Shushan showed his dedication to the airport, which led to naming the airport after him. After winning the legal battles, Shushan and the Levee Board started letting contracts to build the seawall and airport in 1931. The politicians hoped the airport would rocket the city forward as an aviation center, and it did.

To learn about the buildings and innovations incorporated in the airport, cross the street and head to the door of the Harry Williams Hangar.