Thursday, March 20, 2014

Dale Mabry Airfield Project Paper #23

The city of Tallahassee is home to many sites and locations that have played important roles in history that most Tallahassee residents simply are either unaware of or simply forgot. One specific example is that of Dale Mabry Airfield, located on the very same property that Tallahassee Community College’s campus is built upon, most likely unknown to the majority of it’s students. Opening in 1929, the airfield became the city of Tallahassee’s first commercial airport open to the commercial airlines active at the time.Named after a Tallahassee native, the airport paid homage to WWI Army Captain Dale Mabry who passed away tragically in 1922 while piloting the airship Roma and crashing over Virginia during the exercise. 

The City of Tallahassee figured naming the airport after Mabry would be an appropriate way to honor his legacy. Not only did Mabry Airfield honor fallen veterans, it also added another geographical landmark to the cities namesake, and further elevated Tallahassee’s economic progress by providing travel via airplane from Florida to various other parts of the country. 

Once World War II rolled around in the 1940s, the current governor of Tallahassee at the time, Governor Holland managed to convince the United States military to open up an Air Force exclusive runway next to the commercial runways on the air field. This became known as Dale Mabry Army Airfield. Throughout the course of the war, the majority of the airfield was used primarily by the military and not surprisingly, due to wartime conditions, the airfield was closed off for public usage, much like most of the other airfields throughout the continental United States. During the war, the size of the airport itself expanded massively to accommodate for the military activity taking place daily. At the beginning of its conception, the airfield was slated to be around 500 acres in size, however do to the size of the World War, the field expanded to roughly 1700 acres along with many hangers and training buildings being erected on the land. It’s safe to say that Dale Mabry Airfield was a hotspot for pilot training. The airfield even had a POW compound where over one hundred prisoners of war worked. Towards the end of the war, around 1945, most military-related functions on the airfield halted and shortly thereafter, the airport opened back up to the public and the major airlines continued operations throughout the next few decades.

 It wasn’t until the early 1960s that the city of Tallahassee realized that in order to keep up with societal demands, it needed a bigger airport. Closing in 1961, Dale Mabry Airfield officially shifted all of its traffic to Tallahassee Regional Airport, which opened that year to accommodate the city’s airline travel needs.Eventually the airfield and the surrounding area was redeveloped in the late 1960s which led to the opening of TCC to take its place.