Public Housing
A Date at the Airport

Airport Remains

Entrance_ramp
Last week my family met us at Thai Heaven in Hapeville to celebrate my birthday. This top floor restaurant on Virginia Ave overlooks the airport.

As we waited for our supper, Dad leaned over to Gayle and asked, "What does that remind you of?" He pointed to a crusty strip of concrete below.

"Going to the airport," she said, remembering with a smile. They have done this as long as I can remember– shared inside jokes and memories at the dinner table while we tried to guess what they're talking about.

Eventually, Dad explained that we were looking down on the former entrance to the airport, the bold symmetrical ramps that led to the 1961 terminal. This post card from Atlanta Time Machine shows how they would have looped the terminal.

216_ATL-Hotel

"Did you fly much?" I asked.

Dad laughed.

"We were always picking someone up or dropping them off. I didn't fly for the first time until my 40s."

Then he told me about "Blue Lights," an infamous high school destination for necking near the runways. The long stretches of pavement were marked by low blue runway lamps, and virtually unsupervised.

I did the math. As Forest Park natives, my parents grew up with the airport, but it was the '90s before they ever actually flew anywhere. By then, it was a completely different airport– new name, entrance, tower, and terminal. It had become a place equipped to handle 4 times the passenger volume, and that volume included the very residents it had displaced.

The entire operation shown in that postcard now fits in one parking lot of the modern airport. Everything pictured there is gone, but for some reason, the entrance and exit ramps have survived. They lead nowhere and have no purpose. They are cut off and floating.  What planning oversight or sentimental urge allowed them to remain? I think the lingering concrete is part of a secret map of old Air Castle of the Jet Age, only visible from the air.

Comments

David

Good stuff, Hannah! Here's a page that shows an overview of what remains of the old terminal. http://www.sunshineskies.net/atlanta390.html

Speaking of blue lights, there are great recollections of the old airport on this facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=102870444392

Enjoy!

hspalmer

David, Thanks for all the great links, you are a goldmine!

So what I really want to know is... why were these remnants left behind? Everything disappears in Atlanta, why not those silly entrance/exit ramps?

Jeannie Weller Cooper

They (the abandoned runways)are a visual metaphor for the southside. Like the sign pointing to the old cemetery right before the expressway ramp. I went over to FPH for summer school classes in '82. Loved it. Also went to "see the lights" quite often, for recreational purposes only...

Hal Richardson

Hello,

I found your site and enjoyed looking at it. Do you know anything about, or have any photos of the old Hanger Hotel near the Atlanta airport? The property belonged to my Dad's brother in law and his family. I have some old letters written on Hanger Hotel stationary in Hapeville, GA. I believe a Hilton hotel was later in the same location. They also owned the Winecoff hotel when it burned. I have a table cloth from the old Winecoff.

I would love to know any information you may have.

hspalmer

Hi Hal, thanks for reading!
I'm not familiar with the Hanger Hotel... but my high school prom was held at the Airport Hilton! Atlanta Time Machine has a fantastic collection of photos and information about airport area businesses.
http://atlantatimemachine.com/misc/airport.htm

Wish I knew more... Maybe the folks at the Hapeville Depot Museum would?

Greg

Great site ! As a former southsider gone out of state for many years (but recently returned to the scene of the crime !), I can identify. I had to chuckle at the mention of good 'ol Blue Lights. So named for the runway landing lights on the west side of the airport....and accessed from a RR crossing from nearby Main St (US 29) in College Park. In those days, security was nothing like today....one could park so close to the runway that it seemed you could reach out and touch a plane's wingtip seconds before it touched down. (That's if you were'nt otherwise occupied.) Other nearby southside memories include Shoneys in College Park....where I met more than one lovely young lass at the 'curb service' parking area in the rear. Heck, your Dad might even remember the grey clad young men at G.M.A. .....before it became 'Woodward Acdy.' Then there was the large 'Children's Home' orphanage in Hapeville. All but memories now.
Carry on.
Oh, ...I attended a prom at North Clayton High with one of those 'Shoneys' girls...wonder if the school still exists? I believe her entire College Park neighborhood was later 'absorbed' by the ever expanding airport.

Bobby Lyle

Hannah and David,thanks so much for the info and links.I work at the airport,and have lived in and around Clayton County since birth in 1961.My dad worked for Delta in the late 50's and early 60's.I always wondered,but probably knew why them remnants of the old airport entrance were there.Them sections of road were driving me nuts,and now i know.Thank you so much.

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