Heartland Bank Gives Old Port Columbus Terminal New Life

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly
The original Port Columbus terminal today

Though he'd driven past itnumerous times, Heartland Bank CEO Scott McComb hadn't thought twice about the Port Columbus terminal building. It wasn't until he learned it topped the Columbus Landmarks Foundation list of the most endangered buildings in the area that the idea to relocate Heartland Bank's headquarters struck. Following renovations on the terminal and pending decisions on a host of details, the bank's headquarters in Gahanna could find a new home in the 1929 Port Columbus terminal and Transcontinental Air Transport hangar.

Looking Back

After his historic intercontinental solo flight to France in 1927, Charles Lindbergh turned his attention to commercial aviation. Lindbergh chose the location for the Port Columbus terminal, and on July 8, 1929, the original terminal building and TAT hangar opened as a stop on the nation's first transcontinental passenger service.

The coast-to-coast service included daytime flights on TAT, one of the nation's first airlines, and overnight train transport. About 3,000 people came to Port Columbus to witness the inaugural flight of two Ford Trimotors carrying 19 passengers, including aviatrix Amelia Earhart.

Within 18 months of that historic flight, round-the-clock flights superseded the air-rail service. Four years later, new aircraft came onto the scene, and the rest is aviation history.

Looking Forward

A need for more space and the terminal's history grabbed the attention of McComb, but the Art Moderne-style building at 4920 E. Fifth Ave. has gone unused and uncared for since 2008. "There were mushrooms growing in the floor of the terminal," McComb says. "The roof was leaking through, and it was eating away the drywall. But it has good bones. It just needs to have some TLC to finish out the inside."

Demolition has already begun, thanks to the Columbus Regional Airport Authorityand the terminal stabilization fund, which raised $50,000 to receive a matching grant from The Columbus Foundation. McComb says the plan is on track, but the project has a lot of moving parts. For instance, state and federal tax credits are pending. If everything goes well, he says, the $6 million renovation project is expected to be completed by late 2016. George O'Donnell, a member of the Columbus Airport Terminal Stabilization Fund, says, "Everyone is trying to work together to save a piece of history."