ATLANTA'S JET AGE TERMINAL
After nearly a decade of planning and several years of construction, Atlanta's modern jet age terminal opened on May 3, 1961. The complex was the first in the world to be built specifically for jet aircraft. At the time, it was the largest passenger terminal in the country, covering sixty acres, with nearly a mile of concourses and 48 gates with parking for 52 aircraft. The enormous light-filled lobby and modern architecture was a far cry from the cramped and dreary temporary terminal that preceded it.
The turquoise paneled administration building and control tower was one of Atlanta's most identifiable landmarks during the following two decades. This image is from an early 1960s issue of Amazing Atlanta.
The layout was fairly typical of large airports of the late 1950s and early '60s, similar to Miami or Chicago O'Hare. The central 2-story terminal featured a 500 foot long ticketing lobby upstairs and baggage claim downstairs with long concourses extending from the main building. There were five concourses (B through F) at the time of opening. Concourse A was built after the temporary terminal was cleared later in the year. Here's a comparison of the terminal size and layout with other airports of the era.
This four-page article about the Jet Age terminal appeared in the June 1961 issue of the Delta Digest. To see a larger version of this, click HERE.
Two more pages from the same article. Large version HERE.
Opening ceremonies in the lobby of the new terminal on May 3, 1961. The gentleman at left in the foreground with his back to the camera is Mayor William Hartsfield. This photo was taken on the east end of the lobby and the Delta counter can be seen to the left. Photo from the digital collections of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
This picture appeared in a full page Delta advertisement promoting the opening of the new terminal in May 1961. At center is Delta's concourse E.
A Delta DC-8 and Convair 440 on the ramp of the new terminal. Photo credit: Delta Flight Museum.
An early view of the shiny new terminal. The upper level roadway seen here was for passenger drop-off at the main ticket lobby. Baggage claim and passenger pick-up was on the lower level below this. Credit: Atlanta History Center.
The new terminal quickly exceeded its design capacity the year it opened. One of the reasons is illustrated here: the "Jet Age" terminal was unlike anything most Atlantans had ever seen or experienced and the airport was regularly jammed with sightseers during the first year after opening. This is the ramp that led to the rooftop observation deck on concourse C. Photo from the digital collections of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Delta's 1961 Annual Report featured this wonderful night view of concourse E as seen from the tower. The Delta "Jet Base" is seen in the distance. Delta was the only airline at Atlanta to have the foresight to build 2-story concourses to accommodate jet aircraft. Even though propeller airliners still outnumbered jets in 1961, it was obvious that the day of the all-jet fleet was not too far off. From the Delta Flight Museum digital archives.