History of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and the land which it sits on have a long history. As you may know, the Airport didn’t used to have President Reagan’s name in its title. President Clinton approved changing the Airport’s official name from Washington National Airport to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on February 6, 1998. 
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport

The history of Reagan National Airport goes back much further than 1998, though. Construction of Washington National Airport began on November 21, 1938 at Gravelly Point where John Parke Custis –President George Washington’s adopted stepson –had lived over 150 years before! The land on which the majority of the Airport now sits used to be underwater. Engineers and workers had to block out the water and pump in sand and gravel to make firm ground. Construction of Terminal A –which used to be the Airport’s only terminal –began in 1940.

Washington National Airport on June 16, 1941

Washington National Airport was opened for business on June 16, 1941.

Even during its inaugural year (that means first year in business), the Airport was a popular attraction for travelers and visitors alike. While the Airport handled only 344,257 passengers in 1941, more than two million people came by the new Airport to visit it.

Less than 20 years after Airport construction had first begun, a new North Terminal was added in 1958. In 1977, Metro service to the Airport began.

The Reagan National Airport metro station is on the Blue and Yellow lines. Can you spot a famous monument in the background of this photo of the station? Reagan National Airport metro station

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In 1998 under another huge addition was made to the Airport when a new Terminal building with one million square feet of space was added. The “New National” now houses many of the concessions, eateries, ticket counters, baggage claim areas, and aircraft gates for the whole Airport. floor medallion

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) didn’t just want to build a standard building, though; it wanted an elegant and artistic building. That’s why the outside of the building has rolling Jeffersonian domes and why the new building houses beautiful window wall tiles, wall-hangings and floor medallions, like the one on the right.

Even though the Airport has a Washington, D.C. address, it is located in Virginia. When the federal government operated the Airport before 1987, it gave the Airport a Washington, D.C. mailing address. After MWAA took over operations, it kept the same Washington, D.C. address in place.