Lewistown’s first airport and hangar by Nancy Watts

    In the early 1930’s the Lewistown City Council started looking into having an airport for Lewistown. The Civil Works Administration (CWA) announced the availability of grants to establish an airport and to relieve the high local unemployment level. A committee was selected to find a possible airfield.

     “…a deal was closed for the purchase of approximately 290 acres of land lying just 1/2 mile west of the city on the federal aid highway, for a municipal-owned airport and landing field.” (“Lewistown Democrat News,” Dec. 31, 1933)

     “Final approval for the expenditure of approximately $9000 of CWA funds for the construction of runways and a four-plane hangar on Lewistown’s recently purchased municipal flying field was received.

      “…actual work may be started by a force of approximately 60 men taken from the relief rolls…there will be constructed four runways of from 2500 to 3500 feet in length and 500 feet in width to be seeded and sodded instead of graveled as was first announced. In addition to the runways, there will be built a hangar 40 by 60 feet in dimension and capable of housing four planes and a gravel road about a half mile in length leading from the main highway to the hangar.” (“Lewistown Democrat News,” Jan. 5, 1934).

     At this same time, the First Christian Church on the corner of Boulevard and 7th Ave. North which had been built in 1912 or 1913 …”had been condemned because the soil on which it was built could not support the tremendous weight of the stone church.” (“History of the First Christian Church” by Donna Ferdinand).

     “Stone and lumber from the old Christian Church which is being razed will be used for the new building and actual construction will start in the next day or two…a considerable amount of work remains to be done on the field in building runways. Workmen are being taken from the relief roles.” (“Lewistown Democrat News,” Jan. 15, 1934).

     “Foundations for the hangar at the new municipal airport are now completed and laying of stone was started this week….plans for the hangar have been changed and the contemplated structure will be 40 by 70 feet instead of 30 by 60 feet as first planned…work is being carried on by CWA crews.” (“Lewistown Democrat News,” Feb. 1, 1934).

     “The last of the roofing was placed on the Municipal Airport hangar…while the work of filling in a large coulee on the over 200-acre all-direction runway is progressing nicely. There still remains the seeding of the runway, building and erecting of the immense sliding doors for the 40 by 70 stone hangar.” (“Lewistown Democrat News,” April 18, 1934).

      “…the city’s new municipal airport and mammoth stone hangar were formally dedicated by Mayor Stewart McConochie ….before a large throng variously estimated at 12,000 to 15,000… the occasion being featured by a thrilling flying circus, participated in by some of the northwest’s most famous aviators and stunters. The only incident which marred the smooth performance …was the nosing over into the dirt of the autogiro in front of the hangar after its veteran pilot, Earl Yance had just completed his part in the formation flight and made what experienced witnesses considered a perfect landing. Vance was not injured in any way and the only damage to the new fangled flying machine was a smashing up of its expensive rotor or lifting blades.

      The dedication was “preceded by and interspersed with lively selections played by the Elks community band, the program was launched with a formation flight of all 16 planes, including the autogiro; while hair-raising aerial stunts, parachute drops, bomb-dropping contests held the undivided attention of the immense throng.” (“Lewistown Democrat News,” August 27, 1934).

     “The city is seeding approximately 106 of the over 300 acres of the airport to winter wheat,” (“Lewistown Democrat News,” Oct. 3, 1934). The sale of the wheat helped pay for the airport project.

      This hangar was used until 1937 when it was felt that the old field couldn’t handle the newer bigger transport planes and there was no room for expansion. Harrison Green, who owned the land on the south side of the highway (where the airport is today), traded his land for the land on the north side of the highway.

The First Christian Church on the corner of Boulevard and 7th Ave. North. The stones from this building were used to build the first airport hangar.
 The hangar for the first airport which was built on the north side of highway 87 (currently behind Bloedorn Lumber).
The autogiro which performed at the dedication of the first airport and then it nosed over into the dirt after landing safely.  
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