Long Beach Airport’s Historic Terminal Set to Reopen After $17.8 Million Restoration Project

July 9, 2024

The Long Beach Airport’s Historic Terminal — which closed in February 2023 to undergo a significant restoration and renovation — will reopen to the public later this month.

The $17.8 million project, part of the airport’s larger $125 million Terminal Area Improvements Program, sought to unveil and bring back to life the terminal’s myriad historic elements while modernizing certain aspects of the building.

The terminal, which was designed by architects William Horace Austin and Kenneth Smith Wing, boasted elements of the 1930s Streamline Moderne style along geometric abstraction.

It opened to the public in 1942, about a year after its originally planned opening, which was delayed because of the Pearl Harbor attacks that launched America into World War II.

Five decades later, the building received historic monument status from the Long Beach Cultural Heritage Commission.

The renovation project, meanwhile, aimed to bring to life the Historic Terminal’s beloved elements.

Midway through the project, for example, Long Beach officials announced that the work had unveiled previously hidden portions of a tile mosaic artwork created by artist Grace Clements in 1941.

The original artwork included nine vignettes made of about 1.6 million hand-cut tiles and wall murals. The artwork encompasses about 4,300 square-feet on the terminal’s first floor and extends up to a portion of the second floor.

Despite its mastery, Clements’ work was covered up with carpet and vinyl flooring in the 1960s. It was essentially lost to time until airport workers discovered some of the vignettes in 2012.

The restoration project uncovered the final three vignettes — a plane, a sailboat and a school of fish.

Besides restoring the mosaic masterwork, LGB’s project also restored the Art Deco-style western entrance of the terminal, which had been closed for decades.

The city also preserved the Historic Terminal’s iconic wall clock and signage, according to a Wednesday, July 3, city news release.

“This renovation project restores many of the classic building features that haven’t been seen by the public in years,” Fourth District Councilmember Daryl Supernaw said in in the news release. “I’m delighted that this icon of Long Beach architecture will continue to be part of daily operations at the airport, to be enjoyed by travelers for decades to come.”

Other more modern renovations included seismic retrofitting, updating the bathrooms, converting the terminal’s former ticketing area into a rental car service space, and updating the administrative offices, the news releases said.

Following the renovation, the Historic Terminal’s first floor now houses rental car customer service, while the second floor will be home to airport administrators.

Passengers now check in for flights at LGB’s new Ticketing Lobby, which opened in 2022. The airport also opened a new baggage claim area last year.

The airport will host a public open house to celebrate the Historic Terminal’s reopening from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, July 27.

The event will feature history tours, music, children’s activities, giveaways and light refreshments, according to the city. Three hours of free parking will be available to guests in Parking Structure B.

The open house is the latest in a series of events the airport has planned throughout 2024 to celebrate its 100th anniversary — which officially took place on Nov. 26.

“As we celebrate a century of service, the renovation of our Historic Terminal is a testament to our commitment to preserving our rich aviation history while also maintaining modern, first-class standards,” LGB Director Cynthia Guidry said. “The Historic Terminal is the crown jewel of the Long Beach Airport campus, and I’m so excited to see travelers explore this beautifully restored space.”

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