O’Hare Opens (10-29-1955)

The future was coming, and Chicago was planning for it.  Today the city dedicated the world’s largest airport.  They called it O’Hare Field.

O’Hare’s development started during World War II.  In 1943 Douglas Aircraft opened a manufacturing plant 18 miles northwest of downtown, near the farm community of Orchard Place.  When the war ended, the small airfield on the land became Orchard Place Airport.

O'Hare Airport--the early years

O’Hare Airport–the early years

Back in Chicago, Midway Airport was the world’s busiest air terminal.  By the early 1950s it was getting crowded.  With jet aircraft replacing propeller planes, longer runways were needed.  Trouble was, Midway had no room to expand.

The Orchard Field site was big enough.  But all the nearby roads were narrow, with two lanes.  And the location was remote, miles away from the Chicago city limits.  Part of the property was actually in Du Page County!

Mayor Richard J. Daley

Mayor Richard J. Daley

Still, Chicago had to do something.  In 1947 the city began preparing the new airfield.  The name was changed to honor a Chicago war hero, pilot Butch O’Hare.  The aviation identifier code–ORD for Orchard Field–was retained.

After eight years and $24 million, O’Hare Field was ready for commercial flights.  For now, there’d be limited operation.  The entire project was scheduled to take seven more years, and another $60 million.

New mayor Richard J. Daley was present at the formal dedication.  He was joined by execs from 18 airlines.  Also on hand were two aldermen who flew in from Midway via helicopter.

A military air show had been planned, and up to 100,000 spectators were expected.  Then the weather turned rainy.  The air show was cancelled; the big crowds stayed away.

The rest of the program went on.  In his speech, Mayor Daley answered the critics who said Chicago didn’t need an airfield that covered 10 square miles.  “We have space for expansion,” he said.  “Future developments may now be entirely unguessed.”

At 10 a.m., the first regular flight out of O’Hare Field rolled down the runway.  Trans World Airlines 94 was on its way to Paris.


4 Responses to “O’Hare Opens (10-29-1955)”

  1. 1 Michael Stichauf October 29, 2013 at 7:33 am

    Thanks John, I Love this blog. I wish you could post more often. Thanks again, Michael Stichauf

  2. 3 Michael Dotson November 14, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    Wow! Great article, keep up the good work!

  3. 4 James F. O'Neil January 8, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    Good article. I always wondered about ORD. We left Chicago in 1959. I remember a rocket letting loose from a jet and hitting Saint Patrick’s Academy, where my future wife attended school. I have interviewed a P-47 pilot who trained at O’Hare Field.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: