The Original Grand Canyon Airport Historic District
was added to the Arizona and NRHP in 2006.
Only four aviation-related sites were previously listed on the NRHP in the state of Arizona prior to the addition of this airport at Red Butte. It is an important part of Arizona history.In 1927, Parker VanZandt, William Stout and others formed Scenic Airways Inc., and built the original Grand Canyon Airport on government-owned forest land about 15 miles south of the canyon rim. This was part of a grand scheme VanZandt envisioned to connect every National Park in the USA with air tour service, using Ford Tri-Motors, Stinson Detroiters, and TravelAire aircraft. VanZandt's scheme never materialized and Scenic soon closed its hangar doors. In 1930 Grand Canyon Air Lines re-opened the airport for business. The employees lived on-site in several bungalows and customers for air tours stayed overnight in a sumptuous lodge.
Above: Rear view of the original 1927 hangar built by B. Russell Shaw for Parker VanZandt's Scenic Airways, Inc. Photo by G.B. Koontz.
Famous visitors to the original Grand Canyon Airport included Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, Will Rogers and Hall Roosevelt among others.Operating aerial tour airlines under several different names, with different owners, the airport remained in use until the mid 1960s. A new airport was built at Tusayan, and the aerodrome land was leased to ranchers by the US Forest Service (which owns the entire aerodrome of ~850 acres). Until 2005, this historic site was used for cattle, horses and other ranching commerce, resulting in considerable neglect and vandalism to the site. Toxic waste accumulated and buildings either burned down or were torn down. Souvenir hunters removed artifacts left unguarded.
Front View: The original hangar (photo courtesy of G.B. Koontz 2006).
Web sites of interest:
My research for the nomination introduced me to Gene Tissot,. the son of E.E. Tissot, Sr., Chief Mechanic for Grand Canyon Airlines, Inc. during the 1930s. The Tissot family lived in the bungalow which remains. With family photographs and oral history provided by Gene Tissot, we have collaborated to tell the story of life at the aerodrome in a book both graphically attractive and historically accurate. - GBK
New book! The Original GRAND CANYON AIRPORT
– A 1930s Scrapbook of Life at Red Butte Aerodrome, Arizona
Copyright 2015 © Giacinta Bradley Koontz™, Inc. All Rights Reserved.