This source describes the construction of Charlotte’s airport, which was a project of the WPA, a group created under the New Deal
The W.P.A. / Douglas Airport Hangar (“the hangar”), erected in 1936—1937 by the Works Progress Administration, was tied to a federal work program that preserved Charlotteans’ skills and self-respect during the Great Depression. Of the original structures built by the W.P.A. at the airport, only the hangar is extant…
Context and Historical Background Statement
Prior to the building of Douglas Airport, flights in and out of Charlotte were rare. The Queen City’s only airfield was Charlotte Airport (later known as Cannon airport), a small private venture operated by Johnny Crowell, a famed Charlotte aviator. Although this landing strip was christened amid much fanfare as an airmail stop on April 1, 1930, with passenger service from Eastern Air Transport (later Eastern Airlines) following a few months later, the field was only open on weekends, for air shows, and war-pilot training.
For Charlotte Mayor Ben E. Douglas, this inadequate air operation did not fit his vision for Charlotte, which could not grow “without water and transportation.” In an era when commercial flight was relatively new, Douglas continually pushed for a major municipal airport to serve the area. Douglas convinced prominent Charlotteans of the necessity of an airport, gradually building up a base of support. In the summer of 1935, the Chamber of Commerce appealed to the City Council to provide adequate passenger and airmail service to and from the city.
On September 3, 1935, Mayor Douglas led the Charlotte City Council in authorizing the City Manager to file an application with the Works Progress Administration for funding to build an airport. The application was approved and on November 13, 1935, the council voted to divert funds in order to facilitate the purchase of land for the airport site and to repay the transfers upon the sale of airport bonds. The bonds were sold on March 1, 1936.
The Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.), created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935, is considered the most important New Deal work-relief agency. The W.P.A. developed programs to create work during the massive national unemployment and economic devastation created by the Depression. From 1935 to 1943, the W.P.A. provided approximately eight million jobs at a cost of more than eleven billion dollars and funded the construction of hundreds of thousands of public buildings and facilities. By the end of 1939, 125,000 North Carolinians…had sought gainful employment from the state’s 3,984 Works Progress Administration projects.
Citation: Gray, S. (2016, October 4). W.P.A. / Douglas Airport Hangar. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission. http://landmarkscommission.org/2016/10/04/w-p-a-douglas-airport-hangar/. Accessed 22 August 2023.
- What was remarkable about Mayor Douglas’ push to get a major airport for Charlotte?
- What benefits do you think constructing an airport brought for North Carolina?
- Based on this source, was the New Deal a good deal for North Carolina? What evidence do you have from this source that supports your answer?
W.P.A./Works Progress Administration: organization created by the New Deal that provided job opportunities to those who had lost their jobs during the Great Depression
Hanger: building to store and service airplanes
Extant: to still exist
Venture: risky project or business
Christened: used for the first time
Commercial flight: non private flight where customers pay a fare
Municipal: relating to a city or its local government
Divert: put in a different place
Bonds: sealed documents under which a person, corporation, or government guarantees to pay a stated sum of money on or before a specified day