AJC Deja News: Atlanta gets new aero landing place (1919)

Candler Field as it appeared in 1925. The former speedway is clearly outlined, with Virginia Avenue running close by the top of the oval. (Air Service Office, Fourth Corps Area)

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Candler Field as it appeared in 1925. The former speedway is clearly outlined, with Virginia Avenue running close by the top of the oval. (Air Service Office, Fourth Corps Area)

A review of the news that made The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s front pages through the decades.

Today’s AJC Deja News comes to you from the Monday, March 31, 1919, edition of The Atlanta Constitution.


ATLANTA WILL HAVE A NEW AERO LANDING PLACE 

Exactly 100 years ago, a small brief buried on page 10 of the newspaper announced that the speedway owned by Asa Candler between Hapeville and College Park would become “a suitable landing for every known make of flying machine.”

This humble landing strip would become Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, which handled 103.9 million passengers in 2017, securing its reputation as "the world's busiest."

This week, the Georgia Legislature will decide on the contentious issue of whether the state will claim control of the airport, but in 1919, construction of the air field was a chummy affair between former Mayor Candler and county commissioners.

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Candler, the owner of Coca-Cola and the city's mayor from 1916-19, was feeling particularly generous that year upon leaving office. In addition to donating the old speedway land, in 1919 he gave most of his Coca-Cola stock to his children, who later sold it to Ernest Woodruff, to Candler's great consternation.

The speedway was first built by Candler in 1909 but was largely abandoned by 1919. As the article notes, airplanes had occasionally landed there for years. The new airstrip would be improved by the county, and as the article put it, “it is expected that the field will make an acceptable landing place for anything moving in the air that may visit Atlanta.”

(Remnants of the speedway loop would still be visible well into the 1940s, as evidenced by the photos collected at the ATL airport history site SunshineSkies.com.)

Planners had a name ready for the new airstrip, according to the 1919 article: “It has been proposed to name the site the Asa G. Candler Field, in honor of the donor.”

That name would stick until 1929, when it would be called Atlanta Municipal Airport. The name would change two more times in honor of former mayors. It became William B. Hartsfield Atlanta Airport in 1971, just days after Hartsfield’s death. In 2003, it changed to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, in honor of former Mayor Maynard Jackson.

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Asa Candler’s racetrack, with bleachers, as it appeared in 1909. This racetrack became the site of the Candler Field landing strip, which would eventually become Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. (Charles Jackson Collection)

Credit: Charles Jackson Collection

Asa Candler’s racetrack, with bleachers, as it appeared in 1909. This racetrack became the site of the Candler Field landing strip, which would eventually become Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. (Charles Jackson Collection)

Credit: Charles Jackson Collection

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Asa Candler’s racetrack, with bleachers, as it appeared in 1909. This racetrack became the site of the Candler Field landing strip, which would eventually become Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. (Charles Jackson Collection)

Credit: Charles Jackson Collection

Credit: Charles Jackson Collection

The 1919 article ends with the prediction that work on the new airstrip would be completed “within the next 30 days.” On April 20, another Constitution article describes the ongoing work, under the headline “Air Circus Stunts Too Rich for Blood Of This Scrivener.”

In that report, members of an air circus were invited to survey the progress, which involved “half a dozen big road rollers.” After complimenting the construction, flight commander Major Henry F. Miller declared, “This should prove a valuable asset to the city as a permanent landing site.”

He got that right.


ABOUT DEJA NEWS 

In this highly irregular series, we scour the AJC archives for the most interesting news from days gone by, show you the original front page and update the story.

If you have a story you'd like researched and featured in AJC Deja News, send an email with as much information as you know. Email: malbright@ajc.com. Use the subject line "AJC Deja News." 

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