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Airfield At The Intersection Of Old Spanish Trail And Almeda


JLWM8609

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Earlier today, I found a photo of the Naval Hospital (now the VA site) under construction in around 1949. In the background of the photo just beyond OST, you can see some grass runways and some hangars. I remembered seeing a reference to this airfield on some old map of Houston, but I don't recall where I saw the map, or the name of the airfield. It's close to the Houston Main Street Airport, which is shown on a 1930s map of Houston (located at the current intersection of Broadmead and S. Main), but interestingly, I can't find any reference to this field on maps I've found from the 30s through the 50s. Here's the photo of the Naval Hospital with the airfield in the background. You are looking due southwest from the intersection of Almeda and Holcombe.

NavalHospital.jpg

 

The boundaries of this field were OST to the north, Almeda to the east, Knight Rd. the west, and El Paseo St. (which didn't exist at the time) to the south. Google Earth shows the airfield in a 1944 aerial view with 3 unpaved runways: an E-W runway measuring about 1300 ft, a NE-SW runway measuring about 3000 ft, and a NW-SE runway measuring about 2700 ft. By 1949, there are more runways (or else more runways are viewable in the imagery): a N-S runway measuring about 2400 ft (north threshold located where Kroger is now), and an E-W runway measuring about 2300 ft that seems to have replaced the old 1300 ft E-W runway that was closer to, and more parallel to OST. By 1953, Google Earth shows the airfield to be abandoned with a road or pathway running through some of the runways. In the 1960s, Historic Aerials shows development on the site as there was encroachment of one of the runways by the old Army Reserve Center. Sometime between 1973 and 1978, the hangars and buildings were demolished. The outline of some runways could be seen in the land behind Kroger (then Safeway) in an aerial view from 1981. By 1989, the land behind Kroger was developed into a park, and no trace of the airfield remained.

 

What was the name of this airfield? Was it for civilian use? Or perhaps Air Force training?

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It wasn't Sam Houston Airport. THAT airfield was much farther out to the southwest. It was in the area now known as Westbury, just northwest of what is now Chimney Rock and South Main. Sam Houston Airport was still depicted as an active airport on a 1955 Humble Oil street map of Houston.

 

SamHouston_TX_55map.jpg

 

It was closed and pretty much gone by 1960, but you can see where it was in this aerial photo taken in 1960. The photo is looking south. That's Hwy 59 running east to west with Meyer Speedway at the top.  The street along the eastern edge of the old airport is Chimney Rock.

 

SamHouston_TX_60_s.jpg

                                                                                                 

 

I think you are talking about the very old Sky Ranch Airport. It was in the area you describe near the present day VA Hospital. It is also written up on the website you provided. It didn't stay in business very long, but it is a historic old airfield. 

 

SkyRanch_TX_50sect.jpg

 

Following WW2, three Tuskegee Airmen, Ben Stevenson, Elton “Ray” Thomas and Hulon “Pappy” White relocated to Houston Texas to establish a flight training program, charter flying, cargo services as well as other services that would afford black G.I.’s & civilians the opportunity to learn about aviation, continuing the tradition of the Tuskegee Airmen.

 

Located on Reed road, on the historic Taylor-Stevenson RanchThe Sky Ranch started operations in 1946.  Azalea White (wife of “Pappy” White) made her mark in history by becoming the first black female pilot licensed in the state of Texas in 1946. 

 

Sky Ranch ceased operations in 1948, lasting a mere 2 years. It reportedly closed when legislation restricted the use of the G.I. Bill, causing a downturn in flight training business.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by FilioScotia
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I think you're right about the Sky Ranch airport, Filio.  It's in the general direction stated in the original post, but looking at its location, I'm not sure it's visible in that photo above.

I took the location given for the Sky Ranch airport and put the coordinates on Google Earth.  What came up is in the 1953 attachment below.  The VA is at the top between Holcombe and OST (ALT90) and next to Almeda (FM521). A yellow stick-pin is at the Sky Ranch coordinate location at the bottom. 

 

post-873-0-44502300-1421706692_thumb.jpg

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You may be thinking of another small airfield a few miles east of Sky Ranch. It was Skyport Airfield. It was in an area between what was then South Park Blvd (now MLK) and Mykawa Rd. By the early 50s Skyport was long gone, and the land was completely covered by a large residential neighborhood with streets named after famous military people and battles. The developer put those military names on all the streets to attract WWII veterans and their GI Bill home buying ability.

 

Skyport_TX_50sect.jpg

 

Skyport was nowhere near the site of the VA Hospital. The airfield in the area just south of OST and the VA was Sky Ranch Airfield.

 

Edited by FilioScotia
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JLWM....  I was looking farther out, and I really didn't notice what you saw that looked like an airfield until I visited Google Earth again and looked closer at a 1944 view from above. See attached. That's the intersection of OST and Almeda in the left-center.  Sure looks like something was there.

There is no reference to one in that location that I could find on the abandoned Texas airfields website.

post-873-0-28416900-1421773622_thumb.jpg

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I agree. It does appear that an airfield - or something - was in the area just south of OST and just west of Almeda. We've accounted for the Sky Ranch Airfield a bit farther to the south, and the Skyport Airfield several miles east of those locations. 

 

What WAS there just south of OST, where the X really does mark the spot?

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Earlier today, I found a photo of the Naval Hospital (now the VA site) under construction in around 1949. In the background of the photo just beyond OST, you can see some grass runways and some hangars. I remembered seeing a reference to this airfield on some old map of Houston, but I don't recall where I saw the map, or the name of the airfield. It's close to the Houston Main Street Airport, which is shown on a 1930s map of Houston (located at the current intersection of Broadmead and S. Main), but interestingly, I can't find any reference to this field on maps I've found from the 30s through the 50s. Here's the photo of the Naval Hospital with the airfield in the background. You are looking due southwest from the intersection of Almeda and Holcombe.

NavalHospital.jpg

 

The boundaries of this field were OST to the north, Almeda to the east, Knight Rd. the west, and El Paseo St. (which didn't exist at the time) to the south. Google Earth shows the airfield in a 1944 aerial view with 3 unpaved runways: an E-W runway measuring about 1300 ft, a NE-SW runway measuring about 3000 ft, and a NW-SE runway measuring about 2700 ft. By 1949, there are more runways (or else more runways are viewable in the imagery): a N-S runway measuring about 2400 ft (north threshold located where Kroger is now), and an E-W runway measuring about 2300 ft that seems to have replaced the old 1300 ft E-W runway that was closer to, and more parallel to OST. By 1953, Google Earth shows the airfield to be abandoned with a road or pathway running through some of the runways. In the 1960s, Historic Aerials shows development on the site as there was encroachment of one of the runways by the old Army Reserve Center. Sometime between 1973 and 1978, the hangars and buildings were demolished. The outline of some runways could be seen in the land behind Kroger (then Safeway) in an aerial view from 1981. By 1989, the land behind Kroger was developed into a park, and no trace of the airfield remained.

 

What was the name of this airfield? Was it for civilian use? Or perhaps Air Force training?

 

In the 1953 Historic Aerials the runway doesn't appear paved.  

 

I was puzzling over it, but the street shooting off toward the right background must have been Old Main Street Loop Road.

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I went back to the war years on Google Earth's historic views and those markings were there in 1943, when almost nothing else was anywhere in sight. It makes me think these markings might not have been for an airfield. Why would anybody put an airfield so far outside of town in those days when ground transportation was difficult at best. What ELSE could it have been?

 

I think you're right about that road shooting off to the southwest being the old Main Street Loop. Notice where it ends. On the historic aerials it ends abruptly where it meets what is now South Fannin, just south of the Loop 610. And another point of reference, the Main Street Loop ran straight through the property now occupied by the Astrodome and NRG Stadium. 

 

 

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I went back to the war years on Google Earth's historic views and those markings were there in 1943, when almost nothing else was anywhere in sight. It makes me think these markings might not have been for an airfield. Why would anybody put an airfield so far outside of town in those days when ground transportation was difficult at best. What ELSE could it have been?

 

I think you're right about that road shooting off to the southwest being the old Main Street Loop. Notice where it ends. On the historic aerials it ends abruptly where it meets what is now South Fannin, just south of the Loop 610. And another point of reference, the Main Street Loop ran straight through the property now occupied by the Astrodome and NRG Stadium. 

 

Also note that current Main Street is not evident beyond Main Street Loop, indicating that Main had not yet been extended south of Holcombe.  Even now there is a little piece of street between Main and the corner of Fannin and Holcombe named Old Main Street.  

 

To me it makes sense that an airfield would have been that far outside of town.  Back then airfields were often just that - fields.

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At one time, the area out to the south of Houston was mostly farmland for many miles. I wonder if that "apparent" airfield we can't identify was put there for the benefit of crop dusting planes. ???  Even into the 1960s you could find small crop duster airstrips all over the place. They weren't airports by a long shot. Just gas stations for crop dusters.

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I may have found the answer. I found a snippet of a an old Section Chart on the abandoned air field site from 1943. In that location is an airfield called Cunningham.

Skyport_TX_43sect.jpg

 

Other images of sectional charts from 1934 and 1950 don't depict Cunningham, so looks like its operation was short lived like other fields in the area.

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post-5666-0-57105600-1421882340_thumb.jp

 

Interesting topic... and nice photo. Never heard of that airport before... JLWM8609 --- I concur. This map is from the Perry Castaneda collection. It shows Cunningham as an abandoned airfield in 1956. The 1949 map shows the larger fields in the area, and their general location in proximity to Cunningham and the VA Hospital. Those sectional maps are great sources of field info. Maybe Cunningham was used as a practice field for training of WW II pilots. I read somewhere that the local airfields up from Ellington were used for touch and goes and soft field landings. Just an idea.

 

http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/topo/250k/txu-pclmaps-topo-us-houston-1956.jpg

 

http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/topo/250k/txu-pclmaps-topo-us-houston-1949.jpg

 

 

P.S. I just noticed it says Air Reserve Training Center on the 1949 map, around the VA and Cunningham Airfield location. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by NenaE
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attachicon.gifAirport.by.VA.Houston.Map.1956.SS..jpg

 

Interesting topic... and nice photo. Never heard of that airport before... JLWM8609 --- I concur. This map is from the Perry Castaneda collection. It shows Cunningham as an abandoned airfield in 1956. The 1949 map shows the larger fields in the area, and their general location in proximity to Cunningham and the VA Hospital. Those sectional maps are great sources of field info. Maybe Cunningham was used as a practice field for training of WW II pilots. I read somewhere that the local airfields up from Ellington were used for touch and goes and soft field landings. Just an idea.

 

http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/topo/250k/txu-pclmaps-topo-us-houston-1956.jpg

 

http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/topo/250k/txu-pclmaps-topo-us-houston-1949.jpg

 

 

P.S. I just noticed it says Air Reserve Training Center on the 1949 map, around the VA and Cunningham Airfield location. 

 

I'm trying to contact a local Houston aviation historian. I believe he'd know the story behind Cunningham Airfield. Regarding the Air Reserve Training Center, I wonder if it's related to the Army Reserve Center that was on OST next to Kroger?

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i remember that place ARC from when I worked in the area, would drive past it at lunchtime. I bet they are related. I would like to visit that flight museum at Hobby, to get some pics and browse those books. I saw a publication once about the WASP lady pilots of WWII and their role during the war. It was regional, talked about Hobby airport's role. It was in a display at the hotel across from Hobby. 

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I submitted some of this information to the Abandoned and Little Known Airfields site. The curator of that website was able to find that the airfield was also known by the name of Erwin-Newman Airport. The Erwin-Newman Company was an aircraft dealer.

http://www.airfields-freeman.com/TX/Airfields_TX_HoustonS.htm#cunningham

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