• Get away to Gateway, where you can camp and stay healthy with heart-smart activities. Photo by Sebastiano Privitera; used by permission.

    Gateway

    National Recreation Area NY,NJ

Ryan Visitor Center reopens at Floyd Bennett Field

The Ryan Visitor Center is located in the former air terminal at Floyd Bennett Field.

The Ryan Visitor Center is located in the former air terminal at Floyd Bennett Field.

NPS PHOTO

An historic terminal is restored to its former glory

On May 5 and 6, 2012, step back in time to the Golden Age of Aviation as the William Fitts Ryan Visitor Center reopens. Over the past three years the Ryan Center has been restored to its 1930s appearance, when it served as the air terminal for Floyd Bennett Field, New York City's first municipal airport.

Live music will kick off the festivities at noon on Saturday, May 5, with the ribbon cutting ceremony beginning at 12:30 P.M. Contests, swing dancing and children's activities will take place over the weekend. The Rockaway Arts Alliance will conduct children's activities on both days in the new visitor center. Check back for a detailed schedule.

 
A full-scale replica of the Winnie Mae, built from scratch by volunteers at Floyd Bennett Field's Hangar B.

The Winnie Mae was rebuilt from scratch by HARP volunteers at Floyd Bennett Field's Hangar B.

NPS PHOTO

It's so old it's new! See the unveling of the "Winnie Mae"

A full scale replica of Wiley Post's Lockheed Vega aircraft the "Winnie Mae" will be christened as well. The original flew Post around the world twice in the early 1930s, including the first worldwide air trip flown solo by any pilot. This aircraft was built at Floyd Bennett Field's Hangar B by volunteers from Gateway's Historic Aircraft Restoration Project (HARP), based on a scale model. (No plans for the aircraft are known to exist.)

 
A worker restores the interior of the Ryan Center to how it looked in the 1930s.

A worker restores the interior of the Ryan Center to how it looked in the 1930s.

NPS PHOTO

Old features restored, new visitor services added in restoration

In the newly restored center, visitors can view newsreels from the airfield's heyday via a touch screen and enjoy historic exhibits. Children can "fly" a mini-airplane and test their paper airplane design skills.

During the three-year renovation, the Ryan Center was painstakingly restored to its original look during the Golden Age of Aviation in the 1930s, when Floyd Bennett Field served as New York City's municipal airport. Paintings and panels depicting modes of transportation from the steam engine to the dirigible have been restored to their 1939 appearance. Electrical, fire suppression, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems have been upgraded. A new elevator has been added for increased accessibility.

To find out about Phil Thys, the watercolor artist who worked on some of the exhibit panels, click here.

Did You Know?

Fort Wadsworth

Fort Wadsworth, located on Staten Island at the Narrows (next to the Verrazano Bridge), is one of the oldest military sites in the nation. This site has controlled the entrance to New York Harbor since the Washington administration.