Concrete, Steel and Glass: Dulles Airport is the Port of the Future

Dulles International Airport is one of only two federally owned airports in the country (National Airport being the other). Some find it to be an ugly monstrosity. Others find it to be an architectural masterpiece —  I am firmly in this camp — however, many functionality compromises were made in the name of aesthetics.

Eero Saarinen, the notable Finnish architect, known for his sweeping designs, was responsible for the design, but unfortunately died a year before John F. Kennedy presided over the opening on November 17th, 1962. Saarinen was an architectural badass (call him the Sprinkle of architects), designing the TWA terminal at JFK and the St. Louis Arch. Maybe you’re familiar with these?

So, my post last week about Concorde‘s first arrival at Dulles (and first in the U.S.) piqued my interest in digging up some archival footage of the airport.

The footage I found is archival film of  Dulles Airport that I came across while trolling YouTube. It was a professionally produced  marketing film from 1962, the year Dulles opened. The music is awesome and so 60s. I feel like the Pink Panther will show up at any minute.

Everything else must fall before an airport can arise. Five hundred eighty demolished buildings, twelve hundred acres of uprooted woods, 11,500,000 yards of excavated earth, dissolved into 31,00 feet of concrete runways.

It’s amusing that the narrator mentions how modern and integral the people movers were, surmising that they would be critical to airports all over the world. At the time, Dulles certainly was innovative — it was the first airport constructed exclusively for jets.

Dulles Airport in 1966
Dulles Airport in 1966

The only airport in the world, ready today, for the supersonic age of tomorrow.

It’s hard to believe the film when they state that a deplaning passenger would on their way after, exiting the airport, only 9 minutes and 57 seconds? Feels more like 59 minutes and 57 seconds today. I only fly out of Dulles if I’m going to California or Tokyo.

Take me to DCA any day. And that’s National … not the actor dude that was the 40th President of the United States.

Washington Dulles International Airport (Wikipedia)
Washington Dulles International Airport (Wikipedia)

About Tom

Tom founded Ghosts of DC on January 4th, 2012 as a blog to uncover the lost and untold history of Washington, D.C. He has lived in the city for over a decade and loves exploring every corner of the District.

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