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. 
original hangar at Grand Canyon Airport, Red Butte
original 1927 hangar at Grand Canyon Airport, Red Butte

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).

 Still standing are the hanger, outbuildings and one bungalow – all in excellent condition, considering prior use.  New owners, neither ranchers nor in theairline industry, purchased the buildings on about 10 acres including the landing strip in 2005.  This is not an unusual situation whereby buildings are privately owned yet constructed on public land.  Despite objections by the US Forest Service administration, plans continue for restoration and preservation.   

 

Web sites of interest:

Abandoned and Little Known Airfields (of Arizona)

www.airfields-freeman.com

The Arizona Pilots Association

www.azpilots.org

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

Gia in front of an old Grand Canyon Airport sign

New book!  The Original GRAND CANYON AIRPORT
– A 1930s Scrapbook of Life at Red Butte Aerodrome, Arizona


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