ARB History

ARB Oldtown Airport

Photo by: Unkown

The airport property is of importance and plays a key role in the development of Ann Arbor and the development of general aviation in Southeast Michigan.  The original terminal building was the nucleus of operations at the Ann Arbor Airport for nearly three decades.  According to a June 16, 1972 historical document prepared by the city Administrator’s Office, “The Ann Arbor Airport is one of the oldest continuing institutions in the Ann Arbor area.  Its beginning goes back to the end of World War I, when barnstorming aviators identified the level field with ideal approaches as an airfield and exhibition ground.”

Notes extracted from Ann Arbor City Council Minutes.

April 1930 – Communication received “From Clarence M. Young, Assistant Secretary of Commerce, Washington, D.C., relative to an intermediate landing field between Jackson and Detroit, drawing attention to narrow runways and insufficient lighting with an approximate cost of improvements, was received and referred to Park and Sanitary Committee and Park Board.”

July 1935 – “Mr. Gallup mentioned that a number of CWA (Civil Works Administration) projects would be completed at no cost to the city.  The total of the projects was $22,150.”  No mention was made of the airport administration building, but it was most likely included in the CWA projects since the timing seems right. (See follow-on extract from the May 1936 minutes of the Ann Arbor city council.)

May 1936 – “Gentlemen – Your Park and Sanitary Committee respectfully recommends that $200.00 be appropriated from unappropriated funds to the Airport fund of the Park Department for the purchase of materials necessary to complete the administration building at the Municipal Airport.”  Hammett, Masten, Mayer, Shaw, Young, Staffan, Park and Sanitary Committee Members.

Historic Significance

This property is important because it is associated with significant historic events.

According to the Ann Arbor District Library web site, the airport terminal building was a part of FDR’s New Deal.  “Of the many state and federal aid programs during the remainder of the decade, the Public Works Administration had the greatest impact on Ann Arbor. Continuing the pattern of municipal work relief, PWA funds allowed the city to undertake far-reaching public improvements such as the sewage treatment plant, the water softening plant, and miles of connecting sewers and drains. A brick terminal containing office space was added to the airport and Ann Arbor High School was expanded. City council proceedings were indexed and the city hall and several school buildings were decorated with murals.”

Ann Arbor Airport’s formal beginning dates to 1927 when the Board of Water Commissioners deeded most of the present site to the Board of Park Commissioners for the establishment of an airport.”  The Ann Arbor Airport history further describes the property as “an essential part of city life for airmail service, recreation, pilot training, and to some extent, commerce and health and the City made substantial investments in the Airport.  In 1933 the city constructed the first administration building on State Street at a cost of $10,000 and its first fixed base operator’s hangar at a cost of more than $10,000.”

Integrity Assessment

The building was reconstructed over a nearly 10 year period by membership volunteers of Experimental Aviation Association Chapter 333.  The size, location, and of the building remain unchanged, however, modern materials and construction methods, as well as current building codes were used to update the structure.  In return for in-kind contributions of expertise, labor, and materials, EAA Chapter 333 was given a favorable lease.