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MDW History Question

Mon Dec 13, 2004 11:02 pm

When was MDW originally built? and when it was built was it surrounded by housing of some type? Obviously it was a little less populated then but i was wondering why someone would build an airport that is surrounded by some type of housing or business. Any info? thanks  Smile cheers
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RE: MDW History Question

Mon Dec 13, 2004 11:13 pm


10 miles from downtown way back then, they were probably out in the boonies...  Big grin
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RE: MDW History Question

Mon Dec 13, 2004 11:35 pm

Thanks..although one little error in the article is that it says Midway #1 had a "failed attempt" at Pittbsurgh...it was really PHL  Smile
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RE: MDW History Question

Tue Dec 14, 2004 1:03 am

Midway - Chicago Municipal back then - was wayyyyy out in the country when it opened. Originally the airport terminal and hangars were in the southeast corner of today's airfield, near 63rd Street and Cicero Avenue.

The city tripled the size of the airfield in 1941 by acquiring an adjacent golf course and rerouting a railroad track. That led to the current square-mile airfield that still exists today.

There were houses on the east side of the airport all along. It wasn't until after WWII that the housing boom really engulfed the airport - most of the houses north, south and west of MDW were built in the late 1940s and early 1950s, right as Midway was seeing its passenger traffic explode.

If you can believe it, the airport's "property line" at one point extended all the way to Harlem Avenue - almost five times the size of the current airport. The city sold it in the 1930s, saying they'd never need an airport that big. I wonder what would have happened if they'd kept that land and expanded Midway - ORD might not have been necessary until the late 1960s.
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Tue Dec 14, 2004 2:37 am

The 1929 map shows a street grid west of the mile-square tract, with some dozens of buildings; ditto south of the SW corner of the tract. The railroad ran E-W across the middle of the tract. The field may have started out a half-mile square, with N-S, E-W and two diagonal runways all intersecting midfield. Sometime in the 1930s (?) the E-W runway got extended westward.

The link says MDW was always busiest until ORD took over; if takeoffs and landings (or maybe air-carrier takeoffs and landings) is the criterion then I think LGA was busier in the late 1940s.
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RE: MDW History Question

Tue Dec 14, 2004 4:18 am

Timz -

You're correct on the street grids being in place around MDW through most of the 1930s and 1940s. The city went ahead and built the streets and connected utilities in anticipation of a 1930s "building boom" that never happened. The Depression came along and pretty much all home construction came to a halt. The same thing happened in Skokie - which is why Skokie has a 1920s-style "grid" street system full of houses from the 1950s (unlike other 1950s suburbs, which have curving streets and cul-de-sacs, etc.)

If you look at aerials of MDW from the 1930s, the north, south and west sides of the field are surrounded by long, empty streets, each with maybe one or two houses on them. Very odd looking from the air - must have looked even weirder on the ground!
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RE: MDW History Question

Tue Dec 14, 2004 12:29 pm

There is an interesting book about the history of Midway with many pictures from the past. The book explains some of what you are asking. It is authored by Christopher Lynch and I believe it is called Midway Airport: The First 75 years.

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