MARTINDALE FIELD / CHAPEL HILL AIRPORT / HORACE WILLIAMS AIRPORT

MARTINDALE FIELD / CHAPEL HILL AIRPORT / HORACE WILLIAMS AIRPORT

street:
1001
Chapel Hill
NC
Built in
1928
Neighborhood: 

 

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  • Submitted by SteveR on Saturday, November 21, 2020 - 9:11am

    From 1974

    :

  • Submitted by SteveR on Monday, November 23, 2020 - 4:11pm

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In tours

Last updated

  • Mon, 11/23/2020 - 4:11pm by SteveR

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street:
1001
Chapel Hill
NC
Built in
1928
Neighborhood: 

 

After US Army service in World War I with Company H, 322nd Infantry Regiment, 81st Infantry Division, Charlie Lee Martindale (6 January 1891 to 19 March 1964) moved to Chapel Hill, where he worked in the construction industry.

In June 1928, Martindale purchased 50.6 acres from UNC Professor Horace Williams (16 August 1858 to 26 December 1940). Initially calling the property Martindale Field, a landing strip, administrative building, and wooden airplane hangar were the first buildings to be built at the airfield. It soon was called Charlie Lee Martindale Airport, and/or the Chapel Hill Airport.
 
Circa 1920's; photo via the Chapel Hill Historical Society via Bruce Martindale (the son of Charlie Lee Martindale)
 
Circa 1920's; photo via the Chapel Hill Historical Society via Bruce Martindale (the son of Charlie Lee Martindale)
 
Circa 1920's; photo via the Chapel Hill Historical Society via Bruce Martindale (the son of Charlie Lee Martindale)
 
Circa 1920's; photo via the Chapel Hill Historical Society via Bruce Martindale (the son of Charlie Lee Martindale)
 
 
In 1931, the U.S. Department of Commerce labeled Chapel Hill Airport as the second official airport in North Carolina (the other being Raleigh Municipal Airport). Until the late 1930s, civilians came to the airport to watch air shows and to take flying lessons. At this time, UNC received funding from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to upgrade the airport.
 
By 1940, UNC was training roughly 30 civilian pilots at the airport (per year?), with backing from the Civil Aeronautics Authority (CAA). Through a partnership with Duke University, the two schools were approved by the Department of War for a larger CAA program. UNC intended to expand the Chapel Hill Airport, and in 1940 (apparently with some reluctance by Martindale) the property was sold to UNC. An additional 870 acres was donated to the University by Horace Williams' estate after his death in December 1940. These two plots of land were combined to create what became known as Horace Williams Airport.
 
On January 11, 1941, ten airplanes and the (original) hangar burned after a massive fire caused by an an electric droplight (likely misplaced by an 18-year-old mechanic) started in one of the airplanes (Piper Cubs) and spread to the others, igniting their fuel tanks. According to a newspaper account, "Nothing remains of the hangar but the melted beams of the steel framework and the concrete foundation. The wooden weather boarding collapsed even before the composition roof caved in." However, "The small house directly behind the hangar contained student flight statistics and escaped the flames."
 
UNC students inspecting the ruins of the burned hangar and planes (UNC Yackety Yack, 1941)
 
The airfield being expanded, 1941 (via Chapel Hill Weekly)
 
(UNC Yackety Yack, 1942)
 
 
In February 1942, the United States Navy announced the establishment of a pre-flight school to train naval pilots on the campus of the University of North Carolina. The University hosted the second stage of a one-year training program for the servicemen. Cadets began arriving in May 1942 at the rate of approximately 300 cadets every two weeks until a quota of 1,875 was reached. Horace Williams Airport was an integral part of this flight training. The U.S. Navy Pre-Flight School at UNC trained over 18,000 cadets by the end of World War II, including later Presidents Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush.
 
1940s aerial photo, view southwest
 
1946 topographical map excerpt
 
March 31, 1951 aerial photo
 
 
President John F. Kennedy visited UNC on October 12, 1961, arriving and departing via Horace Williams Airport.
 
1970s photo
 
April 1981 map excerpt
 
 
1993 aerial photo, view north
 
 
As of May 15, 2018, Horace Williams Airport is closed to the public.
 
 

 

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From 1974

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