Originally opening as the Shushan Airport in 1934, the recently restored Lakefront Airport terminal is almost too much to take in. Abe Shushan was part of the driving force behind the development of a new international airport for New Orleans as “the Air Hub of the Americas”. While Shushan would go on to prison for fraud, and the airport would be stripped of his name due to the embarrassment, the terminal still tells a tale of the beginnings of the flight industry and service to the flying traveler.
While there are certainly plenty of ground level details to take in, it is a good day to be looking up–but take care–extended viewing may cause a crick in your neck.
Throughout the terminal building, there are any number of features that draw the eyes upwards, capturing the details that were iconic to Art Deco and its exotic appeal. Though the excesses of Art Deco would shortly give way to the more austere and stripped down Art Moderne of the depression-era architecture, the New Orleans International Airport was stunning. After the recent restoration of a facility that time and Hurricane Katrina had tarnished about as much as Abe Shushan’s reputation, it is all the more remarkable. A 1964 renovation for the purpose of protecting the airport in the event of nuclear attack had enclosed the balcony area and covered the tiles and other details that are now visible again.
Vincent Caire, program specialist and historian with the Non-Flood Protection Asset Management Authority and Alton Ochsner Davis, senior architect with Richard C. Lambert Consultants, were the two leaders of the restoration of the terminal building. The restoration uncovered the original aviation murals by artist Xavier Gonzalez. Come back soon to see them!