Hoover Field
Hoover Field was the first airport
An airport is a location where aircraft such as fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, and blimps take off and land. Aircraft may be stored or maintained at an airport...

 to serve the city of Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

 It was constructed as a private airfield in 1925, but opened to public commercial use on July 16, 1926. It was located in Arlington, Virginia, near the intersection of the Highway Bridge and the Mount Vernon Memorial Parkway
George Washington Memorial Parkway
The George Washington Memorial Parkway, known to local motorists simply as the "G.W. Parkway", is a parkway maintained by the U.S. National Park Service. It is located mostly in Northern Virginia, although a short section northwest of the Arlington Memorial Bridge passes over Columbia Island,...

, where The Pentagon
The Pentagon
The Pentagon is the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, located in Arlington County, Virginia. As a symbol of the U.S. military, "the Pentagon" is often used metonymically to refer to the Department of Defense rather than the building itself.Designed by the American architect...

 and its northern parking lots now stand.

Considered one of the most hazardous airfields in the United States, Hoover Field suffered from short and unpaved runways, numerous life-threatening obstructions around the field, poor visibility (due to a burning garbage dump to its northwest), and poor drainage. It was purchased by the owner of nearby Washington Airport
Washington Airport
Washington Airport was the second major airport to serve the city of Washington, D.C., in the United States. Located in Arlington, Virginia, near the intersection of the Highway Bridge and the Mount Vernon Parkway...

 in early 1929, causing a brief merger of the two fields, but was sold to a new owner just 12 months later. It nearly went bankrupt in 1933, and was sold at auction and merged with Washington Airport to become Washington-Hoover Airport
Washington-Hoover Airport
Washington-Hoover Airport was an international airport which served the city of Washington, D.C., in the United States from 1933 to 1941. It was created by the merger of Hoover Field and Washington Airport on August 2, 1933...

 on August 2, 1933.

Washington-Hoover Airport closed in June 1941. Washington National Airport (now Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is a public airport located south of downtown Washington, D.C., in Arlington County, Virginia. It is the commercial airport nearest to Washington, D.C. For many decades, it was called Washington National Airport, but this airport was renamed in 1998 to...

) was built as its replacement.


Hoover Field was built in 1925 by Thomas E. Mitten, president of the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company (which held the airmail
Airmail is mail that is transported by aircraft. It typically arrives more quickly than surface mail, and usually costs more to send...

 contract between Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia). Hell's Bottom, a 37.5 acres (15.2 ha) site at the foot of the Highway Bridge in Arlington County, Virginia (formerly a horse racing
Horse racing
Horse racing is an equestrian sport that has a long history. Archaeological records indicate that horse racing occurred in ancient Babylon, Syria, and Egypt. Both chariot and mounted horse racing were events in the ancient Greek Olympics by 648 BC...

 track) directly across the Potomac River
Potomac River
The Potomac River flows into the Chesapeake Bay, located along the mid-Atlantic coast of the United States. The river is approximately long, with a drainage area of about 14,700 square miles...

 from the city, was selected by Mitten for the site of his new "airport." Pioneering aviatrix
An aviator is a person who flies an aircraft. The first recorded use of the term was in 1887, as a variation of 'aviation', from the Latin avis , coined in 1863 by G. de la Landelle in Aviation Ou Navigation Aérienne...

 Alys McKey Bryant helped clear trees and brush and run the tractor which leveled the land for the airfield. The single sod
Sod or turf is grass and the part of the soil beneath it held together by the roots, or a piece of thin material.The term sod may be used to mean turf grown and cut specifically for the establishment of lawns...

According to ICAO a runway is a "defined rectangular area on a land aerodrome prepared for the landing and take-off of aircraft." Runways may be a man-made surface or a natural surface .- Orientation and dimensions :Runways are named by a number between 01 and 36, which is generally one tenth...

 was 2400 feet (731.5 m) long. A single hanger, 60 feet (18.3 m) by 100 feet (30.5 m) in size, was constructed. Construction ended in 1925, and at first the field was used only by planes giving sight-seeing tours over the national capital.

The then-unnamed airfield was threatened with competition almost immediately. Because the field was privately owned, civic leaders began a campaign for the city of Washington to build a publicly owned municipal airport. The federal government considered filling in all or part of Kingman Lake
Kingman Lake
Kingman Lake is a artificial lake located in the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C., in the United States. The lake was created in 1920 when the United States Army Corps of Engineers used material dredged from the Anacostia River to create Kingman Island...

 and using the lake, Kingman Island, and nearby Heritage Island for a federal airport to compete with the nascent field in Arlington, but this plan died in August 1926. The government's actions and Mitten's desire to fly people between D.C. and Philadelphia for the 150th anniversay of the Declaration of Independence
United States Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence was a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies then at war with Great Britain regarded themselves as independent states, and no longer a part of the British Empire. John Adams put forth a...

 led Mitten to expand his airfield. The new airfield was dedicated on July 16, 1926. It was named for then-Secretary of Commerce
United States Secretary of Commerce
The United States Secretary of Commerce is the head of the United States Department of Commerce concerned with business and industry; the Department states its mission to be "to foster, promote, and develop the foreign and domestic commerce"...

 Herbert Hoover
Herbert Hoover
Herbert Clark Hoover was the 31st President of the United States . Hoover was originally a professional mining engineer and author. As the United States Secretary of Commerce in the 1920s under Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge, he promoted partnerships between government and business...

, a major promoter of civil aviation.

The roughly trapezoidal airport was built along a north-by-northeast axis, was approximately 2500 feet (762 m) long and 600 feet (182.9 m) wide, and 37.35 acres (15.1 ha) in size. The only navigational aid was a windsock
A windsock is a conical textile tube designed to indicate wind direction and relative wind speed. Windsocks typically are used at airports and at chemical plants where there is risk of gaseous leakage...


Conditions at the field

Flying conditions at Hoover Field were notoriously poor. Arlington Beach, a local amusement park
Amusement park
thumb|Cinderella Castle in [[Magic Kingdom]], [[Disney World]]Amusement and theme parks are terms for a group of entertainment attractions and rides and other events in a location for the enjoyment of large numbers of people...

, was located on the north-northeastern edge of the airport (next to Highway Bridge), and a landfill
A landfill site , is a site for the disposal of waste materials by burial and is the oldest form of waste treatment...

 on the north-northwestern side. The trash in the landfill was also on fire
Landfill fire
A landfill fire occurs when waste disposed of in a landfill ignites and spreads. In landfills that do not cover their waste with daily cover, biological decomposition creates substantial heat and can cause material in the landfills to spontaneously combust. In the U.S...

. The smoke sometimes obscured the landing field, and the stench was notorious through the city of Washington. The United States Department of Agriculture
United States Department of Agriculture
The United States Department of Agriculture is the United States federal executive department responsible for developing and executing U.S. federal government policy on farming, agriculture, and food...

 owned the 400 acres (161.9 ha) Arlington Experimental Farm immediately adjacent to the northwestern edge of the field. A public swimming pool
Swimming pool
A swimming pool, swimming bath, wading pool, or simply a pool, is a container filled with water intended for swimming or water-based recreation. There are many standard sizes; the largest is the Olympic-size swimming pool...

 was located at the airport, and local children often crossed the runway to get to it.

Safety conditions at the airport were so poor due to these and other obstructions that local businesses and city officials again called for the construction of a city-owned airport in a safer location just three months after Hoover Field was rededicated. In late 1926, the National Aeronautic Association
National Aeronautic Association
The National Aeronautic Association of the United States is a non-profit 501 organization and a member of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale , the international standard setting and record-keeping body for aeronautics and astronautics. NAA is the official record-keeper for United States...

 sought to lease Hoover Field from Mitten in order to upgrade it and turn it into Washington's municipal airport. Their goal was to use Hoover Field temporarily while soil was dredged from the Potomac to create new land near Gravelly Point
Gravelly Point
Gravelly Point is a park in Arlington, Virginia, United States. It is located north of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, along the George Washington Parkway, and across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C....

 for a much-expanded new municipal airport. But these talks failed. In February 1927, a group of aviators and aviation companies, led by aviation pioneer Henry Berliner
Henry Berliner
Henry Adler Berliner was a United States aircraft and helicopter pioneer. Sixth son of inventor Emile Berliner, he was born in Washington, D.C....

, called for the establishment of a new, larger airport on the site of just across Military Road
Military Road (Arlington, Virginia)
Military Road is a four-lane arterial road approximately in length in Arlington County, Virginia. It runs primarily in a north-south direction, with its northern terminus at North Old Glebe Road near Virginia State Route 120 and its southern terminus at U.S. Route 29. Military Road turns into...

 (the southern boundary of Hoover Field). Although no field was built there at this time, an airport (Washington Airport) was built there in 1928.

Operations and ownership changes

In June 1927, the new airmail contractor for the federal government refused to use Hoover Field any longer because it was so unsafe. Airmail service was transferred to nearby Bolling Field
Bolling Air Force Base
Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling is a military installation, located in Southeast Washington, D.C., established on 1 October 2010 in accordance with congressional legislation implementing the recommendations of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission...

, a military airport. Hoover Field's location—bordered by highways, rivers, and federally owned land—also prevented its expansion to accommodate newer aircraft requiring longer runways.

At about the same time, Henry Berliner began leasing and later took majority ownership in Hoover Field. As Berliner secured his interest in the airport, a number of government officials and businessmen suggested that the United States Department of Agriculture
United States Department of Agriculture
The United States Department of Agriculture is the United States federal executive department responsible for developing and executing U.S. federal government policy on farming, agriculture, and food...

 sell its experimental agricultural fields to Hoover Field for expansion. But this plan was not acted on.

A fire at the field on July 3, 1928, destroyed eight planes and the hangar
A hangar is a closed structure to hold aircraft or spacecraft in protective storage. Most hangars are built of metal, but other materials such as wood and concrete are also sometimes used...

, causing $100,000 in damages ($1.275 million in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars
United States dollar
The United States dollar , also referred to as the American dollar, is the official currency of the United States of America. It is divided into 100 smaller units called cents or pennies....

). Flights out of Hoover Field were suspended for 18 days. Berliner's finances were significantly damaged by the fire, and he sold his interest in Hoover Field to E.W. Robertson's Mount Vernon Airways on July 20, 1928. A few months later, on September 11, 1928, the first daily flights from Washington, D.C., to New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 began out of Hoover Field.

By November 1928, a Canadian
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 company, International Airways, had taken over control of the airfield from Mount Vernon Airways. Despite its small size, three foreign flights per day left Hoover Field, and in the 18 months prior to December 1928 the airport saw more than 50,000 flights depart. In June 1928, it set an area record for sending 4,200 passengers aloft in a single month. But these statistics belied the very real dangers at the field. In 1928, a pilot and engineer were killed when their plane crashed during take-off. Later that year, a plane attempting to land at night struck a car parked on the field, injuring four.

In early 1929, a new holding company, Atlantic Seaboard Airways, was created to take over International Airways and its subsidiary aviation businesses. The owners of Atlantic Seaboard also owned Washington Airport (see below), and for a time the two fields were operated by the same company (although not merged). But on December 30, 1929, a group of investors led by R.H. Reiffen, chairman of the New Standard Aircraft Company
New Standard Aircraft Company
The New Standard Aircraft Company was an airplane manufacturing company based in the United States. It operated from 1927 until 1931.-Corporate history:...

, purchased Atlantic Seaboard Airways and took control of Hoover Field.

Safety at the airfield improved somewhat in mid-1932, after Arlington County commissioners revoked permits for the burning of trash at all landfills in the county—including the one next to Hoover Field, but not the one next to Washington Airport.


Washington Airport was built because a newly formed airline needed a terminal in Washington, D.C. The new airfield opened without fanfare in late 1927 as a field for sight-seeing planes. Its owners included Robert E. Funkhouser, Herbert Fahy, and other investors. Funkhouser was an investor and officer in several different small airlines in the mid-Atlantic region
Mid-Atlantic States
The Mid-Atlantic states, also called middle Atlantic states or simply the mid Atlantic, form a region of the United States generally located between New England and the South...

. Herbert J. "Hub" Fahy was a Lockheed Aircraft Company
Lockheed Corporation
The Lockheed Corporation was an American aerospace company. Lockheed was founded in 1912 and later merged with Martin Marietta to form Lockheed Martin in 1995.-Origins:...

 test pilot. The airport added acreage and improved its facilities, and in February 1928 Funkhouser, Fahy, and the others formed Seaboard Airways. Seaboard's base of operations was Washington Airport. But Washington Airport was only marginally safer than Hoover Field. The owners could not afford to pave the runway, and the burning trash dumps nearby also obscured the runways at Washington Airport.

First merger

In June 1928, Funkhouser and Fahy created United States Air Transport as a holding company
Holding company
A holding company is a company or firm that owns other companies' outstanding stock. It usually refers to a company which does not produce goods or services itself; rather, its purpose is to own shares of other companies. Holding companies allow the reduction of risk for the owners and can allow...

 for Seaboard Airways, Washington Airport, and Funkhouser's other aviation businesses. In March 1929, Funkhouser and Fahy formed Atlantic Seaboard Airways with the intent of taking over International Airways and Hoover Field. Ira C. Eaker was named general manager of Atlantic Seaboard. United States Air Transport was itself taken over in June 1929 by Federal Aviation Corporation, an airline based in New York City. Federal Aviation announced it was buying an additional 104 acres (42.1 ha) (which included the Arlington Beach theme park) for $675,000, with the goal of expanding into a six-runway airport with one runway dedicated solely to departing flights.

On December 30, 1929, Federal Aviation sold Hoover Field to the New Standard Aircraft Co., ending unified control of the two fields. In July 1931, Federal Aviation (and Washington Airport) was slated to be purchased by National Aviation Corporation, an airline financing corporation originally organized in 1928. This transaction did not occur, but that did not end National Aviation Corp.'s relationship with Washington Airport. Despite the ownership changes, beginning around 1930 the two fields entered into a cooperative agreement. Hoover Field agreed to host all sight-seeing, flight schools, and small planes, while Washington Airport agreed to only be used by larger military, mail, and passenger aircraft.

Second merger

Hoover Field and Washington Airport both suffered significant financial setbacks during the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

. In 1933, both airports merged after a series of quick financial transactions.

Washington Airport was the first to be sold, and the buyers were the Ludingtons. Nicholas S. Ludington and his brother, Charles T. Ludington, were co-owners of the Philadelphia Flying Service, a pilot training school and demonstration airplane manufacturer established in 1922. The Ludingtons became quite wealthy, and in 1929 Charles was on the board of directors of the Aviation Corporation—an aviation investment company in which some of the richest men in shipping, railroads, and investment banking had put their money. The brothers also were managers of Camden Airport
Camden County Airport
Camden County Airport is a public-use airport located one nautical mile southwest of the central business district of the borough of Berlin in Camden County, New Jersey, United States. It was founded in March 1929. The airport is privately owned....

, near Philadelphia. In June 1930, the Ludingtons founded New York-Philadelphia-Washington Airways (soon to be renamed Ludington Airlines), an eastern seaboard airline which famous aviatrix Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart
Amelia Mary Earhart was a noted American aviation pioneer and author. Earhart was the first woman to receive the U.S. Distinguished Flying Cross, awarded for becoming the first aviatrix to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean...

 joined as Vice President. The Ludingtons sold their airline to Eastern Air Transport
Eastern Air Lines
Eastern Air Lines was a major United States airline that existed from 1926 to 1991. Before its dissolution it was headquartered at Miami International Airport in unincorporated Miami-Dade County, Florida.-History:...

 in February 1933, and Eastern Air Transport was in turn acquired by North American Aviation
North American Aviation
North American Aviation was a major US aerospace manufacturer, responsible for a number of historic aircraft, including the T-6 Texan trainer, the P-51 Mustang fighter, the B-25 Mitchell bomber, the F-86 Sabre jet fighter, the X-15 rocket plane, and the XB-70, as well as Apollo Command and Service...

 a month later. These transactions left the Ludingtons with plenty of cash. On July 8, 1933, Federal Aviation put Washington Airport up for auction. D.C. attorney H. Rozier Dulany, Jr. (son of the famous Virginia horse breeder) held a $255,000 first mortgage
Mortgage loan
A mortgage loan is a loan secured by real property through the use of a mortgage note which evidences the existence of the loan and the encumbrance of that realty through the granting of a mortgage which secures the loan...

 against the property and the Ludingtons held a $160,000 second mortgage
Second mortgage
A second mortgage typically refers to a secured loan that is subordinate to another loan against the same property.In real estate, a property can have multiple loans or liens against it. The loan which is registered with county or city registry first is called the first mortgage or first position...

, payments on which Washington Airport was unable to make. North American Aviation (owner of the Ludington's newly sold airline) passed on the chance to buy the property. At auction on July 17, 1933, an unidentified buyer purchased Washington Airport for $432,000.

Hoover Field was sold just days later. New Standard Aircraft Co. had also been unable to make payments on Hoover Field's mortgages by July 1933. The Ludingtons owned a $155,442 first mortgage on Hoover Field, while William Morgan (a D.C. physician) held a second mortgage worth $9,500. The Hoover Field auction was set for July 31. At auction, the Ludingtons bought Hoover Field for $174,500.

The evening after the Hoover Field auction, the secret buyer of Washington Airport emerged: National Airport Corporation, a division of National Aviation Corporation. National Aviation Corporation, an aviation investment corporation, had been formed in July 1928. Almost unknown in aviation circles, it now owned one airport near the nation's capital. Twenty-four hours later, National Aviation purchased Hoover Field from the Ludingtons for an undisclosed sum.

The two airfields merged into a new airport named Washington-Hoover Airport
Washington-Hoover Airport
Washington-Hoover Airport was an international airport which served the city of Washington, D.C., in the United States from 1933 to 1941. It was created by the merger of Hoover Field and Washington Airport on August 2, 1933...

. It opened on August 2, 1933, and closed to the public when Washington National Airport opened on June 16, 1941. It remained open as a private field for small aircraft, but closed on September 16, 1941, when the United States Department of War
United States Department of War
The United States Department of War, also called the War Department , was the United States Cabinet department originally responsible for the operation and maintenance of the United States Army...

 purchased Washington-Hoover Airport for $1 million to construct The Pentagon
The Pentagon
The Pentagon is the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, located in Arlington County, Virginia. As a symbol of the U.S. military, "the Pentagon" is often used metonymically to refer to the Department of Defense rather than the building itself.Designed by the American architect...


External links

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