West Shore Terminal

The story of TPA's old terminal building.

  When Eastern and National Airlines relocated to Drew Field in the spring of 1946 they moved into the old Army Air Force Operations Building which had been converted into a passenger terminal.  The old frame structure was located near the intersection of West Shore and Tampa Bay Blvd in Drew Park.  During this time, Eastern and National Airlines would park their airliners along the apron parallel to West Shore Blvd.  

  After the arrival of Trans Canada Airlines (Air Canada) on April 02, 1950 the aviation authority began working on a terminal better suited to airline service.  Officials initially wanted the building to be situated in Drew Park near the old terminal.  Changes were later made in order to make the facility more accessible to Pinellas County residents.   The chosen site for the new terminal was near the intersection of Columbus and West Shore Blvd, adjacent to runways 09-27 and 18L-36R.


Landside & airside views of a brand new West Shore Terminal.

  The linear, four-story, concrete and glass structure opened in August 1952.  The $1-million building had a main lobby which included a gift shop, newsstand and a staircase to a second level observation deck and restaurant.  Bartkeís Restaurant (completed at a cost of $100,000) could seat 250 patrons and included a cocktail lounge.  At the time the facility was the largest airport restaurant in Florida.  The ticket counters for the three carriers (Eastern, National & Trans Canada Airlines) serving the airport were located to the east of the main lobby and the baggage claim areas were situated to the west.  A shelf-type luggage platform was installed along the north side of the baggage claim area.  Doors along the walls were opened and suitcases were placed on the shelves, for retrieval by passengers.   Access to and from the gate area was thru glass doors at the north end of the main lobby.  A corral along the north side of the terminal served as the departure gate.  A control tower cab was located atop the building's third level.  The terminalís $800,000 apron had a length of 700 feet and a width of 300 feet.  It was designed to handle the largest piston-powered airliners of the period.

  William Berlin (HCAA Director) and Captain Eddie Rickenbacker (President of Eastern Airlines) officially dedicated the facility on August 17th.  George T. Baker (President of National), C. E. Woolman (President of Delta Airlines) and 400 aviation officials from around the country were invited to the ceremony. 


Two mid 1950s curbside views of the West Shore Terminal. 

  Air traffic skyrocketed during the 1950s as a result of new route awards.  Mackey Airlines began scheduled service on January 1, 1955 with direct flights to the Bahamas via Ft Lauderdale.  Northeast Airlines initiated scheduled service on August 3, 1957 with flights to Boston and New York.  Northwest Airlines began scheduled service on December 6, 1958 with direct flights to Minneapolis/St Paul via Chicago.  Trans World Airlines initiated scheduled service on December 16th with flights to St Louis.  Delta Airlines launched scheduled service on January 18, 1959 with flights to Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit and Miami.  Capital Airlines commenced scheduled service on January 22nd, with flights to Atlanta, Jacksonville, Miami and Pittsburgh.


Two late 1950s views of the West Shore Terminal.

  In December 1958 an annex was opened (to accommodate the growing list of carriers) east of the 1952 Terminal Building.  The annex was basically a rectangular-shaped, cinder-block, two-story Unit Terminal that was architecturally coordinated with the original building.  The west section of the terminal housed a coffee shop, gift shop and the airline ticket counters.  A baggage claim area (furnished with shelf-type luggage platforms) occupied the east side of the building. 

A 1960 view of an expanded West Shore Terminal.  Note the annex building in the background.  

  Jet-powered operations began in December 1959 when Eastern Airlines inaugurated Lockheed L-188 Electra Prop-Jet flights to Atlanta and New York.  National Airlines introduced the airport to the turbojet on March 15, 1960 with Douglas DC-8 flights to New York.

A 1961 postcard featuring a Delta Douglas DC-8 and a National Airlines Lockheed L-188 Electra.

  In 1961 the annex and the 1952 Terminal were joined and made into a continuous structure.  In an effort to increase airside capacity, a concourse was built along the north side of the terminal and a south concourse was constructed parallel to West Shore Blvd.  The south concourse boasted a larger baggage claim area (that replaced the one in the 1952 Terminal) and ticketing facilities for Trans Canada Airlines.  The old baggage claim area at the 1952 Terminal was then converted into a US Customs and Immigration Center.  Terminal capacity was increased to 600,000 passengers per year and the new concourses could accommodate a total of 18 Lockheed L-188 Electra airliners.  One-million passengers passed thru the terminal during 1961 and it became clear to the aviation authority that the facilities would soon become obsolete.

  National Airlines inaugurated nonstop flights to Los Angeles on June 11, 1961.  This route was the very first to link Florida with California and was operated utilizing Lockheed L-188 Electra airliners.


Some of the airlines serving Tampa International Airport during the mid-1960s.

  Three additional carriers were awarded routes to Tampa during the 1960s.  United began began scheduled service on July 1, 1961 after its merger with Capital Airlines.  Pan American started scheduled service on November 9th with flights to Mexico City.  Braniff International launched scheduled service on October 26, 1969 with flights to Dallas.

A 1968 aerial view of the West Shore Terminal complex.

  In 1964 Eastern and National Airlines began Boeing 727 operations.  The airport got a preview of the Jumbo Jet, when Delta Airlines inaugurated Douglas DC-8-61 flights on June 14, 1967.

Assorted 1969 views of an extremely busy West Shore Terminal.

  By 1969 the airport was handling close to three-million passengers within a terminal that had handled 293,006 passengers in 1952.  Conditions at the aging terminal were extremely challenging.  Passengers lugging suitcases crowded the narrow baggage claim and ticketing areas.  The 1,100-space parking lot was jammed packed with vehicles.  Boeing 727s, Douglas DC-8s, DC-9s and Lockheed L-188 Electras cluttered the aircraft parking apron.


The Signature general aviation center occupies the site of the old West Shore Terminal.

  April 14, 1971 was the last day of airline operations at the old terminal.  The terminal's control tower remained in service until the present one was activated on July 15, 1972.  During the early 1970s the Hillsborough Community College occupied part of the building and held classes there.  Plans for a new General Aviation Terminal to be constructed on the site of the 1952 Terminal were made in the mid 1970s.  Demolition of the old terminal started on October 10, 1975.  On May 29, 1980 ceremonies were held on the site to mark the beginning of construction on a 77,000 square-foot General Aviation Terminal.  The new facility (operated by Hangar One Inc.) opened on November 5, 1981.  Today all that remains of the 1952 Terminal is the L-shaped aircraft parking apron.

A 1960 shot of the West Shore Terminal taken from Columbus Drive.

An Air Canada Douglas DC-8 taxies away from the West Shore Terminal.  Note the Tampa Air Center in the background.


An Eastern Boeing 720 taxies away from the terminal (left) and a National Airlines Douglas DC-8 prepares to depart (right).

A Northeast Airlines McDonnell Douglas DC-9 rests at the south concourse.