Kendal resident Margaret Skovira continues a local history column. She invites readers to ask a question about an event, person or place of historic interest in Rockbridge County (including Lexington and Buena Vista) to be answered in this column.
Q: Was there ever an airport in Lexington?
A: Yes, Lexington once had an airport. Lexington Airport, as it was called, was located south of the city on Route 251 where the Modine plant is today. It was basically a 2,000 foot grass strip for private planes and was in operation in the 1940s through the early 1970s. Wet grass could be a problem; a plane landing in 1970 skidded 500 feet beyond the end of the “runway” and across the road before it came to a stop.
Perhaps the heaviest use of the airport occurred on “Marshall Day,” May 15, 1951. On the 50th anniversary of the graduation of VMI’s most famous alumnus, George C. Marshall, the arch in a new section of the barracks was officially named the Marshall Arch. An enormous crowd of 8,000 people attended the dedication ceremony and listened to Bernard Baruch praise Marshall’s accomplishments. Back in Washington, the Senate had recessed its hearings on President Truman’s firing of General Douglas MacArthur to allow Secretary of Defense Marshall to attend his “day” in Lexington.
Some of the dignitaries arrived for the ceremony via five airplanes, including two Air Force C-47s (DC-3s), which landed at Lexington Airport. (Test landings had been conducted prior to the big day.) Marshall, however, travelled via the Roanoke Airport.
When the land on which it stood was sold, Lexington Airport closed.