Looking north towards the new DAL shortly after its opening in 1958 - an evocative scene from the early jet age. Photo from the Dallas Public Library archives

For me, this is the terminal that started it all.

In my opinion, there's no airport in America quite like Dallas Love Field. Today, it's a busy regional hub for Southwest Airlines and a thriving general aviation center. At the same time, however, it's a shadow of what it once was - and to an aviation buff, that shadow is immediately noticeable. There's a sort of haunted sadness about Love Field that I picked up on at a very early age, and it's what sparked my interest in old and abandoned airport facilities.

This page is meant to be the 'crown jewel' of this site - a tribute to my once-mighty hometown airport, whose glory days are quickly slipping into the annals of history. This is as comprehensive of a history of the jet-age Love Field as I can provide, and I only hope it does the place justice.


The 1945 Love Field master plan, the blueprint for today's Love Field. From the DPL archives

The 1945 Master Plan

At the close of World War II, civic planners in Dallas unveiled their master plan for Love Field. Despite Fort Worth's attempts to build a major regional airport, Dallas remained adamant about expanding and maintaining its close-in municipal airport.

The key elements of the plan were a new parallel runway on the west side of the field and extensions to the two existing runways. The plan also called for relocating Lemmon Avenue (on the east side of the airport) to make room for large new maintenance and airline support complexes.

The most important part of the plan, however, was the construction of a new 'jet-age' terminal building on a midfield site adjacent to the proposed parallel runway. Although the existing Love Field terminal was only five years old at that point, its location and size (it was a WPA project designed in the mid-1930s) would quickly render it obsolete. With jet aircraft on the drawing boards, airport officials set out to design a futuristic terminal that would meet Dallas' needs for the next thirty years.

Two views of the Lemmon Avenue terminal in the mid-1950s illustrate the pressing need for a replacement facility. From the DPL archives

Designing A Masterpiece

A promotional brochure released with the opening of the new DAL in 1958, illustrating its many passenger comforts - a large lobby, moving walkways, observation deck and restaurants.

A bird's-eye view of the new DAL in early 1958, showing the main terminal, administration building, and control tower. The baggage reclaim wing is at lower left. From the DPL archives

The decision to build the new Love Field came at a time when airports all over the nation were opening shiny new terminals. Architects with Corgan Associates in Dallas traveled the country, visiting airports and incorporating the best design features into the DAL plan.

The final design placed the terminal at the end of a long, ceremonial extension of Cedar Springs Road, easily accessible from downtown Dallas (in fact, the new terminal would be CLOSER to downtown than its predecessor on Lemmon Avenue.) Parking for 1750 cars was provided, directly connected to the terminal by an underpass beneath the terminal approach road.

Once inside, arriving and departing passengers were separated into two wings, each linked to the main lobby. Cantilevered overhangs above the curbfront areas protected passengers and their vehicles from wind and rain, while automatic doors (Love Field had eight devices, one of the largest all-in-one installations in the country) allowed passengers to enter the terminal with their luggage in tow.

An aerial view of Love Field in 1958, showing the terminal's layout - the main lobby and administration tower at center and two wings flanking it. Beyond it are the three concourses, green (west), yellow (north), and red (east). From the DPL archives

Two views of the main lobby as it appeared from the upper-level mezzanine. Both photos were taken shortly after the terminal opened.

The cavernous central lobby was designed to be the focal point of the building. On the ground level, the architects placed banks of seats around a huge terrazo-inlaid map of the world. Retail kiosks were also placed on the lobby floor, while larger concessions were arranged at the front of the back of the lobby - a drugstore and sundry shop on the south wall and a hairdresser, gift shop, restrooms and newsstand on the north wall. In the northwest corner, beneath the escalators, was a Dobbs House coffee shop with seating for 200 patrons. An outdoor garden area landscaped with banana trees and semi-tropical vegetation was located in the northeast corner, adjacent to the ticket wing.

"One Riot, One Ranger": Dr. Waldine Tauch's famous Texas Ranger statue was placed in the main lobby in 1960. It has been moved several times since. Judging from the uniforms of the Braniff hostesses in the second photo, it postcard was made around 1970. The baggage claim wing can be seen in the background of both photos.

A huge, indoor-outdoor multi-tiered observation gallery (widely regarded as one of the best in the nation) was located on the lobby mezzanine. In the northwest corner of the mezzanine was the Dobbs House Luau Room, a tropical-themed full-service restaurant that remained a Dallas favorite until it closed in 1974. A USO station and Braniff's "El Dorado Room" (a forerunner to the airline lounges of today) were also located on the upper level.

Looking out on the lobby from the mezzanine level in the late 1950s.

An undated photo of the Dobbs House Luau Room.

Beyond the main lobby were the three boarding concourses, accessed by what was probably the new terminal's most famous feature: moving sidewalks.

In 1958, no other airport had moving walkways. Seeking to set the terminal apart (and also driven by the long walking distances from the lobby to the gates) officials in Dallas decided to install two-way moving walkways in all three concourses. The sidewalks, manufactured by Montgomery Escalator, used a continuous neopryne rubber belt to move passengers along. They also shortened the walking time to each concourse from three minutes to only forty-five seconds.

Two views of the moving sidewalks on the green concourse. The first photo shows warning signs added after a number of sidewalk-related injuries occurred during 1958.

The three concourses offered at total of 26 gates, each of which was equipped with an air-conditioned waiting room seating 40 people. The green (west) concourse had eight gates, all occupied by American Airlines. The red (east) concourse was the smallest, with just three gates - one each for Trans-Texas and Continental, and a third shared by the two carriers.

The yellow (north) concourse was the largest with 15 gates - one for Central Airlines, eight for Dallas-based Braniff International and six for Delta. This concourse was originally planned with only six gates and was extended at the last minute during construction. The seven additional gates were built cheaply out of corrugated steel and wood, and unlike the rest of the terminal was not air-conditioned.

The yellow concourse was the only pier to have a Dobbs House snack bar, located at the 'elbow' of the concourse on its south side. This snack bar endured through 1974, when it was closed. However, it was not removed or gutted until 1997 - before then, it was possible to look through the smeared windows at the vintage furnishings and signage inside.

Love Field in 1958, just after the new terminal opened. The parallel runway would be built to the left of the terminal. Before it was opened in 1965, crosswind runway 18-36 was used just as frequently as the main 13-31 strip. Also note that most of the 1940 terminal has been demolished.From the DPL archives

Into Service

A 1959 postcard shows the new DAL terminal in operation. Jet flights to Dallas have not yet begun; the terminal is surrounded only by turboprop and piston aircraft.

Operations began at the new terminal January 20, 1958, at which time the old 1940 facility on Lemmon Avenue was closed. It was quickly demolished as the Love Field's three dominant airlines (Braniff, American and Delta) all built large maintenance bases on the east end of the field.

Except for a few highly-publicized injuries caused by the moving sidewalks (usually women whose high-heels were snagged at the end of the rubberized walkway), the terminal's opening went smoothly. Although passengers gave the facility rave reviews, architectural critics panned its exterior - a not-too-subtle amalgam of red and green porcelain panels, mixed with concrete and unfinished aggregate stone. The interior, however, was hailed as "a shining example of the thrilling new jet age," according to the Dallas Morning News.

A view looking north across the DAL terminal in the early 1960s. Note the two Braniff 707s and Delta Convair 880 parked at the 'elbow' of the yellow concourse. The photo also shows the crudely finished gates at the far end of the Yellow Concourse (which were rebuilt in 1965) as well as the old 1940 terminal across the runway. The old building was demolished around 1962 or 1963.
Courtesy of Jim Kruggel

An aerial view of Love Field in 1962 shows that jet aircraft are quickly replacing prop-driven planes. Note that the homes and former military barracks at top center and being cleared to make way for the new parallel jet runway. From the DPL archives

By the early 1960s, Love Field was booming. The airlines continued to transfer more and more flights from Fort Worth's ailing Amon Carter Field, and more and more of them were big, new jet aircraft. Eastern Airlines and Mexicana were granted Dallas route authority in 1961. Three fenced outdoor gates were added to the red concourse for the two new entrants, along with a makeshift customs facility. Planners were already predicting that the terminal would reach its planned capacity by 1970, almost twenty years ahead of schedule.

A postcard showing the front entrace of Love Field in the early 1960s. A second roadway for arrivals would be cut across the grass in the foreground in 1987.

November 22, 1963: Visitors crowd the fenced gate extension (added in 1961) of the red concourse to witness the arrival of President John F. Kennedy at Love Field. Just a few hours later, new President Lyndon Johnson would be sworn in aboard Air Force One on the same site. Note the main terminal in the background. From the Corbis collection

Two views of the Love Field ticket wing in the early 1960s show how quickly passenger numbers overwhelmed the building's original design. Until 1968, ticket counters at DAL were ordered, from the main lobby: Braniff, Continental, Mexicana, American, Eastern, Trans-Texas, Delta, Frontier. Photos from the DPL collection

A diagram of the Love Field terminal in 1964.

The new 8,800-foot parallel jet runway nears completion in 1964. First suggested in 1945, the runway was finally opened April 2, 1965. At that point the terminal was truly located at 'midfield', a setup that made directing arrivals and departures much easier for air traffic controllers. From the DPL archives

By 1965, when the new parallel runway opened, conditions in the terminal building had reached saturation point. Parking lots and roadways were a mess, and the concourses were jammed with passengers awaiting flights. A shortage of gate space meant aircraft had to hold on the apron after landing to await an open gate. Although Dallas and Fort Worth finally agreed in 1965 to construct a joint-use airport, its opening was a decade away. Expansion at Love Field was needed immediately.

On to Part Two: Boom and Bust