Columbia Airport – Sonora CA


“Through federal aid, the Civil Conservation Corps and the support of the American Legion, the airport site was cleared off and leveled.

It was officially dedicated as Ralph Airport on June 16, 1935, according to the Chispa, the quarterly magazine of the Tuolumne County Historical Society.”

According to a Works Progress Administration job card: WPA Project No. 65-3-1872, Amount approved $26,386, approval date 10-18-35 “Construction of Administration building and runway. Airport improvement.”

According to Wikipedia: “Columbia Airport covers an area of 356 acres (144 ha) which contains two runways: 17/35 is asphalt paved and measures 4,670 x 75 ft (1,423 x 23 m), and turf runway 11/29 measuring 2,600 x 100 ft (792 x 30 m)”

Collected records from the CCC Camp Yankee Hill, P-213 include the following further information about the airport’s construction:

The majority of the airport’s construction was carried out by CCC company 752, stationed at Camp Yankee Hill “under the technical supervision of the Sonora [Tuolumne County] Ranger Unit of the California Division of Forestry and the Management Direction of the Stanislaus National Forest, 5th Region, USFS.” The airport was project #54 and included:

Development, including clearing of 45.2 acres at old Brady Field, near community of Columbia

Construction of two 2400-2500 airplane landing strips at Old Brady Field, near community of Columbia.

“Project 54 was completed on 24 April, 1934. On 27 April, 1934 Co. 752 vacated CCC Camp Yankee Hill, P-213, returned to the 7th Corps Area and was assigned to CCC Camp Plainview, F-21, Plainview, Arkansas. Six months later the constructors of Ralph Field returned to their home state and CCC Camp Thayer, PE/ 244-5c?-20, Hebron, Nebraska where the company remained for the next 6 plus years.

Many other companies occupied Camp Yankee Hill P-213. However, none attained the accomplishments of Co. 752. Most of the heavy work having been completed, only cosmetic and maintenance work was accomplished at Ralph Field.”

Source notes

Lacey Peterson. The Union Democrat. January 30, 2009.

CCC Camp Yankee Hill records submitted by Winnie M. LoVine, from the collection of George and Gerry Thayer of Sonora.

WPA Job Cards, Fresno Public Library San Joaquin Valley Heritage & Genealogy Center

Project originally submitted by The Living New Deal on June 11, 2010.
Additional contributions by Andrew Laverdiere, July 2018.

We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.


Location Info

Columbia Airport
Sonora, CA 95370

Location notes:

Coordinates: 38.028836, -120.410757

2 comments on “Columbia Airport – Sonora CA

  1. I landed there in 1964, and I don’t remember that there were two runways… and the one I landed on and took off from was pretty short, even for a Cessna 150. The aviation map didn’t show 2 runways in 1964. The Unicom operator didn’t advise me of a second runway… and I definitely would’ve opted for more runway length due to the high density altitude on that summer day.

  2. Linda Dick Bissonnette

    Other WPA projects in Columbia include:
    Columbia Elementary School (including the the low stone masonry wall on the north side of the campus), Architectural, Artist and Historian surveys of the 1850s core of town including HABS-HAER records and photos of eight brick buildings (LOC), historic building and cistern stabilizations, Yankee Hill Road improvements, and folklife records (photos and audio recordings) of old timers stories and music. The WPA also started a regionalist art movement in the California Mother Lode. Columbia’s picturesque buildings and setting have been the subject of more than a few fine art works, including Charles Surendorf’s Expressionistic wood block prints and Otheto Weston’s watercolor paintings.

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