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Cincinnati, OH New Deal art

New Deal Art in Cincinnati, Ohio

The following is from “The History of Cincinnati Municipal Lunken Airport – 75 Years of Aviation”

Lunken Airport, 262 Wilmer Avenue, Cincinnati
Shortly after World War I, a group of ex-army pilots leveled off a grain field outside Cincinnati and built a small barnstorming airport. A prominent local industrialist, Mr. Edmund P. Lunken, purchased the property and in the early 20s leased his 204 acres of land to the private Lunken Airport Company for use as an airfield. On September 5, 1928, Mr. Lunken leased the property to the City of Cincinnati. The city purchased additional land, creating Lunken Airport on 2,000 acres. Charles Lindbergh visited Lunken Airport in 1927 on his way to New York before making his historic trans-Atlantic flight to Paris, France. In 1929, Lunken Airport had 29,059 flights carrying 8,528 passengers and 80,000 pounds of mail. By the airport’s dedication ceremony in 1930, Lunken was the largest commercial airport in the United States.


The paintings at the Lunken terminal were painted in 1937 by William Harry Gothard and were designed to compliment the ornate plasterwork (destroyed by the flood of 1937 during construction).


The paintings were already half-completed when the flood of 1937 struck. The paintings were moved to the Union Terminal for completion. When the terminal opened, they were returned to Lunken.

Mr. Gothard was the Chief Conservationist of the Cincinnati Art Museum in 1937 and won a Federal Art Project competition for the paintings.

Both paintings are oil on canvas and framed, each marked with the brass Federal Art Project tag on the bottom frame.


The painting on the left as you walk into the terminal depicts surface transportation (trains, stagecoachs) and shows gravity as a huge burden on the shoulders of man.

The Lunken terminal isn’t the hub of activity that it was before the
Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport moved to Erlanger, and there aren’t as many people bustling through the terminal to notice the paintings, but they remain a valuable part of Cincinnati history.