This Week in Pittsburgh History: Greater Pittsburgh Airport Opens

The terminal, the largest in the U.S. when it opened in 1952, would last 40 years before being replaced.

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Only those whose memory extends to the years prior to 1992 remember Pittsburgh’s first modern airport terminal in Moon Township.

On May 31, 1952, the new Greater Pittsburgh Airport (renamed Greater Pittsburgh International Airport in 1972 upon the opening of the International Arrivals Building) was dedicated. More than 100,000 people toured the 1600-acre site during the Memorial Day holiday weekend. The facility was built at a cost of $33 million. ($324 million today).

PHOTOS COURTESY ALLEGHENY COUNTY AIRPORT AUTHORITY

The first flight was a few days later on June 3. In its first full year of operation in 1953, more than 1.4 million passengers used the terminal.

“Greater Pitt” was then considered modern and spacious. At the time, the new terminal was the largest in the United States, second only to Idlewild Airport (now JFK Airport) in New York when it was completed five years later.

Even in the early days, an Alexander Calder mobile decorated the inside of the terminal. The Greater Pitt terminal underwent several expansions in its 40-year history.

In 1968, ground was broken for the international wing. Twice in the 1970s, growing traffic necessitated the construction of more gates.

But even with those expansions, the terminal was too small.

This video demonstrates how crowded the old terminal could be on busy days. ⇓

In 1987, with financial backing from USAir, work began on a billion-dollar expansion to build the current mid-field terminal that opened in 1992. Demolition of the old terminal began in July 1997.

Categories: This Week in Pgh History