By Cheryl Albiez, Senior Public Information Officer
Anyone familiar with The Great Gatsby knows that author F. Scott Fitzgerald was writing during an era of unprecedented societal change, the “Roaring Twenties.”
The Administration Building of Newark Liberty International Airport, which opened in 1928 as Newark Metropolitan Airport, is an enduring emblem of a time unique in the history of American culture, art and architecture. The building’s Art Deco design reflects a style that flourished internationally in the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s, representing luxury, glamour and faith in social and technological progress.
Designed to resemble an airplane with its wing-like structures, the Administration Building occupies not only a rich and significant place in aviation history, but is itself a work of art, and a national historic landmark. The building features clean horizontal and vertical lines made of massive steel and cast aluminum, with beautiful birds of flight framing the entrance.
Inside, the walls and columns are made of polished marble, and the colorful terrazzo floor tiles and artistic pieces created by famed muralist Arshile Gorky brighten the terminal. The building’s style is brazen, to be sure. But it reflects perfectly the “anything goes” mood of the country at the time it was conceived—confident, optimistic and excited about what the future would bring.
The building is renowned for more than just its aesthetic beauty. Its stature looms large in aviation history because Newark International Airport was, in its heyday, one of the busiest airports in the entire world. At its peak, one-third of all global air traffic passed through the airport.
Even Fitzgerald could wax romantic about airports, the advent of aviation and the ways it fired the imagination. “I suppose there has been nothing like the airports since the age of the stage-stops,” he wrote. Train stations, he said, were “brick depots built right into the towns they marked – people didn’t get off at those isolated stations unless they lived there. But airports lead you way back in history like oases, like the stops on the great trade routes.”