TWA Terminal At JFK: Welcome To The Future, Earthling

By | May 27, 2021

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A security guard stands in the Hughes Wing after the ribbon cutting ceremony to officially open the TWA Hotel at JFK International Airport in New York May 15, 2019. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP) (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)

Airports rarely rank as landmark edifices, worthy of Instagram photos. However, in 1956, Howard Hughes contracted the famed architect of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Eero Saarinen, to build a terminal that epitomized the “Golden Age of Flying.” The uniquely designed airport terminal, dubbed the Trans World Airlines Flight Center (TWA), housed the now-defunct airline of the same name in 1962 when construction finished.

A Building Reflecting Early-'60s Space-Age Optimism

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Postcard image of the exterior of the TWA Flight Center, ca. 1960s. Source:

Trans World Airlines, the most iconic airline of the 20th century along with Pan American World Airways, built its empire around the crown jewel TWA terminal, known as the "Grand Central of the Jet Age." It also helped establish New York as the premier hub of transportation just as air travel became accessible to the average person. This is the story of TWA at JFK.