Thursday, December 22, 2011


aH..we know, we KNOW!!!!!!! ( Oh, the guilt!) So remiss in entertaining you all in our blog. Our New Year's resolution is to write more frequently and even have guest bloggers from our staff!!!

In the meantime, we wish you readers the happiest of holidays and hopes for a healthy and peaceful New Year!

Above, our staff that hasn't already fled for the holidays pose for  magic winter revelry! Hello from (in order) Nancy, Dan, Masha and Helen!

Friday, September 2, 2011


We have been sadly remiss in updating our activities at Helen Uffner Vintage Clothing, so this blog installment will clue you in on a few projects we have been working on, as well as some behind-the-scenes photos at our place! 
Catherine at our place
 . Now that the film is finally in production, we can tell you that in 2010 and 2011, we secretly worked in pre-production for "The Great Gatsby", renting the Australian design team beaded 1920's evening dresses and men's eveningwear to inspire reproductions for Baz Luhrmann's 3-D version of the great classic starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, Tobey Maguire as Nick and Carey Mulligan as Daisy.
Catherine and Silvana pose w. our 1920's dress

Baz's wife and talented costume designer of "Moulin Rouge" Catherine Martin and her lovely assistant Silvana first came to us on Sept, 30, 2010 and enjoyed leafing through our fabulous flapper dresses.

Pals forever, Susana and Kasia

.We just finished work on "Moonrise Kingdom", the highly anticipated 1960's film directed  by Wes Anderson, with an amazing cast including Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, Frances McDormandHarvey Keitel, Jason Schwartzman and Bob Balaban. The design team, Kasia and her assistant Susana (by the way, Susana is a former employee of ours...go, Susana!!!!!) have worked with us on many films and commercials so it was a pleasure!

. Another film that opened recently to great critical acclaim was "The Music Never Stopped", (which we worked on under the working title "Mr. Tambourine Man"). Since it went back and forth through time, we rented 1940's through 1980s clothes to this production, and here is an photo of the little boy in our cowboy-printed robe!

This film is based on a true Oliver Sacks story about a man in the 1980s who as a teenager 20 years ago had contracted an undiagnosed brain tumor and psychologically was only capable of living  in the past - his past being the 1950s through 1970. His father breaks through their communication barrier by learning to communicate with him through music. As an aside, this movie pays homage to the Grateful Dead, should you be a Deadhead.
Other recent films we have worked on include "The Help", "Mr. Popper's Penguins", "Arthur" and  "The Adjustment Bureau" ...but we need to save SOME projects for future blogs, don't we?
Dr. Freud in our suit
. We continue renting to the off-off Broadway hit, the fabulous “Freud’s Last Session”, about the battle of the minds (and wits) between Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis…now in its second year! Go see it!

. In our August 10, 2010 blog "Metamorphosis: The Making of a Book Cover", we highlighted artist Marc Yankus's work. 

 Here we present a slightly more macabre project of talented artist Scott Nobles,a book which has not only been published but is about to open as a feature film, "Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter". We provided Abraham Lincoln's period suit for the original photo that Scott worked against.

Scott's first design draft
The final cover - the publisher wanted it bloodier

See any differences in the covers? You may not notice this easily, but the original illustration on the left does not have the bloody handprint on his (our!!!) jacket...and of course, there is extra blood on the wall.
Here again, the original back
.....and of course, the gorier published version!

Scott Nobles
...and for a guy with a design penchant for vampires, here is Scott himself holding his book, a sweetheart of a guy!

By the way, it isn't the first time we dressed "Abraham Lincoln"...we also dressed him for a television TD BANK commercial also starring Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa.

MORE TO COME ..but, of course, none of our work at Uffner Vintage could ever get done without the help of our wonderful staffers! Our next blog will highlight them in and out of costume!

Below, some of our staff pays homage to the 1980s!(..and who says you can't have fun at work?)

Clockwise from the left: Helen, Dan, Emily and Masha

Friday, June 10, 2011

LETTERS TO MY SWEETHEART, 1918 - Life of a Soldier in World War I

Intro: Our wonderful Spring intern Jade became fascinated with a collection of letters we had from a soldier in 1918 writing to his sweetheart. Below are Jade's thoughts in writing, intertwined with excerpts from those letters (in blue) and pictures we culled from our research. Truly a fascinating slice into the life of those times.
Enjoy it!
Letters To Miss Margaret “Peg” Smith:

During my internship at Helen Uffner Vintage Clothing LLC, I stumbled upon a Ziploc bag crammed  with  letters from 1918. I started reading them and decided that as my “special intern project”, I wanted to transcribe these letters onto the computer to learn about the lifestyle of an average soldier in the 1918 army. Little did I know what kind of journey I would take through these letters!!!

Barracks at Fort Rodman
Sergeant Donald R. Sherwood was a sergeant stationed at Fort Rodman, Massachusetts and wrote endlessly to a Miss Margaret “Peg” Smith.

By reading these letters, Donald came alive for me and I really got a grasp of the kind of young man Donald was - a funny fellow who joked around quite a lot!

In the first letter dated February 19th 1918, he wrote about his experiences of his first weeks in the army. He met some older soldiers and
 “ They told me that the army brings out either the bad or good in a fellow. At that rate I’ll probably come out a drunk and a cut-throat.  …..They think that a fellow, to be a soldier has to smoke, drink, chew, swear, and raise the dickens in general. I am the only one in the squad room who does not smoke, drink or chew, and I suppose in about a week I’ll be floating around with a cigarette in my mouth and a bottle of whiskey on my hip.”

Donald learned that “A fellow who ‘puts in’ for a job of any kind to avoid standing reveille and retreat, and to get out of doing kitchen police and other work is called a “dog robber”.

New American Recruits in 1918
When Donald was stationed at Fort Rodman, Massachusetts, he wrote that  “ the wind was blowing like Sam Hill”.  Wikipedia mentions that Sam Hill (as in “what the Sam Hill is that?????) was an American slang expression started in about 1830 as a euphemism for “the devil” or “hell”.  A possible origin for the phrase is the surveyor Samuel W. Hill (1819-1889) who allegedly used such foul language so frequently that his name became a euphemism for swear words!

I never found Peg’s response letters but her personality resonated through Donald’s correspondence with her. What I learned about Peg was that she was a nurse at the Hackensack Hospital in New Jersey, at the top of her class in biomedical studies, and she and Donald were either in a relationship or just flirting (1918’s version of flirt texting).
A postcard of Hackensack Hospital from the 1940's
It seemed that Donald has a crush on Peg, and I sensed that they were in some sort of relationship is because of the way he wrote to Peg.

You must look real trim and military-like in your new capes. I would certainly like to see you in one, Peg, you know I always told you that you were cute, what must you be in a military cape, cadet blue lined with bright red---WOW!!! But I suppose you will think that I am kidding you again. It’s tough when nobody will believe a fellow.”

When he planned to come home on leave he wrote:

“Also, Miss Margaret Serena Smith, if you refuse to bid me goodbye, I’ll jump off the transport or get in front of the first boche shell which comes my way. Then you will be sorry for your harsh treatment….be sure to answer promptly, because I’ll be looking for the little pink envelope” Such a romantic, wasn’t he?
WWI Nurse

By June he changed ranks:
“I have been made a corporal, Peg, and I am in charge on quarters to-day. Eight men from our company were made. I have to answer two phones, look up all kinds of things, answer foolish questions from recruits, and a thousand and one other things….. It isn’t a very snappy job and his free time was spent considerably more innocently than I am sure our soldiers now spend their time I spent the better part of my time eating cake, and playing tiddle-dee-winks with one of the pretty hostesses.” 

Nevertheless, our Donald DID have his vices: “since returning, I have smoked several packages of cigarettes, and of course I am doomed. I rather like them, too, and expect to smoke some more! When I was home in talking about smoking, my mother told me, that although she would rather not have me smoke, she would not consider it a crime if I do it, and really wouldn’t blame me. I do not expect to make a regular fiend out of myself, and an occasional smoke will do me no harm. There are times when time drop heavily on a fellow’s hand, and a fag helps a lot to occupy his mind.”

June 21 he wrote: “I do not know how soon we will leave, or where we shall go from here. We are to be on railroad mounts, but I do not know how big the guns will be. A fine bunch of fellows are in the battery, and the officers are a fine bunch, too. It is to contain 189 men, including about 45 non-coms. The barracks which we are to occupy are nearly completed, and we will probably move into them by the 1st of July.”

By July 2nd, he started feeling like he was really in the army: “The old battery is going full swing now, and I’m beginning to think that I’m really in the army. We drill all morning and take a hike every afternoon. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays we take a short hike (about 5 miles) and have calisthenics after returning to the fort. Tuesdays and Thursdays we take long hikes. We went on one today and walked about 12 miles.”
Camp Mills, Long Island, 1918

By August, Donald was itching to go overseas: “When we leave for overseas, we will have to carry all of our equipment in our packs, and it will surely make quite some bundle. One good thing though—the sergeants carry pistols instead of rifles” and by September an order has been received for us to be ready to leave at any time.”

Sept. 21 he was transferred to Camp Mills, Long Island We left Fort Rodman at 7:30 Thursday night and arrived here at about 9:30 after hiking from the Mineola station, and by jingoes we realized that we’re in the army now. We sleep in tents without floors, wash in the open with cold water, and have only open air showers with cold weather…we do not know how long we will stay here, but I don’t think it will be for long, and the next stop will be ‘over there’. “
Visiting Day at Camp Mills, Long Island

Around October of 1918, Donald left the United States with the American Expeditionary Forces, headed to France. He wrote to Peg frequently, always ending the letter with " I expect a prompt response!"

October 10th they arrived in England:

American troops boarding the SS President Lincoln to go to France
“We have arrived ‘over here’ at last, and maybe I’m not glad. That ocean trip was not my idea of a good time, and I think that if Sherman had had anything to do with transports he would have made his remark even stronger. I’m rocking yet. ’Old Glory’ was waving all over the city when we docked, and as we passed though towns the people ran out with American flags and waved them at us.

“The 73rd band played the national anthems of each country. During the ceremony, it was overcast, but as soon as they struck up ‘The Star-spangled banner’, ‘old sol’ shone fourth with a blaze. Donald noticed that “ the policemen are dressed like Brigadier generals, but they are mostly husky looking chaps.”
U.S. troops arriving in England, 1917 (photo by Mrs. Albert Broom)

Now as 
“SGT. DONALD R. SHERWOOD, BATTERY E, 73RD C.A.C (Coast Artillery Corps), AMERICAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCES”, *****(see history of the 73rd Regiment below)  he soon wrote again:

“Since this letter was started we have been doing considerable traveling, and we are now 'somewhere in France'.  Most of our battery were in regular passenger coaches, but many of the men rode in boxcars. We had no windows in our car, and it was some cold. We had corned beef, cold canned tomatoes, bread and jam for rations.”

The next letter arrived from “U.S. ARMY POST OFFICE MPES 719 1 11 18, A.E.F PASSED AS CENSORED SOLDIER MAIL” on October 26th:

American soldiers in French town, 1918
“ Last Sunday though, we worked all day, by reliefs, digging ditches, out battalion is on fatigue every 3 days for the entire day.  We have been issued our trench helmets and four pairs of heavy woolen socks. We have also been given a sweater, helmet and woolen sox by the Red Cross. The helmets are heavy clumsy affairs, but they are good for rainy days. There is some Spanish influenza here, but I don’t believe it is as bad as in the States.”

 He still yearned for Peg: “I never told my mother that I cared for you, Peg, but she knows it just as well as I do myself”

November 15th he wrote: “We have been issued gasmasks and have been drilling with them. They put as through a gas chamber the other day containing real gas but not deadly. After remaining these for some time to test on masks we took them off to feel the difference. There was some scrambling to get out of that place. The tears were just rolling down some of the fellows’ cheeks in streams.” 

American Expeditionary Forces, 1918
“The way things look now the war will soon be over and we may not see any action at all. ….I’ll be mighty glad to get back to good old U.S.A too. I haven’t seen much of France or England, but the ‘land the free and the home of the brave’ looks better than what I have seen.”

Of course, he was still smoking cigarettes:    “We have been getting our regular ration of Bull Durham. I never had any experience in ‘rolling my own’, but I am progressing rapidly and if I am in the army for about 10 more years perhaps I’ll be able to roll a cigarette that looks about half-decent without losing most of the tobacco and my temper. It is quite a science.”

 . The 73rd Regiment was organized in July, 1918 at Fort Banks, Mass.
 . September 1918 the Regiment moved to Camp Mills, NY in preparation for sailing to France.
 . That same month the Regiment sailed on the 24th of September from the Port of Embarkation, Hoboken, New Jersey aboard the British Transport HMS Scotian and arrived October 7, 1918 Liverpool, England.
  . On the 14th of December, 1918 the 73rd Artillery and the 74th Artillery had orders to move out for the trip back home. That day they sailed from Brest, France aboard the transport USS Mongolia.
  . On December 22, 1918 they reached New York and on the 23 went ashore and went to Camp Mills, New York. They were demobilized in January, 1919 at Camp Devens, Mass.

Example of an early AEF (American Expeditionary Forces) Identity Card
The next and final letter was dated April 10, 1919, when he seemed to have returned to New Jersey from the war and was looking for gainful employment.  He expressed his frustration at not being able to do so, not unlike many of our returned veterans:  “ If I do not hear from any position before the 1st of the month, I am going to see about a job with the United Fruit Co. like the one I turned down, and when I hit the west, quit and stay there if I can find anything at all to do. I’d rather get something here but there seem to be very few chances. I’m getting tired telling people that I am doing nothing—if I get about there nobody will know me.”

We don’t know what happened after that. It was the final letter.

I (Jade) did some successful internet sleuthing and it turned out that Donald was born in 1898, which meant at the time of these letters he was around 20. He died in 1976 - which is a shame, because I really wanted to speak to him about Peg. 

According to a 1930 census in Spring Valley New York, Donald R. Sherwood was married to Olive Sherwood, but there was no record of children. Donald also was in a 1956 court case, against an infamous highway expansion.

So, who was Peg? What did she look like and did she ever marry? Well, I’d love to know, and also know what broke up her and Donald….but that will have to remain a mystery.

Gee, fellow reader; if you have any other letters addressed to Donald R. Sherwood, please send them to me care of Uffnervintage!

Jade in her Prom finery!!!!
          Jade Highleyman

Friday, May 6, 2011

EASTER PARADE - Fifth Avenue, New York City - April 24, 2011 ( who says New Yorkers have no sense of humor?)

So really, how high is TOO high?

channeling Michael Jackson, are we?
why do men wear heels better than we women?
subtlety is not what the Easter Parade is all about!
 For a change, this is going to be a pictorial blog - after all, when do you
get a chance to see what New York's Easter Parade is REALLY like?

A New York tradition, it is less a "parade" and more a gathering of strolling crowds, bedecked in their Sunday finest or most frivolous, with attempts to create the most outrageous, highest and craziest hats imaginable.

Fifth Avenue is traditionally closed to traffic every year on Easter Sunday from 47th Street to 57th Street from 10AM to 4Pm.

the ever-elegant Lori
The crowds range from beautifully dressed parishioners who go to services at nearby St. Patrick's Cathedral to crazy costume and hat-bedecked revelers to 
Vintage couple (Helen's friend debonair Peter and lovely Jessica, who works for Helen)
vintage-garbed strollers from other eras. 

Women decorated their huge Easter bonnets with an amazing array of flowers and the men were as creative, if not more so, than the women.

Elegance from bygone years!
Victorian musings
...and the men who dressed in drag had the best make-up ever!

the shoes, the's all about the shoes!!!
There were bunnies, dogs and cats in hats, not to be outdone by their human parents! 

This 18th century gentleman below stepped out of a cab - seamlessly blending the old with the new!

The parade had its regulars, too. Take, for instance, the bearded gentleman with the bird on his head and wings on his back - not to mention his tie-dyed pets in the carriage! (Just another average  New Yorker strolling Fifth venue!)


I like a man with a tie that makes a statement, don't you?

when in doubt, ACCESSORIZE!
 This gentleman even brought his own TV to the parade...calling Channel Bunny!!!!

There was a plethora of vintage folk - in our 1940's vintage dress, shoes, mink trimmed hat and sable stole, our Jessica was THE it girl this year with photographers clamoring for her picture! 

Even Helen got into the act with friends (centered with the Idiosyncratic Fashionistas Jean and Valerie). Why, Helen's picture even appeared in the New York Sunday Times with her chapeaux!

Aside from the snazzy men and the lovely women, there were dogs that were stars, too!

Between the day-glo coats of hair decorated with bows, the caped crusader pooch with the the flower-strewn cape and the puppy sporting the cool shades (that must be a movie star dog!) was really a Dog's World, wasn't it?
 it's no wonder that these sweet little girls were so bored!! Do we sense a "Mommy , I want to go home moment"?


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

QUEENS SCANDAL - La Guardia Airport's Rise from Infamous Gambling Den

I recently came across an old picture book of New York, printed in 1947.  Within was a photo of “La Guardia Field, New York’s busiest airport”.  La Guardia Field?  New York’s BUSIEST airport?  The intrepid researcher in me started digging.

LaGuardia Airport, nee La Guardia Field was born from the sad destruction of the Gala Amusement Park in North Beach which was a renowned Queens resort area at the turn of the century.  

 It was closed by Prohibition and razed in 1929 to become a 105-acre private flying field called Glenn H. Curtiss Airport, after a famed Long Island aviator.

Glenn H. Curtiss, aviator
As an interesting aside, after the  Wright Brothers received a 1906 patent for their flight control method, they fiercely defended the patent suing foreign and domestic aviators & companies, especially Glenn Curtiss, in an attempt to collect licensing fees. After WW1 began, the federal government pressured the U.S. aviation industry to form an organization that allowed sharing of aviation patents.

Glenn H. Curtiss Airport was soon re-named North Beach Airport in 1930 after Glenn Curtis died at the age of 52 from complications following an appendectomy.  From these seeds grew LaGuardia Airport, named for Fiorello H. LaGuardia, former Mayor of New York.

Now, we go back to the beginning………………………………………………

William Steinway
 North Beach was a resort area resplendent with beaches and pavilions on the Northern Queens shore, built in 1886 by piano manufacturer William Steinway and other investors including brewer George Ehret. Before the nearby swamps and creeks were paved over by the Grand Central Parkway, the area was often called “Frog Town” because of the overwhelming croaks of the multitude of residential frogs!

Originally intended as a quiet family resort for German immigrant families, it grew to become one of the first huge  “family resorts” (vying with Brooklyn’s Coney Island, which was founded several decades earlier) to appeal to the mass market,  attracting over 75,000 visitors every Sunday. In those days Saturday was still a workday, so North Beach was reached with hourly Sunday ferry boats from Manhattan and trolley service from both the 92nd and 34th Street ferries.
1893 Map of North Beach

The North Beach Resort boasted its many attractions:

 . Silver Spring Park, “the coolest retreat at Bowery Bay with old shade trees, nicely arranged dancing pavilions, and picnic grounds”
. Sanford’s Point Hotel, which “served George Ehrets Extra Beer on draft, singing societies and chowder clubs were a specialty”

. Kohlers New Pavilion, with “sausage and soda water stands, shooting galleries and swings, dancing (afternoon and evening) and a band concert at night.”
1900 photo of the Beach Club
Henry Daufkirch’s Bay View House and Pavilion, where “one could enjoy variety performances by first class talent on Sundays”
. Muff’s Bowery Bay Boat House, “widely known for its boating and fishing”

. The Club House and Grand Pavilion had “choice wines, liquors, and cigars, meals at all hours…and theatrical performance daily (with a change of program weekly)”

. Free summer fireworks each Tuesday and Thursday.

. Gala Park had daily shows with Chief Red Eagle and Tribe”

Finally, the famous Bath Pavilion at North Beach offered “25 tickets for $4, single tickets at 25 cents, (children 15 cents.)”

All was not always idyllic, though: someone lit a bonfire near the Grand Pier to chase away mosquitoes and when the police came,”Manhattan toughs” fought with them and a Samuel Hamberger was fined $10”; Sany Massinni, 16, was arrested after shooting up the place at Old Bowery Bay Road and Ehret Avenue and a fleecing victim claimed to the police that men trimmed him regulation style” by robbing him of $100 at Jackson Mill Pond.
By the late 1890’s, North Beach seemed to have become a gambling haven. The New York Times wrote an expose on August 2, 1897, noting though there were all kinds of legitimate diversions, it was quickly becoming the “ Monte Carlo of Greater New York. Roulette, rouge-et-noir, and every other of the old forms of gambling was boldly exemplified in the open roads, in full view of the police officers, and with no interference from them. The fact that this was so brought such a multitude to North Beach yesterday as had never gone there before, and every boast which left the Ninety-Ninth Street Ferry, East River, and every trolley car from Brooklyn carried hundreds of men who wanted to risk their week’s wages with the vague hope of making a big winning. There was not a fair game in the whole array, which comprised at least fifteen kinds, and there was not a man who staked his money who got a cent of it back except the ‘cappers’ who lead on the unknowing and the inexperienced ones”

“…So great was the gambling fever that ..victims gathered around the tables ten rows deep…and tore one another’s clothes off for the chance to lose their money”
New York Times, August 2, 1897

Even the local police precinct seemed to be complicit, charged by the New York Times with overlooking Sunday drinkers and gamblers with under-the-table bribes. The expose further mentioned that not only was the gambling activity occurring within a few yards of the Police Station, but a reported outed ” Policeman Badge 192” standing in front of the “Geoge Bonhag Pavilion” only 10 feet from where one gambler operated his game. 

When questioned by the reporter, the policeman replied “I have no instructions to stop any games” and referred the reporter to the Chief of Police at the nearby station house only a few yards away. 

The Chief  was out but the officer in charge (AND the Police Chief’s brother!)  Police Sergeant Joseph Corrigan, claimed there was no gambling operation in North Beach and “ ..and if the reporter showed him one, he would give him a box of cigars”. He vehemently added that  “those games was on the private property of a brewer and the police had nothing to do with it.” When the police chief was found driving around in his buggy midst all the gambling operations, he remarked innocently that he “was only paid to look after the property of North Beach Improvement Company”

The August 4, 1897 issue of the New York Times mentioned that their “professional gamester” expose of the week before resulted in  “breaking up their nest”. The police chief apparently drove along gambler’s row Saturday night with warnings, and by the next morning  the gamblers had “hastily packed their roulette tables ..and went”

On May 25, 1891, the New York Times wrote “…Vigorous protests are made every summer by the church people and others at the desecration of the Sabbath and the permitting of ball-playing and other games, the Wild West show at North Beach, and the open selling of whiskey and beer in the numerous parks and beer gardens…it is openly charged that the inactivity of the authorities is entirely due to the use of thousands of dollars of ‘hush money’ each session by the combination of park owners.”

Even so, the August 21, 1904 New York Times boasted: “The attractions and amusements at North Beach are not affected by the weather.  Shooting the chutes is refreshing; zip, exciting; tangled wildwoods, mirth provoking; circle swing, novel; swimming pool, inviting; bathing pavilions, cooling; toboggan slides, elevating; mammoth carousels, interesting; and mammoth auditoriums, satisfying.  The many shaded walks and groves are daily sought for the family gatherings and outings.  The all-water route from East One Hundred and Thirty-Fourth or Ninety-Ninth Street is enjoyable, and the boat and trolley route from the East Thirty-Fourth and Ninety-Second Street Ferries is pleasant.”

New York Times excerpt
Alas, by the early 1900’s, the neighboring Flushing and East rivers had become so polluted that oily mud came to replace the beach sands and swimmers began going elsewhere.  The area that was enclosed as an amusement park (boasting the East Coast’s first Ferris Wheel) ended up as the North Beach’s only draw after most of the pavilions were replaced with a huge beer hall  - HUGE mistake!  

North Beach became known for its free-flowing alcohol consumption and gambling, and was avoided by families with young children who chose instead to travel to the wasteland then called Brooklyn to go to Coney Island.

To add insult to injury, Prohibition’s 1920 Volstead Act banned the sale of alcoholic beverages.  Shortly afterwards, in 1921, the amusement park went bankrupt and closed.  The resorts are now buried under the runways of LaGuardia Airport.

North Beach languished from 1917 to 1929. A reporter viewing its remains wrote ”nominally still in existence but actually long dead.”

In 1925, the North Beach pier, which extended 700 feet out into Bowery Bay and had a massive 300-foot-wide two-story pavilion on top, was consumed by fire due to faulty wiring.  Apparently, “thousands arrived in automobiles, on foot and by trolley” to watch the inferno.

By 1929, a Queens building boom drew settlers further east in Queens with inadequate transportation to North Beach leaving it virtually deserted.  It was razed and became the small private airport first named Glenn H. Curtiss Airport.

 One day, New York’s famed temperamental Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia (nicknamed “Little Flower” because he was only 5 feet tall!) had a fit when his TWA flight landed at Newark Airport because at the time, it was the only commercial airport serving the New York City region.
New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia

The problem?  LaGuardia’s ticket read “New York”, so he DEMANDED that he be flown to New York and ordered that the plane be redirected to Brooklyn’s Floyd Bennet Field (opened in 1931), giving an unscheduled press conference along the way.  

He urged New Yorkers to support their own airport within the city, wanting Floyd Bennet Field to be the main Air Terminal for New York, with plans to shuttle passengers back and forth to Manhattan in flying boats.

American Airlines was the only airline agreeing to move its Newark operations to Brooklyn to start a pilot program but it failed after a few months.  Passengers complained that the voyage from Floyd Bennet Field to Manhattan took longer than from Newark, though the Mayor even tried to offer police escorted airport limousines in order to convince American Airlines to continue to pilot program. 

Additionally, this was the time of the Great Depression: air travel was an expensive luxury and passenger aircraft largely used their cargo areas to carry airmail. Contracts with the United States Post Office guaranteed the airlines profits on empty flights, and since Mayor LaGuardia couldn’t convince the Postal Service to move its NYC operations from Newark to Floyd Bennet Field, other airlines wouldn’t relocate either.

Mayor LaGuardia began exploring other options, since the already existing tiny North Beach Airport was too small.  Built jointly by the City of New York and with backing from the WPA (Works Progress Administration), construction began in 1937 on a new airport, making LaGuardia Airport the first in the United States to be financed, designed, and built in full partnership with the federal government.

The construction required moving ash and debris landfill from Rikers Island (which was then a garbage dump) onto a metal reinforced framework. In fact, the framework below the airport still causes magnetic interference on compasses of outgoing airplanes (there are signs on the airfields warning the pilots)!

Actually PRE-DATING this new airport development was Holmes Airport, another small airport that had opened in Jackson Heights on March 16, 1929 built by real estate developer E. H. Holmes on 220 acres of undeveloped land he owned. The very first scheduled flights from New York City began later that year when Eastern Air Express initiated a 2-day run to Miami.

Holmes Airport Postcard
Holmes Airport had it own colorful history:

In April 1930, thousands of people took promotional $1 plane rides there as an experiment to see if the expense or fear of flying kept the public from taking flights.

On Sunday, November 11, 1934, sixty-four planes took part in a 30-mile (48 km) novelty race involving a treasure hunt and pie-eating contest, the winner returning in 28 minutes.

The Glenn Curtiss and  Holmes Airports, side by side
In 1931, Goodyear built a 220-foot-long hanger to accommodate its blimps and conducted sightseeing flights on them.  In 1936, a Goodyear blimp based at Holmes Airport provided the first aerial traffic reports.

In 1937, the airport's owners sought a court injunction to stop New York City from spending $8,444,300 to develop what would become the future LaGuardia Airport only a mile or so away.  The request was denied.  When LaGuardia Airport finally opened in 1939, Holmes Airport sadly closed the following year, and the northern part of Holmes Airport's land was later developed into the Bulova Watch Factory site.

Not to be outdone by the building of LaGuardia Airport, Newark Airport began renovations, but could not keep up with the new Queens airport, which Time Magazine called, "the most pretentious land and seaplane base in the world."

Even before the airport was completed, Mayor LaGuardia was astute enough to secure commitments from the 5 largest airlines (Pan American Airways, American, United, Eastern Air Lines and Transcontinental & Western Air) that they would use the new field as soon as it opened.
In October 15, 1939, the airport was christened the “New York Municipal Airport” changed on November 2 to “New York Municipal Airport - La Guardia Field”.  It opened for business on December 2nd.  It cost New York City $40 million to turn the tiny North Beach Airport into a larger 550-acre modern facility. 

Alas, Mayor LaGuardia’s enthusiasm about the project didn’t seem to be shared by much of the public, who regarded it as a $40 million dollar waste of money, but the fascination with flying grew and thousands of people came to the airport to pay a dime fee just to watch the airliners take off and land.  These tiny fees added up and 2 years later, the fees combined with parking fees had provided an additional $ 285,000 in revenue.  The airport soon became a huge financial success and was even used during World War II as a training facility for aviation technicians. 

The name wasn’t changed to “La Guardia Airport” until June 1, 1947  when it was leased to the Port of New York Authority control

Transatlantic airline flights started in late 1945, with some continuing after Idlewild Airport (named after the Idlewild Golf Course on which it was built) opened in July 1948. The last international flights  shifted to Idlewild in April 1951.

Idlewild was  renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport on December 24, 1963, one month after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.