Pittsburgh’s aviation history has a legacy of being industry leading.
On this day in 1952, Greater Pittsburgh Airport opened as the largest airport terminal in the country, replacing Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin as the region’s commercial airport.
With the world’s first airport movie theater, public observation decks to view the airfield, a barbershop, and restaurant known as the Horizon Room – Greater PIT was a popular spot for Pittsburgh locals to visit.
And while a lot has changed in 67 years, there are still parts of the former airport in today’s “Midfield” terminal, Pittsburgh International, including its air traffic control tower, which opened in March 1985.
Hanging above the airport’s airside Center Core area, Alexander Calder’s mobile Pittsburgh was originally located in the rotunda area of Greater Pittsburgh. The mobile was created in 1958 for the Pittsburgh-based contemporary art exhibition, the Pittsburgh International, now known as the Carnegie International.
Located near the airport entrance, Renascence, a 21-foot tall aluminum sculpture, is another piece originally housed at Greater PIT. Designed by artist Ron Bennett in 1980, Renascence symbolizes the hardness of business and the region’s industrial background.
As airport officials prepare for the new terminal, set to open in 2023, a panel of experts coordinated by the Allegheny County Airport Authority will review PIT’s permanent art collection, and will likely feature the beloved current pieces and installations in the new terminal.
Additionally, concepts from Greater Pittsburgh, including an outdoor observation deck, are being included in design plans for PIT’s Terminal Modernization Program. Just like Greater PIT served the needs of Pittsburgh of the time, so too will the new terminal serve the modern needs of a tech-forward region for decades to come.
Greater PIT circa 1971. (Photo courtesy: John Rourke)