Preservationists Work to Save Airport Landmark
A group of preservationists are making a push to save the original Port Columbus Air Terminal. The two-story, 9,000 square foot building was used as the main terminal for the airport from 1929 to 1958, although its historical significance extends beyond Columbus. The terminal hosted early aviation pioneers like Charles Lindberg and Amelia Earhart and served as the initial transfer point in the nation’s first transcontinental air service.
The intercontinental trip, offered from 1929 to 1932, was a convoluted ordeal, at least by modern standards; passengers took an overnight train from New York to Columbus, boarded a flight to Waynoka, Oklahoma, then got on another train to Clovia, New Mexico, where they would board a second flight to Los Angeles. Advertisements at the time boasted that the whole trip could be made in 48 hours – which was a significant improvement over the 100 hours the trip took previously.
After the construction of a new terminal at the airport in 1958, the building was used in various ways, most recently as office space. It has been vacant for over five years, and has seen some deterioration due to a damaged roof.
“It’s fixable,” says Mike Peppe, a realtor and Columbus Historical Society board member who is leading the effort to find a user for the building. “Structurally, it’s fine; we’re in the process of getting some numbers together (about how much repairs might cost), so we can talk intelligently with possible users.”
Although far removed from the present terminal, the building, which sits on 1.7 acres at 4920 East 5th Ave, is easily accessible from the road and close to Hamilton Avenue.
The old terminal does not figure in the current plans of the Columbus Regional Airport Authority for their property, although Peppe says that they have been responsive to his group and would be willing to lease it out if a user can be found and funding for restoration work can be secured.
Peppe and others looking to save the building are hopeful that state and federal historic tax credits can be used to defray the costs of restoration- the building is already on the National Register of Historic Places.
“We’re having meetings with a lot of people, including government, to determine if there’s help available, but the bottom line is – find a user.”
Historic photos provided by Conrade Hinds. Current photos by Walker Evans.