Meigs Field Tower and Terminal - Atlas Obscura

Meigs Field Tower and Terminal

The last remnants of a lakeside airport that was bulldozed overnight by the mayor of Chicago. 

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Jutting out into the waters of Lake Michigan just south of the Loop is Northerly Island Park, which is home to two curious buildings that harken back to the artificial peninsula’s history.

Home to Chicago’s Meigs Field from 1948 to 2003, the spot that’s now the park was originally designed as such, in Daniel Burnham’s grand plan for Chicago. However the proximity to the offices of the Loop proved enticing to city planners and executives looking for hassle-free travel, and an airport was built.

The airport was not universally adored. Chicago’s bombastic mayor Richard M. Daley wanted it gone for years, and by March 31, 2003, he had had enough. That day, in the pre-dawn hours, the airport was abruptly closed as Daley ordered bulldozers to cut huge Xs into the runway, in direct contravention of FAA regulations. He later received a relatively small fine.

Now no longer overseeing takeoffs and landings, the stubby control tower is still very much recognizable as such, standing watch over the breezy park and its native grasses and birds.

While the tower is closed to the public, the old terminal building is not; it houses a Parks Department Visitor’s center. Eagle-eyed fans of John Hughes will even recognize it as the stand-in location for the Scranton Airport in the film Home Alone, where Kate McCallister joins up with the polka band to ramble their way back to Chicago.

Know Before You Go

The visitors center is open 10AM-4PM weekdays. Northerly Island Park is well worth a visit on its own - there are paved paths throughout and phenomenal skyline views.

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