Thursday, August 14, 2008

Burke Lakefront Airport named after HC alumnus

A few days ago, for some reason, I was looking up a listing of the mayors of Cleveland and noticed that The Honorable Thomas Aloysius Burke, Jr., had a Wikipedia entry indicating he attended "Holy Cross University." Backchecking on the Holy Cross alumni online community, I found that Burke was indeed one of our alumni of the class of 1920 at the College of the Holy Cross, and that his wife was Mrs. Evelyn Burke.

Burke Lakefront Airport (BKL), the sixth busiest airport in the state of Ohio, was named after him; it opened in 1947. Here, below, are a few notes from the city planning commission regarding the lakefront plans Burke set in motion. As a side note, the Cleveland Port Director when the Air Shows began at BKL back in 1964 was Captain Noel C. Painchaud, USNR (R), also an alumnus of the College of the Holy Cross, class of 1954. Hoya.


Burke Lakefront Airport opened as Cleveland’s second municipally-owned airport with a 3,600-foot dirt runway and a small operations facility.


The Lakeland Freeway (now I-90) was constructed through Gordon Park, almost destroying it.


The Cleveland Aquarium opened at Gordon Park south of I-90.   Operated by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the City of Cleveland, the Aquarium housed freshwater and marine exhibits in a building originally constructed as a bath house.   A major expansion in 1967 tripled the Aquarium’s size giving it a capacity of 82,000 gallons, but by 1985 structural problems forced the building to close and the exhibits were transferred to the Cleveland Metroparks in 1986.


After additional landfill had been placed in Lake Erie, a 5,200-foot hard surface runway opened at Burke Lakefront Airport.


The northern segment of Cleveland’s Innerbelt (I-90) that would eventually wrap downtown Cleveland on its eastern and southern sides opened between Memorial Shoreway and Chester Avenue.   A sharp curve, created as the depressed highway passed under the lakefront railroad tracks and merged with the Shoreway, produced numerous accidents and continues to be known locally as “Deadmans Curve”.


Intercity Yacht Club was established at East 72nd Street north of Gordon Park.


The City of Cleveland leased property at the eastern end of Burke Lakefront Airport to the Cleveland Board of Education to build Aviation High School.


A confined disposal facility, holding dredgings from the Cuyahoga River shipping channel, was filled creating 114 acres of new land at the eastern end of Burke Lakefront Airport.


  1. I like the timeline you included to show the development thru the years. Is Gordon Park still there? or is it something else?

  2. Gordon Park is still there--near the Aquarium. When are you and the wee one going back home?