Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport – Arlington VA

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The PWA and the WPA were among the many federal agencies involved in the construction of this large New Deal airport. Originally called the Gravelly Point Airport, it now carries Ronald Reagan’s name.

“In the Fall of 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced at a press conference that he was “tired of waiting for Congress” to select a site for the new airport, and said that it would be built on mudflats on a bend of the Potomac River at Gravelly Point, 4 miles south of Washington, D.C. Two months later, on November 21, 1938, the first ceremonial shovelful of dirt was moved to signal the start of construction…

Several government agencies cooperated with the newly formed Civil Aeronautics Board, predecessor agency to the Federal Aviation Administration, in the construction of Washington National Airport.

Additional assistance came from the Works Progress Administration(WPA), the Public Works Administration (PWA), the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of the Interior’s National Park Service and the Fine Arts Commission…

National Airport opened for business on June 16, 1941. President Roosevelt attended a ceremony and observed the first official landing.” (Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority website)

The “Microfilmed Index to WPA Projects” in the National Archives describes WPA work on the site in 1941: “Construct airport facilities…Includes completing the construction of hangars, buildings, and other structures and facilities; constructing runways, aprons, taxi strips, roads, walks, parking areas and lightning and air navigation facilities; filling, grading and draining; landscaping; incidental and appurtenant work.” According to the Washington Post, this work included a landing field for Pan American Airways, and employed 2,837 workers with $5,503,000 worth of work.

Source notes

"Ronald Reagan and the WPA,"

History of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority website

National Archives, Record Group 69, “Microfilmed Index to WPA Projects.”

“Army of 3,690 from WPA starts strengthening Capital defenses,” Washington Post, July 11, 1940, p. 5

Project originally submitted by Brent McKee - on May 11, 2012.

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

Location Info

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1 Aviation Circle
Arlington, VA 22202

Location notes:

Coordinates: 38.853295, -77.046095

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