Opened in 1935, the Woolsey Memorial Airport is a quaint reminder of the heroic and sometimes tragic days of early aviation. It was founded in honor of pioneer aviator Clinton F. Woolsey, who died near Buenos Aires in 1927 during the first Pan-American Goodwill Flight across Central and South America.
The aviator’s father, Byron Woolsey, donated 80 acres of land to the township of Northport, Michigan, for an airport to commemorate his son. Before being killed in a crash during the two-month Pan-American flight, Clinton F. Woolsey served as a pilot in World War I and a flight instructor. One of his last students was Charles Lindbergh, who would fulfill Woolsey’s dream flying across the Atlantic Ocean.
Located near the northern tip of the scenic Leelanau Peninsula, Woolsey Memorial Airport is an unexpected sight, quite unlike any other airport. The grass field is accented by a charming stone-sided air terminal and a gazebo-like observation deck. The terminal building once housed a creamery and milk transfer station that was converted and expanded into the airport terminal as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project. The building is now boarded up, but the observation deck is still accessible, and the grass runways appear to be maintained for ongoing use by aircraft.
Update June 2020: The building no longer appears to be boarded up.