My father worked for Eastern Airlines in New York when I was a child. It was a period of dynamic growth and expansion for the aviation industry. Even though my father worked at the Eastern facility at LaGuardia Airport, we did sometimes fly out of the New York International Airport. It was commonly known as Idlewild before it was renamed JFK.
The TWA Flight Center opened at Idlewild in the spring of 1962. This iconic building was designed for Trans World Airlines by Eero Saarinen and Associates. It featured a prominent wing-shaped thin shell roof supported by four “Y”-shaped piers. Inside was an open three-level space with tall windows enabling views of departing and arriving jets. Two tube-shaped red-carpeted departure-arrival corridors extended outward from the terminal, connecting to the gates. I remember driving though the airport with my father to see it half-a-dozen times while it was being built. He took my brother and I on an “exploration” after it opened. This was just a few months before he was killed in a plane crash returning from a flight check assignment.
The TWA Flight Center operated as an active terminal until 2001. A new terminal was built around it in 2008. Even though part of the complex was demolished, the main building known as the “head house” was preserved. In 2019, the POrt Authority converted it to a hotel. The TWA Hotel preserved this classic architectural gem. The contemporary hotel has a mid-century modern aesthetic throughout.
The TWA Hotel recently added a 1958 Lockheed Constellation Strainer as a massive, one-of-a-kind cocktail bar. Known as the Connie Cocktail Lounge, this amazing facility will take you back to the golden days of aviation. The plane itself has a very interesting history. The restoration was really well done. It is definitely “wicked cool.”