1948: The Grand Opening of a Single-Runway Airport in Chicago

December 10, 1948

A single-runway airport on Northerly Island, a 91-acre (437-hectare) artificial peninsula located along the section of Lake Michigan that is in Chicago, was officially opened. Construction on this airport had begun in 1946.

The public officials taking part in the dedication ceremonies for Northerly Island Airport included Martin H. Kennelly, mayor of Chicago; Martin C. Meigs, chairman of the city’s aero commission; and Stuart Symington, secretary of the U.S. Air Force. “This is just the beginning,” asserted Kennelly. “We will go on from here to keep Chicago ahead as the air cross-roads of the world.”

As part of that day’s opening-day festivities for Northerly Island Airport, a Cessna 170 monoplane was used to drop a total of 51 bottles containing various store gift certificates – one for $100, 25 for $25 and other 25 for $5 – into the waters of the Chicago Harbor system (comprising not only part of Lake Michigan but also portions of rivers, canals, and other lakes that are likewise within the city’s limits). This large-scale release of bottles into the local waters was done in the hopes that enough people would eventually rescue those bottles and make use of the accompanying gift certificates.

The plane used for this celebratory stunt was piloted by John W. Wilson, a businessman and aviator from the city of Lockport, Illinois. Wilson’s wife Madge joined him for this flight in the skies above Chicago.

Northerly Island Airport soon became a familiar fixture along the Windy City’s lakefront. In 1950, the airport was renamed after Meigs to commemorate his longstanding contributions to aviation in that region. By 1955, Martin C. Meigs Field Airport had achieved the distinction of being the busiest single-strip airport in the United States. This airport remained in service until 2003.

(The above photo of the airport was taken by the U.S. Geological Survey in 2002.)

Photo Credit: Public Domain

For more information on Martin C. Meigs Field Airport (originally known as Northerly Island Airport), please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meigs_Field

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