Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Lakefront Airport - an Art Deco masterpiece

It is a masterpiece of art deco and modern day success story.  Completed in 1933 for a cost of $3.5 million, the Lakefront Airport was the first land and sea terminal in the world.  (Side note- it's sad to think that New Orleans was once the first in so many areas...sigh.)  Built under the reign of Huey P. Long, it was designed by Weiss, Dreyfous & Seiferth, the same firm responsible for the Louisiana State Capital and countless other art deco beauties around the south.  

It was immediately a destination.  Things kicked off in February of 1934 when it hosted the Pan-American Air Races, setting a new world speed record (a whopping 266 MPH) and leaving two pilots and one stuntman dead within the week.  The show went on.  It had its own restaurant, VIP suite, dance hall, post office, and even surgical suite. It was one of Amelia Earhart's last stops days before mysteriously disappeared forever.  

Of course, in the 1960's it was converted into a bomb shelter and covered with concrete and steel.  It was heinous.  Nearly 150 windows were covered.  The murals and art deco details inside were covered.  The grand entrance and two story lobby was covered.  It essentially became of box, and stood this way for over five decades.  Why?  Why?

I can sort of understand what led the state to cover it in concrete and steel...I mean, this was the cold war after all.  I guess I should be thankful- at least it wasn't bulldozed, and by encasing it they actually did a great job of preserving it.  It's a miracle this building is still here today, and even more of a miracle that it was so meticulously renovated.  It's one of only a handful of art deco terminals left in the country today, and for that we should be thankful.  

(For photos during the renovation and to see just how ugly it was, check this article out.) 

Another sad fact: in the Depression days, the WPA and unemployed Americans planted over 3 billion trees, built over 65,000 buildings, 46,000 bridges, and countless other sculptures and murals.  It was a brilliant idea that built a country and got us out of the depression, yet today we can't even be bothered to replace our crumbling infrastructure.  Why don't we embrace another New Deal?  Oh yea, we're too busy spending all of our money rebuilding foreign countries, waging endless wars, and throwing money at countries that hate us.  But I digress.  

Anyway, they just don't build them like this anymore.  With so much New Deal architecture being demolished or slowly rotting away, this building and its renovation should be go check it out!  Eat lunch at the Runway Cafe, walk around and take it the beautiful murals, rent the space for your wedding or next event!  Just go- it's a free museum!  

Please, let's not let it fall into obscurity again.  

All the photos were taken with the original Fuji X100, handheld.

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