Located five miles from New Orleans’ city center, Lakefront Airport was built to be the region’s primary airfield in the 20th century.
At the behest of Louisiana’s 40th governor, Huey Long, construction began on Lakefront Airport in 1929. The transport hub was built on a human-made peninsula that required the Orleans Levee Board to position a 10,000-foot retaining wall in Lake Pontchartrain and deposit an astounding six million cubic yards of hydraulic fill to elevate the strip above the water’s surface. The airport was a $4.5 million project designed by New Orleans-based architects Weiss, Dreyfous and Seiferth, the same firm that designed the Louisiana state capitol.
Boasting a top-of-the-line, 3,000 foot-long runway, Lakefront Airport opened to the public in 1934. It was initially called Shushan Airport after Abraham Shushan, the president of the Orleans Parish Levee Board, but the name was changed to Lakefront in 1939 after Shushan was convicted of mail fraud. The project’s inauguration drew a crowd of over 10,000 spectators who came from all over the world to witness the unveiling of this modern marvel.
Indeed, Lakefront Airport was considered a feat of Art Deco design. The terminal was outfitted with period décor including luxurious gilded accents, stone floors, and custom artworks by the Spanish-born American painter and sculptor Xavier Gonzalez and the Mexican-American relief artist Enrique Alférez.
Directly following World War II, during which Lakefront was used by the U.S. military, the larger Louis Armstrong National Airport was built in 1946. Lakefront continued to upgrade and expand throughout the ‘50s, but in the 1960s, the building’s stunning façade was hidden by cement panels installed to secure the airport from potential bombings during the Cold War.
Lakefront suffered extensive damage in 2005 as a result of Hurricane Katrina, and again in 2012 from Hurricane Isaac; but the building was subsequently restored and its original exterior resurrected to its former glory.
The terminal made a special appearance in the film Green Lantern and it was also featured in a documentary entitled Return Flight. Since 2014, Lakefront has hosted World War II reenactments in a nod to the airfield’s war-era history, and it continues to operate as a prominent public airport.