Did you know?
… That Geneva used to have an airport, and there were at least two others!
In the late 1920s, the Finger Lakes Airport — at Hall and Canandaigua roads — was a busy place for Genevans to take in the sight of small airplanes flying around the area. The property was owned by William Fordon but rented by the city. It was designated as the second official stop in 1927 for the Third Annual National Air Tour and in 1929 the Goodyear blimp “Vigilant” made an unannounced landing when storm warnings forced a change of plans.
Additionally, there was discussion in 1928 for the airport to become an emergency landing field for nighttime air mail routes, much to the enthusiasm of the locals. Though it was set to close in 1931, the airport remained open for an additional three months for emergency landings before it was reverted back to farmland.
A couple of years later in 1933, the Geneva Daily Times mentions the Dove Field Airport on North Exchange Street (near what is now the Industrial Park on the east side of Exchange). Flying had begun by April 29 with passenger flights being offered over Geneva and the lake and even stunt flying shows and parachute jumps by 1935.
An article on the landing of a New Standard biplane flown by a Navy pilot said the plane was immediately surrounded by “approximately 200 children” who were excited by the novelty. A month later a plane lost a wheel speeding down the runway to take off on a passenger hop. The field continued to be mentioned as an airport through 1939.
Finally, ScenicAire Park Inc. was established in 1946 by Hobart graduates John R. Smingler, the founder, and Robert B. Fraser, who would become president of the corporation. The corporation held 450 acres of land where the current Glass Factory Bay is on Seneca Lake near the Bayview Heights subdivision and bordering the former Seneca Lake Country Club. The founding members incorporated the airfield and used a dairy herd to cover operating expenses. ScenicAire owned six aircraft — two Fairchild Cornells and four Piper Cubs at the start of its life in 1946.
In their 1947 prospectus, the owners said they chose Geneva to build an airport because it was a growing city, centrally located in a “natural beauty area,” and a progressive city “except for its lack of air facilities.” They pointed out that having an airport in Geneva would only boost industry and help individuals as well as businesses thrive. Operations for ScenicAire included sightseeing, pleasure trips, instruction, rental and charter services when it first opened. The founders also encouraged private flying clubs to make ScenicAire their home base. They described it as an ideal first gas and service stop for all westbound light plane traffic that originated in the New York City area.
The founders make their wishes for the future clear in the prospectus: Their goals included an approved and licensed school of aviation which would be opened in the spring, a horseback riding academy, new docks installed on the lake and a nursery and play area built for children with a registered nurse in charge. The airport appears in the city directories until 1955.
My dad has been a small aircraft mechanic for longer than I’ve been alive ... which means I’ve been up in small helicopters and airplanes since I was old enough to be strapped into one. Seeing Seneca Lake from the air, especially in the fall, is such a gorgeous view; it’s definitely something for the bucket list.
Chapin is the archivist at the Geneva Historical Society.