August 2, 1929: Ground broken for Duluth Airport

On this day in Duluth in 1929, Mayor Sam Snively and other officials gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony of the Duluth Airport. The event was part of a three-day parks celebration that included a concert at Leif Erikson Park and the dedication of Skyline Parkway, which had been extended to Jay Cooke State Park. Parks superintendent F. Rodney Paine chaired the festivities, and guests included Minneapolis Mayor W. F. Kunze and members of Minneapolis’s parks board. While in town dignitaries enjoyed a drive along the “North Shore driveway” (today’s Congdon Boulevard and Scenic Highway 61) cruised “the boulevard” as Skyline Parkway was more commonly known, and toured the city’s parks, including Enger Park Golf Course. The groundbreaking ceremony took place at 2 p.m. Before the final site for the airport was chosen, city officials had considered several other locations, including a field near 63rd Avenue West, Wheeler Field, and property at the intersection of Maple Grove and Haines Roads in Proctor. The site chosen was then known as the Work Farm site (not to be confused with the Poor Farm); the airport authority paid $70,000 for the 640-acre site. On September 13 and 14 the field was officially dedicated and named the Williamson-Johnson Municipal Airport for Harvey Francis Williamson, Jr., a local commercial aviation pioneer, and Lieutenant Conrad Gilbert Johnson the first aviator from Duluth’s killed during the first world war.

The Williamson-Johnson Municipal Airport. (Image: Duluth Aviation Institute)