La Guardia's Art Deco Marine Air Terminal – Queens, New York - Atlas Obscura
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Queens, New York

La Guardia's Art Deco Marine Air Terminal

A remnant from the golden age of aviation still in use today, Pan Am's Clipper service took off from this Art Deco gem.  

Flying in and out of New York’s LaGuardia airport is a largely perfunctory experience, unless you happen to use Delta’s air shuttle service to Chicago.

For this flight only has its own terminal, right on the waterfront and located a few miles away from the bustling main LaGuardia airport. Known today as ‘Terminal A’, Delta’s Chicago service operates out of a gleaming, beautiful Art Deco building, the Marine Air Terminal. 

The Marine Air Terminal is in fact the only surviving and still active airport in the United States from the very first generation of passenger air travel; the romantic and long since departed flying boat Clipper air service.

Opening in the spring of 1940, the honour of the first flight fell to a Pan American Airways Boeing 314 flying boat, christened the Yankee Clipper, who delivered passengers and mail to Lisbon some 18 hours later. Pan Am’s Clipper service flew passengers around the world in the height of luxury. Taking off from the New York waters outside the Marine Terminal, the Clippers could carry just over 70 passengers in sumptuous interiors featuring dining rooms, sleeping compartments and a bar. The romance and adventure of the Clipper Class was matched by the Art Deco style of the Marine Air Terminal, which remains today much as it did during the golden age of flying boat air travel.

Designed by Delano & Aldrich, who’s other commissions include the breath taking Oheka Castle in Huntington, Long Island, who’s stunning scope was used for the exteriors of Citizen Kane’s Xanadu. A small two story structure, with a departure lounge, restaurant and a bar, decorated with flying bird and propellor motifs and chrome signs, the interior is dominated by a 237 foot long, 12 feet high diorama.The largest WPA mural created, James Brook’s Depression Era panorama depicts the history of flight.

Even if you’re not scheduled to take the Delta shuttle to Chicago, the stunning Marine Air Terminal is still open to public visit. The era of giant sea planes may well be long gone, as indeed is Pan Am, but the golden age of passenger aviation can still be experienced at La Guardia’s rarely visited Marine Air Terminal.