New York’S Jfk Airport Was Originally Known By What Name?

John F. Kennedy International Airport, or JFK Airport, is a major international hub in New York City today. But it wasn’t always known by that name. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: New York’s JFK Airport was originally known as Idlewild Airport.

In this comprehensive article, we’ll take a look back at the history of JFK Airport. We’ll explore its origins as Idlewild Airport, how it got its original name, the process of renaming it after President John F. Kennedy, and how the airport has evolved into the bustling international gateway we know today.

The Origins and Early History of Idlewild Airport

Idlewild Airport, now known as John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), has a rich history that dates back to the 1940s. Let’s take a closer look at how this iconic airport came to be.

Planning and Construction in the 1940s

In the early 1940s, as air travel gained popularity, New York City recognized the need for a larger and more modern airport. The city’s existing airports, such as LaGuardia and Newark, were quickly becoming overcrowded.

After an extensive search for a suitable location, the site for the new airport was chosen in the borough of Queens. The construction began in 1942, with thousands of workers involved in the project. The airport was designed to handle the growing number of commercial and military flights.

Throughout the construction process, there were numerous challenges to overcome, including the need to reclaim marshland and build new runways. Despite these obstacles, the airport began operations in 1948, and it was named Idlewild Airport.

The Airport’s Naming After Idlewild Golf Course

But why was the airport named Idlewild? The name was chosen to honor the nearby Idlewild Golf Course, which had been in operation since the 1920s. The golf course was a popular recreational spot and had a strong connection with the local community.

The decision to name the airport after the golf course was seen as a way to pay homage to a beloved institution while also giving the new airport a distinct identity. The name “Idlewild” was thought to evoke a sense of tranquility and natural beauty, which were qualities the developers wanted to associate with the airport.

However, as air travel continued to grow, it became clear that the name “Idlewild” was no longer suitable for an airport of such magnitude. In 1963, the airport was renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport, in honor of the late President John F. Kennedy.

Today, JFK Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world, serving millions of passengers each year. Despite its name change, the origins and early history of Idlewild Airport remain an important part of its legacy.

Major Developments at Idlewild Before the Renaming

Opening in 1948 as New York’s Main Airport

Before it became known as John F. Kennedy International Airport, the airport we now know as JFK had a different name – Idlewild Airport. When it first opened in 1948, Idlewild Airport was considered New York’s main airport and quickly became a hub for international travel.

It was named after the nearby Idlewild Golf Course and encompassed an area of over 5,000 acres.

The construction of Idlewild Airport was a major undertaking, involving the clearing of marshlands and the creation of new runways. The airport’s design incorporated innovative ideas, such as separate levels for arriving and departing passengers and a central terminal area that could handle a large volume of travelers.

As the main airport for New York City, Idlewild quickly grew in popularity and became a symbol of the city’s status as a global hub. It served as a gateway for millions of travelers, welcoming them to the United States and providing them with their first glimpse of New York City.

The Arrival of the Jet Age in the Late 1950s

In the late 1950s, a major development occurred at Idlewild Airport that would forever change the way people traveled – the arrival of the jet age. With the introduction of jet aircraft, such as the Boeing 707, air travel became faster, more efficient, and more accessible to the general public.

Idlewild Airport quickly adapted to accommodate the new jet aircraft, expanding its runways and upgrading its facilities. The airport became a hub for international airlines operating jet services, attracting travelers from around the world.

With the advent of jet travel, the demand for air travel increased dramatically. Idlewild Airport saw a significant increase in passenger numbers, with millions of people passing through its gates each year.

The airport became known for its modern amenities, efficient operations, and iconic architecture, such as the distinctive TWA Flight Center, designed by the renowned architect Eero Saarinen.

It was during this time of rapid growth and technological advancement that Idlewild Airport solidified its place as one of the world’s leading airports. However, as the airport continued to expand and modernize, it became clear that a new name was needed to reflect its status and honor a prominent figure in American history.

For more information about the history of Idlewild Airport and its transformation into JFK International Airport, you can visit the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s official website.

Renaming the Airport After JFK’s Assassination

New York Wants to Honor Its Slain President

After the tragic assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, New York City was determined to find a way to honor his memory. It was decided that one of the most significant ways to pay tribute to the beloved president would be to rename one of the city’s major landmarks after him.

The chosen landmark was none other than the bustling international airport located in Queens, which was originally known as Idlewild Airport.

The decision to rename the airport after JFK was met with widespread support and enthusiasm from both the citizens of New York and the rest of the country. It was seen as a fitting tribute to a president who had inspired hope and optimism during his presidency.

By renaming the airport, New York City aimed to immortalize JFK’s legacy and ensure that his memory would live on for generations to come.

The Official Dedication Ceremony in 1963

The official dedication ceremony for the renaming of the airport took place on December 24, 1963, just over a month after President Kennedy’s assassination. The ceremony was a solemn yet celebratory event that brought together dignitaries, government officials, and members of the public who wanted to pay their respects.

The highlight of the ceremony was the unveiling of a large sign that read “John F. Kennedy International Airport.” The sign was placed prominently at the airport entrance, serving as a constant reminder of the airport’s new name and the president it honored.

During the dedication ceremony, speeches were given, expressing gratitude for President Kennedy’s service and highlighting his accomplishments. The renaming of the airport was seen as a way to honor JFK’s commitment to diplomacy, his vision for a better future, and his unwavering dedication to the American people.

Since its renaming, John F. Kennedy International Airport has become one of the busiest airports in the world, serving millions of travelers each year. It stands as a testament to President Kennedy’s enduring legacy and the impact he had on the nation.

JFK Airport as a Global Hub Today

JFK Airport, also known as John F. Kennedy International Airport, is one of the busiest and most well-known airports in the world. Serving as a major gateway to the United States, JFK Airport has gained a reputation as a leading international hub on the East Coast.

With its strategic location in New York City, the airport plays a crucial role in connecting travelers from around the globe.

Continued Expansions and New Terminals Over the Decades

Over the years, JFK Airport has undergone significant expansions to accommodate the increasing demand for air travel. The airport has continuously added new terminals, upgraded existing facilities, and improved its infrastructure to ensure a seamless travel experience for passengers.

These expansions have not only increased the airport’s capacity but have also enhanced its efficiency and ability to handle a large volume of flights.

One notable expansion project at JFK Airport is the ongoing construction of the new Terminal One. This state-of-the-art terminal, set to open in 2025, will replace the existing Terminal One and provide an enhanced travel experience for passengers.

With modern amenities, spacious facilities, and advanced technology, the new terminal will further solidify JFK Airport’s reputation as a global hub.

Leading International Gateway on the East Coast

JFK Airport’s status as a leading international gateway on the East Coast is evident in its extensive network of flights to destinations worldwide. The airport offers non-stop flights to over 150 international destinations, connecting travelers to major cities across all continents.

Whether it’s a business trip, a family vacation, or a solo adventure, JFK Airport provides convenient connections to almost any corner of the globe.

As a major transit hub, JFK Airport plays a vital role in facilitating international trade and tourism. It serves as a critical point of entry for millions of visitors each year, contributing to the economic growth of New York City and the surrounding region.

The airport’s efficiency, modern facilities, and excellent connectivity have made it a preferred choice for both passengers and airlines, further solidifying its position as a global hub.


In conclusion, John F. Kennedy International Airport has come a long way from its early beginnings as Idlewild Airport. Its renaming after President Kennedy honored his legacy and New York roots. Over the past half century, JFK has solidified its status as one of the premier international airports in the United States and the world.

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