Holmes Airport existed for about eight years, from 1929 to 1940, and was located in Jackson Heights, approximately a half mile southwest of the current site of LaGuardia Airport. In the years that Holmes Airport was operational, the airport on the current site of LaGuardia was called North Beach Airport, which eventually was the winner of the inter-airport competition for survival.
Real estate developer E. H. Holmes built this small airport on 220 acres of undeveloped land in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens. He organized & sold stock in Holmes Airport, Inc. E.H. Holmes felt that he had opposition.
He complained, “There are a lot of people who would like to see me fail. Some of them have done everything they can to hinder me except drop a bomb in my apartment.”
In February 1929, Clarence Chamberlin, aviatrix Viola Gentry, and Dorothy Stone broke ground for the new airport. It had 2 hangars, an office, and 2 gravel runways, measuring 3,000’ & 2,800’. Holmes Airport opened on 3/16/29, attracting 100,000 on its 2nd day of operation.
Later in 1929, the first scheduled flights from New York City began operations from Holmes Airport when Eastern Air Express started a 2-day run to Miami using a Ford Trimotor.
In April 1930, thousands of people took plane rides for the price of $1. It was promoted as an experiment to see if it was the expense or fear that kept the public from flying. The Holmes Airport Trimotor airline service was short-lived due to the expense & lack of interest, and by 1931 the Trimotor was used solely for sightseeing rides over the city.
Goodyear erected a 220’ blimp hangar at Holmes Airport in 1931 & conducted sightseeing flights.
On Nov. 11, 1934, sixty-four planes took part in a 30-mile novelty race involving a treasure hunt & pie-eating contest, the winner returning in 28 minutes.
In 1936, a Goodyear blimp based at Holmes Airport provided the world’s first aerial traffic reports.
In 1937, Holmes Airport’s owners sought a court injunction to stop New York City from spending $8,444,300 to develop North Beach Airport (what would become LaGuardia Airport) only a mile or so to the northeast. Supreme Court Justice Ernest Hammer denied the request.
Holmes Airport was also known (perhaps only briefly) as Grand Central Airport, as that is how it was labeled on a map from the 1939 New York World’s Fair.
Veterans’ housing was built on a portion of the Holmes Airport site, and a Bulova watch factory was later built on the northern portion of Holmes Airport’s land.
By the time of the 1947 USGS topo map, Holmes Airport was no longer depicted, and it was heavily built over in a 1951 aerial photo.
Thank you Joseph for your interesting and factual article on Holmes Airport.
You did a great job telling us about
this short lived, unique bit of Queens