Cincinnati Aviation Heritage Museum262 Wilmer Avenue Room 26
Cincinnati, Ohio 45226
513-321-0492 | www.cahslunken.org
Cincinnati Aviation Heritage Museum
Once the largest municipal airports in the world and largest commercial airport in the United States, Lunken Airport is home to the Cincinnati Aviation Heritage Museum.
Located within what was once the largest municipal airport in the world and largest commercial airport in the United States, the Cincinnati Aviation Heritage Museum shares the story of the twentieth century civilian and commercial aviation. Cincinnati Municipal Lunken Airport (LUK), with its Art Deco terminal, was critical to World War II efforts, airmail, and the origins of the airlines that eventually became American Airlines. Its control tower is notable as the oldest standing control tower in the United States.
After the Great War, ex-army pilots leveled off a field just outside of Cincinnati, in the original 1788 Columbia settlement, for a small airport. Edmund P. Lunken, a local industrialist and aviation enthusiast, the property for the Lunken Airport Company for use as a private airfield. This airfield became well known, as even Charles Lindbergh visited in 1927 on his way to New York, right before his Trans-Atlantic flight. In the 1920s, Cincinnati was the sixteenth largest city in the United States and was slowly working to modernize the city. As a mostly commercial and industrial city, its leaders were looking to stay on the cutting edge of transportation technology. The City of Cincinnati took an interest in this small airport, recognizing the benefits that an airport could bring to the city, and leased the land from Edmund Lunken in 1928 to expand the airport. By 1929, the airport recorded 29,059 flights and 80,000 pounds of mail on its airstrip. In the following years, the site would land many famous guests, including The Beatles and US Presidents. Lunken Airport’s lobby has a small three-sided display that provides much of this history, but the Cincinnati Aviation Heritage Museum on the second floor offers more detail and images.
Outside of the building and facing the runway, benches line a path next to runways where small airplanes frequently take off and land. To the left of the control tower, what at first appears to be a darker brick, is a small plaque that marks the height of the 1937 flood that impacted the status of the airport. This vantage point is, perhaps, the best view of the oldest standing control tower in the country as well.
The City of Cincinnati built Lunken Airport’s terminal in the height of the Art-Deco trend. In the lobby are two large, WPA-commissioned murals painted in 1937 by William Harry Gothard, the Chief Conservationist of the Cincinnati Art Museum and winner of a Federal Art Project competition. On the second floor, the Cincinnati Aviation Heritage Museum shares artifacts from the airlines that operated at Lunken Airport. Knowledgeable volunteers connect the history of Lunken to the national and global accounts of aviation and share their experiences flying in and out of Lunken.
Notes for Travelers
Around Labor Day weekend, the Lunken Airport hosts “Lunken Days,” a celebration with displays of historical aircraft, airplane rides, educational booths, and local food.
Additional ResourcesJohnson, Stephan and Cheryl Bauer. Lunken Airfield (Images of Aviation). Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2012.
Stradling, David. Cincinnati: From River City to Highway Metropolis. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2003.
Lunken, Martha. Unusual Attitudes: Obsessions and Confessions of a Lady Pilot. Batavia: Sporty’s Pilot Shop, 2016.