The Continuing History of Syracuse’s Hancock Airport

Bridge Street

Syracuse’s Hancock International Airport is busier than ever. A $50 million renovation is underway, adding improvements inside and outside, modernizing the airport and making it easier to travel. There  also was a recent announcement of Frontier Airlines coming to Syracuse with direct flights to Orlando, Denver, Raleigh and Chicago. However, the airport has a rich history of changes that are often unknown.

The airport that we know of today as Hancock International first opened soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor as an Army bomber base in 1942. It operated exclusively for the military until World War II ended in 1945 when it became a public commercial airport. 

Due to it’s enormous size of 2100 acres, people have discussed many plans for the area, including one in 1949 that considered moving the State Fair to this space. The new fair would be known as The Empire State Exposition and came with a $52 million price tag.  After 3 years of research and planning, the incredible plan went nowhere, as the state was in no position to fund another public works project.  It’s a great story of vision and grandiosity in post-war America, where it seemed like anything was possible.

The Onondaga Historical Association does a wonderful job of preserving the history of Central New York and will be hosting a new exhibit that opens tonight honoring a very special Syracuse native and oldest surviving University alum, Donald R. Waful. Waful is 102 years old and the exhibit details his experiences during World War II as well as his experiences before and after the war in Syracuse. This exhibit is designed and installed by SUNY Potsdam undergraduate student Mahala Nyberg who has worked with Waful for the past two to three years documenting his extraordinary life story, significant in its own right and one that deserves to be shared with his community. The exhibit opens tonight at 4:00pm will remain open for viewing during regular museum hours until Sunday, November 25, 2018.

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