Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields:
Massachusetts: Southwestern Boston area
© 2002, © 2014 by Paul Freeman. Revised 1/21/14.
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Canton Airport / Massachusetts Air Terminal / Boston Metropolitan Airport (revised 1/21/14)
State Muster Field / Framingham Airport (1st location) (added 10/3/12) - Gould Farm Airport / Framingham Airport (2nd location) (added 10/3/12)
State Muster Field / Framingham Airport (1st location), Framingham, MA
42.3 North / 71.41 West (West of Boston, MA)
Framingham “State Muster Field”, as depicted on a 1924 Commerce Department Aeronautical Bulletin (courtesy of Jonathan Westerling).
Jonathan Westerling wrote, “According to an article about Massachusetts high school sports team names,
Framingham High School’s mascot, the Flyers, came about thanks to the town's aviation history which began almost 100 years ago.”
According to local historian Stephen Herring, "During the time from the teens to the late 1940s, Framingham was known as an aviation-minded town.
It was a time when aviation was new. It was becoming a new thing & people were excited about it."
Jonathan continued, “The first airfield in Framingham was known as Musterfield Airport.
According to Framingham Legends & Lore by James Parr & Kevin Swope,
the property was known as the Musterfield, or State parade grounds & was used as an airfield beginning in 1920.
(though the field was not listed in the 1920 or 1921 Flying Guide & Logbook).
The government (it’s unclear whether it was the state or federal government) established an airport in Framingham
in the very early on in the days of aviation to function as an intermediate landing field from 1923-31.”
The first reference to the Framingham Airport which has been located
was in the 1923 United States Touring Information Bureau’s “Official Directory of Aeroplane Landing Fields” (according to Jonathan Westerling)
which described the airfield as consisting of a 2,500’ by 2,100’ field with a hangar & supplies.
According to Jonathan Westerling, “Framingham Legends & Lore noted 2 historic events which occurred at this airfield.
The first was the inaugural airmail flight to New England which landed in October 1921, flown by Lt. Reuben Moffat.
The air mail was trucked to Boston which did not yet have an airport (Logan Airport not being constructed until 1923).
The second historic flight was a ferry service for a shipment of asparagus from New Jersey which was arranged by the Commissioner of Agriculture on 5/17/22.
The Commissioner promised the Mayor of Boston & Governor of Massachusetts a side of freshly-picked asparagus at lunch,
presumably to demonstrate the promise of shipping fresh vegetables by air.
The event was covered by several newspapers, but unfortunately the pilot got lost & didn’t arrive until 3:30 in the afternoon.”
The earliest depiction of the Framingham Airport which has been located
was a listing in a 1924 Commerce Department Aeronautical Bulletin (courtesy of Jonathan Westerling).
It depicted Framingham's “State Muster Field” at the intersection of Worcester Road & Concord Street.
Jonathan Westerling noted, ”It was operated by the Skywriting Company of America, though the directory lists the prior operator as the US Air Corps.”
Jonathan Westerling noted that the 1927 Commerce Department Aeronautical Bulletin “shows the Framingham Airport
had made significant advances in only 3 years with an all-way landing field & border lights.
By now, the Boston to New York Airway had been formally established, and Framingham’s airport was designated 'Site 20' along this airway.
Interestingly, even though the layout & size of the field appear to be identical to what is depicted in the 1924 aeronautical bulletin,
the measurements given for the airfield decreased substantially.
Likely, this was due to improved or actual measurements being made.
The dimensions of the airfield as of 1927 were reduced to 1,980’ x 1,600’.”
The 1929 USGS topo map labeled the site as “Mass. State Muster Grounds”.
Jonathan Westerling reported, “According to the May 1929 Boston Globe, the Massachusetts State Legislature entertained debate
as to whether they should sell the Musterfield property to a private interest so that it could become a commercial (as opposed to government) airfield.
The proposal was shot down, however the airport continued to exist as an emergency landing field for a few more years.”
Jonathan continued, “The last reference to the original location of the Framingham Airport was in the 1931 Bulletin #2 (courtesy of David Brooks)
which listed the airfield as being largely unchanged since 1927.”
Jonathan continued, “The 1932 Airway Guide shows that the Framingham Airport no longer existed along the New York to Boston Airway,
however the rotating beacon located on the airfield was kept operational to mark the Airway.”
The 1938 USGS topo map continued to label the site as “Mass. State Muster Grounds”.
The 1943 USGS topo map depicted a school on the northeast corner of the airport site.
The 1951 USGS topo map showed a radio tower having been added to the northwest part of the airport site,
and several residential streets covering the southeastern portion.
A 1957 aerial photo no longer depicted any recognizable trace of an airfield.
A 6/19/10 aerial photo showed no trace remaining of the original Framingham Airport.
Jonathan Westerling reported, “Interestingly, as of 2012 there is still a heliport at this location, serving the Massachusetts State Police Headquarters.”
The site of the first location of Framingham Airport is located southwest of the intersection of Worcester Road & Concord Street.
Gould Farm Airport / Framingham Airport (2nd location), Framingham, MA
42.26 North / 71.41 West (West of Boston, MA)
The 1937 MA Airport Directory (courtesy of Jonathan Westerling) depicted the 2nd location of Framingham Airport as having 3 runways.
Jonathan Westerling wrote, “In 1931, a second Framingham airport was built about a mile & a half south of the original Framingham Airport.
According to framinghamhistory.org, this location was known as Gould Farm & became the Gould Farm Airport or Framingham Airport.
This new airfield was about twice the size of the original Framingham Airport.”
The first reference to this new airport which has been located was in the 1931 Airway Bulletin #2 (courtesy of David Brooks)
which described Framingham as consisting of a 2,335’ x 2,200’ landing field.
According to Jonathan Westerling, “Confusingly for pilots, both of Framingham’s airports had 'Framingham' written in large white letters on the hangar roof.
Both airports coexisted for a short time, but the original Framingham airport was closed by 1932 as it is not indicated in the 1932 Airway Guide.”
According to “Framingham Legends & Lore” by James Parr & Kevin Swope,
“Opening day festivities took place on November 8-9,1930, with almost 10,000 people in attendance.
Spectators thrilled to airplane races & stunts, and over 700 people took rides.”
The 1932 & 1934 Bulletin #2 (according to Jonathan Westerling) listed the Framingham Airport with 3 grass runways (instead of a rectangular field):
2,800' northwest/southeast, 2,000' north/south, and 1,900’ east/west.
The 1937 Massachusetts Airport Directory (according to Jonathan Westerling) depicted Framingham Airport as having 3 runways,
with a cluster of buildings on the northeast side.
It listed the owner as Helen Gould & the FBO as Air Service, Inc.
According to the 75th anniversary publication of Fitts Insurance Services,
the 1938 New England Hurricane took out the hangar at Framingham Airport along with 4 planes.
The second location of Framingham Airport was not depicted at all on the 1938 USGS topo map.
According to Jonathan Westerling, “The airport [was] closed to all but military operations since 1942 since it was located within 25 miles of shore.”
The only photo which has been located showing the Framingham Airport
was a 10/30/42 aerial view looking north from the 1945 AAF directory (courtesy of Scott Murdoch).
It depicted Framingham as being an irregularly-shaped grass field with several buildings on the northeast corner.
The 1943 USGS topo map depicted Framingham Airport as an open area with 3 small buildings on the northeast side.
The 1944 Directory of Airfields (courtesy of Scott Murdoch) listed the longest runway at Framingham as having been reduced to 1,900'.
The 1945 AAF directory (courtesy of Scott Murdoch) described Framingham Airport as a 110 acre rectangular field
within which was an all-way field having 4 runways, the longest being a 1,900' northwest/southeast strip,
with the note, “Caution: Rough.”
Framingham was said to have a single 70' x 60' steel hangar,
and to be owned & operated by private interests.
The last depiction which has been located of the Framingham Airport was on the 1945 Boston Sectional Chart (courtesy of John Voss).
It depicted Framingham as a commercial/municipal airport.
According to “Framingham Legends & Lore” by James Parr & Kevin Swope,
“After the war, town officials were working on a plan to make the site a municipal airport when Teddy Gould sold the land to General Motors,
ending Framingham’s almost 30-year association with the aviation business.”
According to Joanathan Westerling, “In November 1945, ground was broken for a new GM plant on the location of the Framingham Airport.”
Framingham Assembly opened in 1947, and the first vehicle, a Buick, was produced on 2/26/48.
The 1951 USGS topo map depicted the large GM factory covering the airport site,
and a 1957 aerial photo no longer showed any trace of Framingham Airport.
The GM plant was closed on 8/1/89, after a long period of contention between local & state politicians.
As of 2012, Wikipedia reports, “The facility is now the location of an ADESA automobile, truck, and boat warehouse & live auction site.”
The second location of Framingham Airport is located west of the intersection of Western Avenue & Herring Avenue.
A 6/19/10 aerial photo showed no trace remaining of the second location of Framingham Airport,
with the property covered by the former GM factory.
The site of the second location of Framingham Airport is located southwest of the intersection of Worcester Road & Concord Street.
Massachusetts Air Terminal & Arena / Canton Airport / Massachusetts Air Terminal /
Boston Metropolitan Airport, Canton, MA
42.17 North / 71.16 West (Southwest of Boston, MA)
A grandiose 1930 plan for the “Massachusetts Air Terminal & Arena”, on the site of what would eventually become the Canton Airport.
According to A Postcard from Canton, “There are long-lost plans of men and women that, if implemented, would have changed Canton forever.
The most notable of these plans was the development of the Massachusetts Air Terminal & Arena.
The ambition of the men who devised the plan was to construct a major air terminal along the border of Canton & Norwood -
in essence an airport that would become one of the nation’s hubs for the fledgling passenger & commercial air industry.
A small group of men gathered together to discuss the ambition for building landing fields, hangars, and assorted recreational facilities
for the Massachusetts Air Terminal and Arena (MATA).
In the spring of 1930 the engineering firm of Merick Widlish & Co. of Chicago began the engineering plans and study for the new airport.
Merick Wildish specialized in community-based airfield development.
On June 16 the engineers unveiled a masterful plan that would begin the transformation of 1,298 acres from a shallow wetland of thick peat to the proposed 'world-class airport'.”
A Postcard from Canton continued, “Investors in MATA had purchased land in the Fowl Meadows along Neponset Street
and bordered by a new state superhighway off of present-day Route 1.
One important feature was that the land bordered almost a mile & a half of railroad lines & proposed industrial land.
The purchase, when recorded in the Dedham Registry of Deeds,
was said to be the largest single parcel of land ever to be assembled by a private company in the Commonwealth.
These were heady dreams: the plans included 8 runways, hangars, dirigible docking bays & a mast,
a separate area exclusively for aviation club members, hotels, and a fire department base.
In addition, the arena areas included a 9-hole golf course with country club buildings, a tennis club, athletic fields, and a small stadium.
The plans were unique from any other development in the country at this time.”
[However these grandiose plans seem to have been created by someone lacking any aviation knowledge,
as it featured essentially 3 separate airfield complexes in close proximity,
which would have put their traffic patterns in conflict with each other.
Not to mention, most problematically, a “student area” airfield at the southeast corner
which sat directly adjacent to the dirigible area, with one runway ending right at the dirigible mooring mast.]
A Postcard from Canton continued, “On a balmy Sunday afternoon, 2,500 people attended the tour of the property
and viewed flagged lines where the runways would be laid out.
Their imaginations were set loose on that October day.
Gathering at Glider Hill - Inspiration Point - were the managers, engineers, and leaders of the project, as each one took a hand at explaining the vision.
More than 200 cars visited the site & caused a general ruckus that probably had never been seen in this small town previously.
Within weeks of the open house the excitement reached a fevered pitch.
A general committee was formed in several towns, and Canton named over 170 members - all leading individuals in the community.
The general sentiment was in favor of the new airport, and what was once pasture & grazing land would be transformed into an economic engine for the region.”
A Postcard from Canton continued, “Work began in January 1931 and a steam shovel began bringing up gravel on the site to compact the new runways.
J.P. White Contracting was awarded the bid to build the project, and it would take 4 months to get the land ready for the construction of the hangars & administration building.
Most of the laborers on the project were Canton men who were badly in need of work while in the throes of the Great Depression.
Despite the weak economy, more than $130,000 was raised through private investors in the fledgling company.
The first planes to land in Canton touched down in the spring, and the town was abuzz with excitement. It is hard to overstate the interest.
Every week the front page of the local paper blazed headlines about the airport, and advertisements regularly invited locals to climb aboard & see the town from the air.”
A Postcard from Canton continued, “Officially, the first air service to use the hangars & field were operated by Lt. Robert S. Fogg, reputedly the 'safest flyer in New England'.
Fogg had a considerable record, carrying over 27,000 passengers on his charter service without a mishap.
On a Wednesday afternoon in early June, a brilliant black and orange, open cockpit biplane, powered with a Wright motor & capable of a top speed of 135 MPH,
taxied to a stop in front of the newly-completed hangar that would soon hold 15 planes.
When Fogg touched down purely by chance, he was met by Selectman Joseph Wattles & Paul Draper.”
A Postcard from Canton continued, “On 6/26/31, the Canton Airport was opened for business.
When it opened it was the 3rd largest in the state. Traffic around the airport snarled as curiosity reigned supreme.
Every weekend hundreds of people would come to see the aeroplanes land & take off from the Canton Airport.
In fact, while there was an airport in East Boston (now Logan International), at times passenger flights hampered by fog in Boston would be forced to land in Canton,
where passengers would be transferred to Canton Junction to complete the trip into Boston.”
American Airways constructed a hangar & an administration building on the property along with E.W. Wiggins Airways.
The airport was not yet depicted on the 1932 USGS topo map.
According to Cindy Bates, “In 1932 the name was changed to Boston Metropolitan Airport, Inc.”
The 1930s were a very exciting time for the fledgling little airport, including a visit from Charles Lindbergh.
"Massachusetts Air Terminal", as depicted on the 1934 U.S. Navy Aviation Chart (courtesy of Chris Kennedy).
The 1934 Department of Commerce Airport Directory (according to Chris Kennedy)
described Boston Metropolitan Airport as having 4 gravel runways.
Boston Metropolitan, as depicted on a 1935 Regional Aeronautical Chart (courtesy of Scott O'Donnell).
The huge airship Hindenberg conducted practice approaches at Boston Metropolitan.
After the destruction of the Hindenburg in New Jersey & the decline in the use of the dirigibles,
plans for a transatlantic dirigible base at Boston Metropolitan were dropped.
During the years of the depression, the airport failed to grow as expected,
but air shows & other demonstrations drew large crowds.
The 1937 “Progress Report of the Committee For Aeronautics of the Commonwealth of MA” (courtesy of Jonathan Westerling)
depicted Boston Metropolitan Airport as an irregularly-shaped 127 gravel field,
within which were 4 gravel runways, the longest being the 2,100' northwest/southeast strip.
It was described as a commercial airport, owned by the Dennison Airport Corporation & operated by the Dennison Airport Operating Company.
Two hangars, an administration building & a repair shop were depicted on the southeast side of the field.
The earliest photo which has been located of Boston Metropolitan Airport
was an undated aerial view looking southwest from The Airport Directory Company's 1937 Airports Directory (courtesy of Bob Rambo).
It described Boston Metropolitan as having 4 sod runways, with the longest being the 2,500' northwest/southeast strip.
The photo depicted 2 hangars on the southwest corner of the field.
The Airport Directory Company's 1938 Airports Directory (courtesy of Chris Kennedy)
described Boston Metropolitan in the same manner as the 1937 directory had.
According to Cindy Bates, “A 1940 study recommended removing the airport to the Norwood side.”
The 1941 USGS topo map labeled the site simply as "Airport",
and depicted the 2 hangars, but did not depict any runways.
A 1/2/42 aerial view looking north at Canton Airport (from the National Archives, via Marc Frattasio),
showing 4 grass runways, 5 hangars, and several light planes.
An undated (circa early 1940s?) aerial view looking northwest at 5 hangars at Canton Airport (courtesy of Roger Pinel),
two of which bear “ E.W. Wiggins Airways” legends.
Seven biplanes & monoplanes were visible on the field.
During WW2 the airport was part of the defense system & flight training program along the East coast.
It was during this time that the Canton Airport came into competition
with Bedford Airport for government contracts & expansion.
Bedford won the competition because the overall geographic area was more suitable,
and today it is still a busy, active concern.
The failure of the town to modernize Canton Airport guaranteed its death.
Boston Metropolitan, as depicted on the November 1944 Boston Sectional Chart (courtesy of Chris Kennedy).
In 1946, Wiggins Airways moved across the river to Norwood where it remains today.
An undated photo of Peter “Richie” Sarra with his 1947 Mcclish Funk B85C at Canton Airport.
The last aircraft-related company at Canton Airport was Helio Aircraft Corporation.
In the late 1940s, Otto Koppen of MIT & Dr. Lynn Bollinger of Harvard
developed the first Helioplane experimental prototype, a short take off & landing (STOL) light aircraft.
The two college professors noted the precipitous drop-off
of the earlier high demand for light airplanes in the immediate post war years
and determined that the market for the standard light planes
that required a normal airport had been grossly overestimated.
The two professors correctly assessed that a major part of the problem
was the unfulfilled postwar promise of an airplane in every garage.
They felt that the ability to land in your own back yard,
providing you had a big one, was an achievable goal.
Thus they conceived the idea of an inexpensive STOL light airplane that was controllable at very low flight speeds.
The professors arranged for Greater Boston Metropolitan Airport fixed base operator,
E.W. Wiggins Airways & volunteers to convert a Piper PA-17 Vagabond to the 2-place Helio No.1.
The only unmodified part of the Vagabond was the fuselage cabin area.
The original engine was replaced with a fuel-injected 85 hp Continental
fitted with a multi-belt reduction unit that drove a specially designed nine-foot Koppers Aeromatic propeller.
This extra large diameter propeller with its large thrust component was a major contributor to the success of the Helio-1.
The propeller's wide slipstream coverage of the wing slats & slotted flaps
provided a substantial added lift component during the take-off, landing and the slow/near hover flight regimes.
The wing had a complete array of the high lift devices available at that time,
including leading edges with retractable full span Handley Page automatic slats
and trailing edges with the equivalent of full-span slotted flaps.
The ailerons could be drooped in the slow speed configuration to act as flaps & still perform for banking purposes.
Most of these devices had been individually demonstrated previously
but Professor Koppen was the first in the United States to successfully
take advantage of the synergism of their combined capabilities.
The successful first flight was in 1949.
While the Helio-1 had a top speed slightly faster than the Vagabond,
its slow speed capability of 30 mph was far superior to any fixed wing aircraft available at that time.
The takeoff, landing and slow speed performance was spectacular.
Its takeoff roll was less than 100 feet & the distance to clear a 50 foot obstacle was less that 300 feet.
The Helio Aircraft Corporation had initially planned to market the 2-place version
but the market saturation of lightplanes caused the company to redirect its efforts.
The aircraft in every garage remained a dream
and so the 4-place Courier, with more utility & payload,
was developed for both the civilian & military markets.
Stan Richardson recalled, “I went to Wiggins A.& E. school in 1949-50
and was there when Koppen & Bollinger built the 'Helioplane'.
I watched its first test flight (I wish I still had the picture I took, standing by the office building).”
The Courier was certified by the Civil Aeronautics Administration in 1953.
The last aeronautical chart depiction which has been located of Boston Metropolitan Airport
was on the May 1955 Boston Sectional Chart (courtesy of Graeme Smith).
It depicted Boston Metropolitan as a private airfield with a 2,100' unpaved runway.
In 1956, the Helio Aircraft Corporation merged with Mid-States Manufacturing Corporation of Pittsburgh, KS.
The Canton location was then primarily research & development with some limited amounts of construction.
At one point, the Helio company employed about 46 people in Canton.
A November 1956 aerial view by Mark L. Thaisz of Col-East, Inc.
depicted Canton Airport as having 3 hangars, 4 unpaved runways, and 2 single-engine aircraft.
The last depiction which has been located of Canton as an active airport was a 4/22/57 USGS aerial photo.
It depicted Canton Airport as having 3 hangars, 4 unpaved runways, and 2 single-engine aircraft.
The 1958 USGS topo map continued to label an open area simply as "Airport".
Boston Metropolitan Airport apparently closed at some point between 1957-59,
as it was no longer depicted at all on the 1959 Boston Local Aeronautical Chart (courtesy of Chris Kennedy).
Jim D'Attilio recalled “Canton Airport... Interstate 95 was constructed through the north east edge around 1959,
with Norwood Airport being located on the other side.
Neponset Street itself (the street nearest the hangars) was widened & moved somewhat around the same time.”
The 1960 USGS topo map depicted Canton Airport as having 4 short unpaved runways,
with several buildings along the southwest side.
Helio’s first plane manufactured in Canton went into the Smithsonian Institute in Washington in 1963.
The Helio company remained in Canton until 1964 when it moved to Bedford Airport.
The 1966 USGS topo map continued to depict Canton Airport as having 4 short unpaved runways,
with several buildings along the southwest side.
Bob Sission recalled, “Canton Airport... After Helio Aircraft Corp left the site,
the hangars were used by United Consultant Corp to convert the Republic Seabee to the UC-1 Twin Bee.
That activity continued until 1969. I live in Canton & visited the site many times.
I re-checked my information with Peter Annis the test pilot for all of the conversions.
Peter flew the test flight from Canton & if there was no problem he would land it at the Norwood Airport.”
Canton Airport appeared closed in a November 1965 aerial view by Mark L. Thaisz of Col-East, Inc..
It showed that a road had been constructed running right through the center of the hangars,
and continuing north through the center of the runways.
The 3 hangars still remained, though, and the outline of all 4 runways still remained recognizable.
The 1966 USGS topo map depicted Canton Airport as having 4 short unpaved runways,
with several buildings along the southwest side.
Jim D'Attilio recalled “Canton Airport...
I may have had the privilege of seeing one of the last planes ever to take off from there.
In 1969 a number of small companies were using parts of the property for parking, etc.
On a Sunday morning, my dad & I drove over there to look at a truck.
When we did, we spotted a very unusual plane taxiing away from the hangar area.
We were shocked as neither of us believed there had been any planes there in decades.
The plane was unusual too, as it was a 'pusher' type - which I had never seen before.
My father drove some ways down the remains of the main runway to see where it had gone.
We soon gave up & drove back toward the hangars.
The runway bed was quite poor condition at this point, but still drivable.
Minutes later we were shocked to see the plane come roaring low overhead as we reached the hangar area.
We never were able to learn if it was just someone who had put down by mistake,
or a private pilot who was renting space at one of the old hangars.”
A 1969 aerial photo showed that the airfield appeared to remain largely intact, with the exception of the road cutting through the center.
No aircraft were visible on the field.
The former airfield property was used as an automobile junkyard starting in 1970.
The 1972 USGS topo map still depicted the cluster of buildings along the southwest side,
but the runways were no longer depicted, and the site was no longer labeled as an airport.
A 4/1/77 USGS aerial view showed that the field remained largely intact.
A 1978 aerial photo showed that all 3 hangars remained standing.
The use of the airfield property as an automobile junkyard ended in 1980.
From 1980-2000, the former airfield site was the property of MDC, which used it for a sewer pipe run.
A circa 1991 photo of the 2 remaining hangars on the southwest side of the former Boston Metropolitan Airport.
A 1999 photo by Peter Kodis of the 2 remaining hangars on the southwest side of the former Boston Metropolitan Airport.
A 1999 photo by Peter Kodis looking along the remains of a runway at Boston Metropolitan Airport.
The airport originally had a total of 5 hangars.
Two of these hangars still existed (as of 2000) on the southwest side of the property,
while at least 1 of the other 3 hangars was relocated to nearby Norwood Airport.
A May 2003 aerial photo by John Ford of Les Vants Aerial Photos
showed that only 2 of the hangars still remained, although one of them had mostly fallen down.
A fence surrounded a square parcel around the former hangars.
A circa 2005 aerial photo looking north at the 2 remaining circa 1930s hangars
on the southwest side of the former Boston Metro Airport.
A 2006 aerial photo showed that the remains of the runways were very badly decayed, but still discernible as cleared areas.
One hangar at the southwest corner of the field remained intact as well.
A circa 2006-2009 aerial view shows that the remains of the last hangars were evidently removed at some point between 2006-2009.
A sign on a fenced gate on Neponset Street says “Former Canton Airport”.
The Boston Metro property is located east of the intersection of I-95 & Neponset Street.
It sits only a mile directly under the final approach path to Norwood Airport's Runway 35.
Thanks to Peter Kodis for pointing out this airfield.
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