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The L.C. Smith Terminal--A Final Look on Its Final Day

Aviator C

Today is the last day of operation for the old L.C. Smith Terminal in Detroit.  Since Rob Hahn sent us so many great photos from Detroit, I wanted to use some of them for this little pictorial essay that takes a look at the L.C. Smith Terminal's final days.

When it was built in 1957, the sight of what was then an ultra-modern terminal was probably considered spectacular.  During the time I worked at the airport in 1976, there was a major fire in the restaurant.  From my vantage point at the Delta Cargo building was a big sweeping curve leading up to the terminal complex. Unfortunately, a fire truck took the turn too fast and flipped over right in front of our eyes (thankfully with minimal injuries). But, the terminal building survived.

This is what most airport terminal lobbies looked like all through the 1960s.  You can see the mezzanine above the ticket counters where I had my epiphany to seek out Southwest.

Frontier and AirTran occupy the former Delta ticket counter space.  In 1976, Delta had a large operation in Detroit, and in those regulated days, Delta carried a lot of connecting passengers to North Central and Allegheny Airlines.


I'm not sure where Rob photographed this clock, but what a cool example of 1950s modern style. Doris Day and Rock Hudson would be right at home under this clock. (There are little gems like this throughout the terminal.  For example, you can still find old "PHONE" signs in some locations.)


This is the view of the building from rampside.  Restaurant diners looked out some of these windows onto the ramp.  The facade of the building bears a remarkable resemblance to the slightly newer terminal at Love Field, before the original skin was either replaced or covered over.

On the B concourse, Snow Birds used to wait for flights to Florida.  Since the terminal was built before jetbridges came into wide use, my guess is that the building was completed with single level concourses and that later the upper level was added.

Southwest uses Concourse A, and it is reached via the hallway lined with glass bricks.  Could Detroit's proximity to Toledo, Ohio, the "Glass City," be the reason for all the glass bricks?

Southwest shares the concourse with US Airways.  The walk to the gate should be much shorter in the new terminal.

In a few hours, the last arriving passenger will drive away from this classic example of 1950s airport architecture.