Port of Seattle agrees to build new regional airport on March 7, 1942.

  • By Walt Crowley
  • Posted 4/02/1999
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 1005
Soon after Japan attacks Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the federal Civil Aviation Authority offers $1 million to any local government that will build a new airport to serve the greater Seattle area. City and county governments are reluctant to undertake the task, but Port of Seattle Commission chairman Horace Chapman feels "it is our duty." The Port Commission agrees on March 7, 1942.

Lake Sammamish was an early favorite for the new field since seaplanes were still used on long-range routes, but the nearby Cascades posed a navigational hazard. Tacoma offered the Port $100,000 if the Port would locate the new airport so Tacoma would be well served too. The Port Commission selected a site near Bow Lake, roughly equidistant from Seattle and Tacoma, on March 30, 1942, and dubbed it Seattle Tacoma Airport (the word "International" was added later).

Construction on the original 907-acre tract began on January 2, 1943. The first landing strips were completed in October 1944 at a cost of $4 million, and a modern terminal opened on July 9, 1949.

Sources: Padraic Burke et al., Pioneers and Partnerships: A History of the Port of Seattle (Seattle: Port of Seattle, 1995); Paul Dorpat and Genevieve McCoy, Building Washington: A History of Washington State Public Works (Seattle: Tartu Publications, 1998).

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