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Jacksonville Municipal Airport Imeson Field

For over 40 years, Jacksonville Municipal Airport Imeson Field was the center of the First Coast's commercial aviation scene. Jacksonville Municipal Airport Number One opened in 1927, with a dedication that included Charles Lindbergh.

Published February 24, 2012 in History      14 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article




In 1931, Eastern Air Transit (eventually Eastern Airlines) became the first major commercial airline to provide regular service to Jacksonville.



This illustration is a 1944 Army diagram of Imeson, which was known as Jacksonville Army Air Field at the time. Soon after it would be commissioned as the Naval Auxiliary Air Station Jacksonville #1 with the primary tenant being Operational Training Units for PB4Y-1 Liberator patrol Bombers. After the end of WWII, the airport was returned to the city and renamed Imeson Field, after Thomas Cole Imeson. Imeson, who passed in 1948, was a long time city councilman whose visionary work led to the opening on the airport back in the 1920’s.



This image of the art deco terminal building was taken in the 1940s. During this era, the longest of five runways had a length of 7,000 feet, plus airline service provided by Eastern, Orlando and National Airlines.


Before airlines like Jetblue, Spirit and Southwest hit the scene, there was National Airlines. While Atlanta had Delta, Houston Continental and Detroit Northwest Airlines, Jacksonville had National. Founded in 1934, National's headquarters were based at Imeson Field, until the company relocated its offices to Miami in the late 1950s. National became the first airline to introduce domestic jet service in the United States, with a flight between Miami and New York in 1958. National merged with Pan Am in 1980.





This aerial image of Imeson was taken April 3, 1966, two years before the airport closed for good. By the 1960s, the community realized that with limited expansion space, and larger jet aircraft coming on line, it was time to consider replacing Imeson. In 1965, taxpayers approved a $9 million dollar bond to help fund construction for a new airport a few miles to the Northeast. Upon completion of the new Jacksonville International Airport, Imeson Field was abandoned.


The new Jacksonville International Airport in 1972.


In 1970, Webb International Inc. purchased the former 1,500-acre airport and then proceeded to turn it into a new commerce center. Today this business park is known as Imeson International Industrial Park.


DespiteImeson Field closingfour decades agotheremnants of the runways and taxiwaysare scattered throughout the industrial park. Imeson Park Blvd, is actually a significant stretch of Runway 30 that was never taken up.


This aerial, taken early 2006, shows a network of former taxiways totally abandoned or partially used as storage yards and access roads. The small building located on the right side of this image is the last remaining hanger from Imeson's aviation related days.


This 2006 aerial shows the remnants ofRunway 23, mixed in with railroad spurs, warehouses and manufacturing plants. Imeson is Jacksonville's largest developed industrial park with over 6 million square feet of space. Major companies operating at the park include Kaman Aerospace, Bacardi, Westinghouse and Malnove Packaging.



A recent Google Earth image of Imeson International Industrial Park.



Looking closely, one can see the remnants of Imeson Field's five runways. To help,an overlay of Imeson Field is provided with this Google Earth image. Over 600 acres stillawait industrial development at Imeson. Imeson's close proximity to Blount Island, Mitsui and I-95, should continue to make this industrial park a top choice for companies looking to locate facilities in Jacksonville.

For more information on Imeson Field: www.airfields-freeman.com/FL/Airfields_FL_Jax_NE.htm







14 Comments

Dog Walker

February 24, 2012, 08:14:13 AM
Another great article on Jax history.

Fond memories of that airport.  Took my first commercial flight in a Constellation, probably the most beautiful airplane ever, on National to New York from there and my first international flight, both legs on Electras from there also.  JAX-JFK-Reikeovik-Luxembourg. 

Tacachale

February 24, 2012, 08:30:30 AM
Great article! I love seeing how the older elements are still visible in what's there now.

fieldafm

February 24, 2012, 08:47:48 AM
I remember vividly the day we went to the Sears Outlet store at the old airport and bought a Commodore 64... and spending an entire Saturday that seemed to last until breakfast Sunday morning playing around with that computer.

I also have several vivid memories of the drag racing that used to take place at the old Imeson runways (a very horrible crash that claimed the life of a spectator was once the story of many national news outlets). 

A Chicago firm has bought the old Sears/AOL/Prudential building and has big plans to expand the distribution center.  The building has a few tenants now and oddly enough they have wharehousing on many different floors that all get moved to freight docks by elevators. 

Some of those old runways could still be used for RO/RO offloading/storage.  Not sure why the port hasn't tried looking at a deal such as this, they certainly have demand that far outweighs capacity.   

Wacca Pilatka

February 24, 2012, 09:19:56 AM
It's a shame that terminal building couldn't have been reused in some way.

Ocklawaha

February 24, 2012, 01:32:34 PM
In photo 10 from the top, the caption identifies a small hanger as the sole survivor of Imeson's aviation days. Actually, there are several small buildings, including this hanger and a cluster of smaller buildings in a fenced compound  that go WAY DEEPER then that.


When it opened in 1928 it had a 2,100' cinder & shell runway, a 2,500' grass runway, an administration building & a hangar. In its first year, the new airport was visited by Charles Lindbergh, the photo above was made in JACKSONVILLE.

The Airport Directory Company's 1937 Airports Directory (courtesy of Bob Rambo). It described Jacksonville Municipal Airport as having four 2,500' asphalt runways. The aerial photo in the directory depicted a row of hangars on the side of the airfield.



A close-up from the March 11, 1938 Army Air Corps aerial view, showing the hangar & a large number of planes on the ramp at Jacksonville Municipal Airport (from the National Archives),


A 1944 photo of PB4Y-1 Privateers on the ramp at Jacksonville Municipal #1 Naval Auxiliary Air Station (National Archives)


A circa 1949 photo (courtesy of Jack King) of the King's Aircraft hangar at Imeson Field. Jack recalled, “My Dad had this business at Imeson in the 1940s & 1950s.” His father was H.L. King Jr. "Imeson" was depicted as a civilian airport on the 1949 Jacksonville Sectional Chart


By 1941, the airport had expanded to 600 acres, acquiring five additional hangars & a terminal building, and five asphalt runways, the longest of which was 7,000' feet. Airline service was provided by Eastern Airlines, Orlando Airlines, and National Airlines (which made Jacksonville its headquarters). With the start of WW2, the Army began to use Jacksonville for antisubmarine missions in 1941.

As you can see, like everything else neglected around here, that old hanger has quite a history.

OCKLAWAHA


Garden guy

February 24, 2012, 07:11:06 PM
A great place to take kid to learn how to drive...

grrly

February 24, 2012, 07:29:54 PM
Why is it that I remember Imeson with 4 wheelin'? Am I having the wrong flashback? Back in the late 80's, early 90's.  I think I almost died in a truck.  But it was fun.

urbanlibertarian

February 25, 2012, 01:11:57 PM
I grew up in a house about a half mile off the end of that southwest to northeast runway (30, I guess).  In the summertime with the windows open (no AC in those days) it's a wonder we got any sleep between the low flying aircraft and the freight trains. :D

jbirch82

February 27, 2012, 11:52:47 PM
Continental didn't move to Houston until 83, after the merger with Texas Air Corporation was complete. ;)

fieldafm

February 28, 2012, 10:35:38 AM
Quote
Why is it that I remember Imeson with 4 wheelin'? Am I having the wrong flashback? Back in the late 80's, early 90's.  I think I almost died in a truck.  But it was fun.

There was a spot that fronted Heckshire that had several dunes that led back towards Imeson where 4 wheelin was popular.  There were also a few spots on the other side of Heckshire a little north of Imeson (before where the cruise terminal is now) that had a few good trails as well.  I think that was on either Gate or Hess property. 

thekillingwax

March 03, 2012, 04:34:26 PM
Why is it that I remember Imeson with 4 wheelin'? Am I having the wrong flashback? Back in the late 80's, early 90's.  I think I almost died in a truck.  But it was fun.

There certainly was some action back there. My brother took me there to learn how to drive when I was around 12. It was after the Sears outlet had closed and not much was going on in the area. I know people were going nuts in the sand out there because after about 15 minutes, a JSO jeep/suv thing actually came out of the dunes to check on us. I was worried that we'd get in trouble but the officer told us that it was probably the safest place in town to learn to drive and as long as we stayed out of the sand, he didn't care.

Ocklawaha

March 04, 2012, 01:13:08 PM
Another 'playground' was off the east end of the airport property, there was the old prison farm. It was complete with cell blocks and long hallways, dark rooms, and everything else needed to convince a bunch of young teens that this was an o0old dungeon. I don't know when they tore it down, but it must have been after I wandered off to California in 1968 or 69.

Anyone else remember 'locking up' your friends and running wild through that old place?

Mrndthomas

June 10, 2012, 11:36:00 PM
I would like some more info on that old prison farm and it's buildings. Sounds very interesting and can't find anything on it on the net. Thanks

Old Jim

June 17, 2012, 08:41:44 AM
I last remember seeing the jail in the early 60s. My recollection is that it was on the north side of Gun Club Road,  east of Main Street. I haven't been back, so I don't know if anything is there anymore. I was told at the time it was an old county jail. It may have dated to the 1800s. I think the Duval County Patrol used the gun club range for practice.
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