OPINION

Remember when the airport was at the golf course?

Wes Franklin
Guest Columnist

Many folks probably remember when the Neosho airport was located next to the Neosho golf course. Other folks may not be aware that it was ever there. Or that it was somewhere else even before then. 

Initially, a temporary airport was located near McElhany, which was where what is now Highway AA comes in to what is now Highway 59, formerly U.S. Highway 71.  

The airport was on the east side of then-Highway 71, on the other side of the railroad tracks. 

That was in 1929, when the Young Men’s Civic Club and the Neosho Ad Club took out a lease on a tract of land for that purpose. 

Shortly thereafter they held an air circus and charged admission, raising $1,300 for the relocation of the airport to a more permanent site. 

The Civic Club and Ad Club then joined with the Neosho American Legion post and designated two members from each organization to serve on a municipal airport board for the purpose of selecting a site for a permanent airport and taking charge of money raised toward that end. 

The board brought in a government airport specialist from Washington, Marshall P. Hoppin. Among his site recommendations for the new airport was next to the Neosho Golf Club, which at that time was a nine-hole course. 

In September 1930 a two year lease was taken out for the adjoining 100 acres (some later sources say 80 acres) west of the golf course, which was owned by the Golf Club, or rather by its holding corporation, Silver Springs Realty Company. 

The land was cleared and a dirt runway built. A sign reading “Neosho”, 100 feet long by 20 feet wide, built of rock and painted white so as to be seen from the air, was to be constructed, and I assume was, though I don’t know that for sure. 

The new airport was in business by at least May of 1931, and probably sooner. I just haven’t found an exact date in the newspaper archives. In December 1933 the City of Neosho took out a five year lease on the property in order to secure government grants for improvements to the site, including additional unpaved runways. 

I’ve seen it written that the old airport was unlighted, but newspaper articles from the fall of 1934 say otherwise. I doubt it was the kind of airport lighting that we think of today, though. There was a beacon light, however. 

There the airport remained for the next three and a half decades. But time and progress marched on and it was eventually decided that the site was no longer adequate, mostly due to space limitations. 

In 1964, the city was allocated 564 acres of Fort Crowder property fronting then-Highway 71 to build a new airport. 

The property already included several buildings, with utilities, which were initially used as administration buildings, and hangers.

On August 27, 1964 Neosho voters approved a $147,000 revenue bond issue that, with a matching $134,000 grant from the Federal Aviation Authority, along with a $10,000 State grant, was used to construct the runway and taxiways, and install lighting. 

The new Neosho airport was completed in February 1966. In 1999 it was named the Neosho Hugh Robinson Memorial Airport, in honor of Neosho-born aviator Hugh Robinson, whom I’ve written about before. 

In 2007 a new 3,600 square foot terminal was built, along with some new hangers. 

I don’t know what the future holds for the Neosho airport, but I hope it’s bright.