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HISTORY (continued 2 of 7)

The Curtiss Flying Service planned the new facility to be Chicago's major metropolitan airport, one designed to attract private as well as commercial aircraft. The new airport would be the finest in the Curtiss chain of airfields, which would ultimately stretch from coast to coast. An added attraction was to be a "flying" country club, an idea that was gaining popularity. The firm engaged Chicago architect Andrew N. Rebori, who drew plans for the largest and most luxurious hangar of its day.

Major Rudolph W. "Shorty" Schroeder, vice-president of Curtiss's midwest operations, was selected to oversee construction of the new airport. Schroeder had a distinguished record as an aviator in World War I, having served under flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker in the 94th Aero Pursuit Squadron. An imposing man, standing six feet four inches tall, Schroeder gained fame in the 1920s for setting a number of high altitude records. (During one attempt, his eyes had been frozen open, leaving him with a distinctive appearance.) Financing for the project was arranged through a Chicago bank president, Earle H. Reynolds, with the stipulation that the field be called Curtiss-Reynolds.

In the autumn of 1929, Curtiss Flying Service's parent company, Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Corporation, merged with the Wright Aeronautical Corporation, merged with the Wright Aeronautical Corporation to form the giant Curtiss-Wright Corporation. In the years that followed, the field became known as Curtiss-Wright, Curtiss-Reynolds-Wright, Curtiss-Chicago, and more often, simply Curtiss.

The field was carved out of leveled farmland, and an elaborate tile drainage system was installed. Runways of dense turf formed by a special blend of grass seed proved resilient enough to withstand the abuse of "tail-dragger" skids on the aircraft. A specially constructed one-billion-candlepower electric light was installed at the north end of the field, allowing flight operations after dark.

 

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