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Long before LaGuardia and Kennedy handled the air travel needs of New York City, there was Floyd Bennett Airfield. Built on what was then called Barren Island, a stretch of land in Brooklyn created by using approximately 6 million tons of landfill trash, this once grand art deco airport whisked the rich and famous to far-flung destinations. Well-dressed passengers could enjoy a cocktail at a lavish bar overlooking the twin runways or dine at the luxe Aviator Bar & Grill while awaiting their flights.
Famous aviators from the early days of air travel, like Amelia Earhart, Charles Lindberg, and Roscoe Turner (whose co-pilot was his lion cub) often began their adventures from Floyd Bennett Airfield. The first man to fly solo around the world, Wiley Post, took off and landed at Floyd Bennet airfield with a crowd of nearly 50,000 people applauding his efforts from the ground below. Howard Hughes even set the world record for the fastest around-the-world flight in his Lockheed Super Electra, once again using Floyd Bennett Field as his home base.
But then a tunnel was constructed connecting Queens to Manhattan. A new airport was built on the site of an old amusement park in Queens, which became LaGuardia. It was much more convenient for travelers to access, so Floyd Bennett Airfield lost popularity and eventually closed. During World War II, it was used as a Naval Station but after that has been generally left untouched.
Floyd Bennett Airfield was acquired by the National Park Service in the 1970s and became part of the Gateway National Recreation Area. It is now a protected nature preserve with a campground named for Amelia Earhart, a gift shop, and a visitor's center. Several of the site's buildings have been restored to their former glory and are open to the public, including one housing antique planes.
However, many of the hangars and outbuildings remain abandoned to this day. Natural elements have been allowed to overtake the spaces, adding to the back-in-time vibe you'll get from visiting this incredible look into our aviation past.
Cover photo from Michael Kocher via Flickr