The ROC – The history of the Rochester, N.Y. airport

The ROC – Journey thru the 20th Century: The story of Rochester’s 100 year old airport
By Rick Iekel
Independently published, 2022, 218 pp.

5 Stars

Remember back when you were a child and were regularly in awe of things? As people get older and accumulate more experiences there’s a tendency to become jaded about God’s creation and remarkable inventions.

Back in my younger days, I was fascinated with certain aspects of Rochester’s transportation history. I had strong interests in the Erie Canal and the humble Rochester Subway. I think I also would have enjoyed and researched Rochester’s New York Central train station, which was designed by Claude Bragdon and opened in 1914, but was demolished in 1965. I can’t remember if I ever set foot in that grand structure.

Anyway, I was also fascinated with the Rochester airport and plane travel. One of my earliest childhood memories was going to the airport with my family on September 28, 1960 to greet presidential candidate, John F. Kennedy, as he arrived for some political stumping at the downtown War Memorial auditorium later that evening. Back in those days, non-passengers could walk the airport concourse and even step out on the tarmac and watch the planes depart and arrive. My first airplane trip was in 1966 when our oldest sister took another sister and myself to NYC because she was interviewing for a dietician internship at a Manhattan hospital. I’m not much of a traveler. I think I’ve made around ten trips from the airport in the fifty-seven years since then. With today’s security restrictions, and the public’s nonchalant familiarity with air travel, visiting the airport isn’t the thrill it was in the early-1960s.

I saw this book mentioned in a local freebie newspaper and eagerly downloaded it to my Kindle. I enjoyed “The ROC” and learned quite a bit. Construction of the original airport next to Scottsville Road (Rt. 383) began in 1927-28 when Hangar 1 and runways A and C were built. The small airport was only a mail stop at that point. Hangar 2 was built in 1929 and Hangar 3 in 1938. I had passed the three hangar buildings off of Scottsville Road all my life and never knew that was the site of the original airport until I read this book. I had assumed they were just facilities for small single or double-engine prop planes in addition to the airport terminal on Brooks Avenue. Nope, the terminal was moved to the north end of the airport complex along Brooks Avenue in 1953 due to the growing demand for passenger air travel. An expansion of the Brooks Ave. terminal followed in 1962 and a major reconstruction/expansion was completed in 1992.

The author of this book, Rick Iekel, was Assistant Manager of the ROC airport from 1973 to 1989 and Manager/Administrator from 1989 until he retired in 1993. Rick shares lots of interesting history and behind-the-scenes stories, including the tragic take-off crash of Mohawk Airlines Flight 112 on July 2, 1963, which killed 7 people (2 crewmen and 5 passengers) and injured 36. Every Rochesterian over the age of 65 remembers that crash.

This book is well-done given that it’s self-published, although the chronology is not always linear. Lots of neat photos and illustrations are included.

Above: An aerial view of the Frederick Douglass – Greater Rochester International Airport aka the ROC. Our airport is a relatively small one with just two short A and B concourses.
Above: This vintage postcard shows the red brick Brooks Avenue terminal building with the towering clock as I remember it from the early-1960s.
Above: The old Scottsville Rd. Rochester Airport, circa mid-1930s. From upper-left corner to lower-right corner, Hangar 3, Hangar 1, and Hangar 2 (note the small control “tower” rising from the Hangar 2 structure).
Above: A vintage postcard showing the Scottsville Road terminal, c. 1940. L to R, Hangar 3, Hangar 1, and Hangar 2. Note that Hangar 2’s short control “tower” has been replaced by a taller stand-alone tower.
Above: The original Scottsville Road airport complex as it appears today. L to R: Hangar 2, Hangar 1, and Hangar 3
Above: Hangar 2 (1929). Note the airport’s first control “tower” beneath the arrow
Above: Close-up detail of the Hangar 2 control “tower”
Above: Hangar 1 (1927)
Above: Hangar 3 (1938)
Above: Current map of the ROC showing the location of the Brooks Ave. terminal in relation to the original Scottsville Rd. (Rt. 383) terminal.

14 thoughts on “The ROC – The history of the Rochester, N.Y. airport

    1. Thanks, Mandy! It was fun to read the book and piece this post together. I enjoyed the afternoon jaunt to the original airport terminal to take photos of all of the old buildings still intact. Yeah, a mammoth sprawling hub loses the “charm” of a smaller airport. Back in the 1960s, the previous terminal building had a big, fine-dining restaurant with large windows overlooking the runways. Rochesterians would drive to the airport just to have dinner while watching the planes take off and land. It was still that kind of “thrill” in the early-1960s.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Michael! Yup, the “mystique” of air travel has changed to a utilitarian “pack ’em in tight and ship ’em out.” Also, lots of aggression from “entitled” passengers these days.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. This is what Wikipedia said: “ 1910 newspaper article cited “a site near Scottsville Road”, along with the Baker Farm in Genesee Valley Park, as possible locations for “airships” to fly from Rochester to Toronto.[6][title missing] The Baker Farm was located south of the original Genesee Valley Park, and was donated to the Parks Department of the City of Rochester in 1908.[7][title missing] The golf course at Genesee Valley Park was extended to include the Baker Farm in 1914.[8][title missing] During World War I, the Baker Farm area of the park, renamed “Baker Field”, was used for military purposes”

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks. Yup, the book did mention Baker Field and Britton Field as the early “progenitors” of the Rochester airport, but not Tyler Field. Tyler is what threw me.

        Liked by 1 person

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