CHICAGO (CBS) – This week, Chicago is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the formal dedication of O’Hare International Airport by President John F. Kennedy.
Even before that ceremony in 1963, O’Hare had begun transforming from a former orchard into an economic engine for the city.
Before becoming O’Hare, the airport was known as Orchard Field, and the site was home to an aircraft assembly plant during World War II. The City Council renamed the airport O’Hare Airport in 1949 to honor naval aviator Edward “Butch” O’Hare, a Medal of Honor recipient from Chicago who died in WWII.
It continued to grow through the 1950s, and in 1961, all scheduled Midway Airport operations were transferred to O’Hare, making it the busiest airport in the world. The next year, President Kennedy presided over a formal dedication of O’Hare, lauding it as “one of the wonders of the modern world.”
The celebration of the 50th anniversary started Saturday, when the airport welcomed the first non-stop flights to and from Berlin.
On Tuesday, each terminal will have family-themed entertainment from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., including clowns, jugglers, and face painters.
All week long, children’s activity books will be distributed at food and drink concessions at the airport.
Various bands also will play each day; as the airport honors its employees on Wednesday, the business community on Thursday, and the city itself on Friday.
Northwestern university real estate and economic development professor Louis Masotti told WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody that O’Hare is and will remain the aviation center for Chicago.
He said he believes chances for a third airport at Peotone collapsed with the indictment of former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., its most prominent and vocal supporter.