February marks the 85th anniversary of the opening of New Orleans’ Lakefront Airport. The airport, which was dedicated on February 9, 1934, was originally named Shushan Airport to honor the then-president of the Orleans Parish Levee Board, Abraham Shushan, an ally of Gov. Huey P. Long, who pushed for construction of the airport. Shushan’s name was stripped from the airport in 1939 when he was convicted of mail fraud.
Jacob Schoen and Son moved into its current location at 3827 Canal Street in 1936
The airport’s impressive Art Deco style terminal was designed by the same architects who created Long’s 34-story State Capitol building in Baton Rouge. The airport, built at a cost of $4.5 million, was the largest airport in the U.S. at the time it opened and was the first combined land and seaplane air terminal in the world. In 1937, Amelia Earhart stayed in its VIP suite on her way to California for her final flight. The 1946 opening of Moisant Field (now Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport) ended Lakefront Airport’s run as the area’s commercial airline hub. For a time during the Cold War, a large part of it was converted into a fallout shelter. Later, runways and taxiways were added to serve private, corporate, military and commercial air carrier aircraft. A 1960s renovation covered up some of the terminal’s architectural features, including murals by artist Xavier Gonzalez.
Most of the murals were restored when the airport underwent $17 million in repairs following Hurricane Katrina, whose storm surge sent more than four feet of water into the building. The airport’s Walnut Room, an entertainment venue used for dances and private parties, also was restored. The airport is also home to friezes by Enrique Alferez, who also created the Fountain of the Four Winds in front of the building.
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