Weekend Celebrations For Re-Opening Of Historic Ryan Visitor Center

The historic Ryan Visitor Center control tower at Floyd Bennett Field. Source: NPS.gov

Tons of educational, nostalgic and live music fun is to be had on May 5 and 6 this weekend as the historic William Fitts Ryan Visitor Center reopens this weekend after having been restored to its former glory. You may recall we posted about this awesome place a few months ago after Nick Carr of ScoutingNY put together a terrific photo essay.

According to the National Park Service’s website:

…step back in time to the Golden Age of Aviation as the William Fitts Ryan Visitor Center reopens. Over the past three years the Ryan Center has been restored to its 1930s appearance, when it served as the air terminal for Floyd Bennett Field, New York City’s first municipal airport.

The festivities kick off at noon on May 5 with live music, followed by a 12:30 p.m. ribbon-cutting. There will be contests, swing dancing, and children’s activities on both days, and the Rockaway Arts Alliance — an arts organization that works with its community to mentor local youth in artistic endeavors — will conduct children’s activities on both days in the new visitor center.

As part of the weekend-long celebrations, a full scale replica of the “Winnie Mae,” Wiley Post’s Lockheed Vega aircraft, will be christened. NPS tells us that “The original flew Post around the world twice in the early 1930s, including the first worldwide air trip flown solo by any pilot. This aircraft was built at Floyd Bennett Field’s Hangar B by volunteers from Gateway’s Historic Aircraft Restoration Project (HARP), based on a scale model.”

Visitors to the newly-restored center will be able to partake in a number of exciting activities, including being able to view newsreels from the airfield’s original heyday on a touch screen monitor. Kids can flex their aviation wings by being able to “fly” a mini-airplane, as well as test their paper airplane design skills.

Over the course of the three year renovation:

[T]he Ryan Center was painstakingly restored to its original look during the Golden Age of Aviation in the 1930s, when Floyd Bennett Field served as New York City’s municipal airport. Paintings and panels depicting modes of transportation from the steam engine to the dirigible have been restored to their 1939 appearance. Electrical, fire suppression, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems have been upgraded. A new elevator has been added for increased accessibility.


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