|Remains of Imeson Field, 22 January 1994. Old runways and hangars are still visible in photo.|
|IATA: none – ICAO: none|
|Elevation AMSL||20 ft / 6.1 m|
Imeson Field, aka Jacksonville Imeson Airport, was the original airport serving Jacksonville, Florida, established in 1927 and closing in 1967. Over the years it was known as Jacksonville Municipal Airport, prior to World War II, and Jacksonville Army Airfield when the United States Army Air Forces controlled the facility during World War II.
Imeson Field was built southeast of the intersection of North Main Street (U.S. 17) and Busch Drive, the site of a 175-acre (0.71 km2) prison farm located north of downtown Jacksonville. Originally, it had a 2,100' cinder and shell runway, a 2,500' grass runway, an administration building and a hangar. By 1934, the Department of Commerce Airport Directory described Jacksonville Airport as having four "sandy, sodded, surfaced" runways, all 2,500' long, with a row of hangars on the side of the airfield. The manager was listed as Major Herbert A. Maloney.
Jacksonville Municipal Airport Number One officially opened on October 11, 1927, A dedication ceremony was held prior to its official opening that included Charles Lindbergh who flew to Jacksonville in the "Spirit of St. Louis" to help promote the new municipal airport still under construction and to help promote Jacksonville's fledgling aviation industry. At a time when aviation was still considered by many to be a novelty, he assured city leaders that air passenger service would span the nation. Easter Air Service (later known as Easterm Air Lines) was the first carrier to provide commercial passenger service to Jacksonville.
By 1941 the airport had expanded to 600 acres (2.4 km2), acquiring five additional hangars, a terminal building, and five asphalt runways, the longest of which was 7,000 feet (2,100 m). Airline service was provided by Atlanta based Delta Air Lines (1924-Current), Miami based Eastern Airlines (1926-1991), United Airlines (1934-Current), National Airlines (1934-1980), which at one time made Jacksonville its headquarters, Boston based Northeast Airlines (1933-1972) and Atlanta based Southern Airways (1949-1979).
Originally named Jacksonville Municipal Airport Number One, in the 1950s the facility was renamed after Thomas Cole Imeson (1880-1948), city councilman and later longtime commissioner in charge of airports and highways. Imeson’s visionary work led to the creation of Jacksonville Municipal Airport, as well as improvements to its runways, hangars and terminal buildings. This facility served as the city's main airport for 42 years.
The largest commercial aircraft service to operate daily service to and from Imeson before its closing was the McDonnell Douglas DC-8-61 flown by Delta Air Lines. Other daily jet service was provided by Delta Air Lines, Eastern Airlines, National Airlines and United Airlines operating Boeing 707's, 720's, 727's and McDonnell Douglas DC-8's and DC-9's. Eastern Airlines and National Airlines also provided turbo-prop service utilizing the Lockheed L-188 Electra's.
Flight kitchen and catering services was provided to the airlines by Dobbs House Inc. founded by James K. Dobbs, Sr. and were based out of Memphis Tennessee.
A local pilot named Laurie Yonge offered airplane rides from the beaches. Rates were $5 for short hops, $10 for long rides, and $25 for aerobatics. His transport pilot license was the first issued in Florida, and his National Aeronautics Association card was signed by Orville Wright. It was Yonge, flying in the "Spirit of Jacksonville," who dropped an invitation from the air to the deck of a ship returning Charles Lindbergh and his "Spirit of St. Louis." In 1929, Yonge set the world's lightplane endurance record in a 90 hp. Curtiss Robin. He flew continuously for 25 hours and 10 minutes, a record that stood until 1939. No other aviator has brought such fame and success to Jacksonville both as a visionary pioneer and instructor pilot.
December 21, 1955, Eastern Airlines Flight 645 Crashes in neighborhood near airport. By Bill Foley Florida Times-Union senior writer,
All 17 people aboard died when an Eastern Air Lines Lockheed Constellation L-749, Flight 645 crashed seconds before a scheduled landing on Runway 05 at Jacksonville’s Thomas Cole Imeson Municipal Airport. The four-engine, 60-passenger airliner was northbound on a scheduled flight from Miami to Jacksonville, Washington, New York and Boston. There were twenty-two passengers at the Imeson Terminal awaited to board. The crash was the first of a regularly scheduled commercial airplane flights in Jacksonville. The plane was making a routine instrument landing in fog at the Jacksonville airport at 3:43 a.m. It clipped a stand of pines a half-mile from the runway and cut a 200-yard swath of destruction through woods and back yards of homes just west of Main Street. Those killed in the crash were 12 passengers and five crew members, none of which were from Jacksonville. Airline officials said the plane was on whats called a "slack-time" flight. It normally carried a full load of 60 passengers. Luggage and personal effects were scattered through the woods. The plane also carried Christmas mail and, ironically, the body of a longtime Eastern Air Lines employee being flown from Miami to Washington for burial. Dove Etna of 202 Jericho Road, whose home was closest to the burning plane, said she looked out the window and "all I could see was a ball of flame." "I just knew my house was going, too, and I called the fire department as fast as I could." City firefighters and several county volunteer fire departments battled the flames until dawn. The last of the bodies was removed at 6:40 a.m. Retired Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Lieutenant Frank Booth was a rookie officer who had joined the Duval Road Patrol less than three months earlier when he and his riding partner, the late Walter Bechem, were dispatched to the scene. "As I recall, we spent the whole night out there in the darkness, trying to keep the curious away," said Booth. "Some of the onlookers were bringing us body parts but there wasn't much left because the whole wreck burned and everything was destroyed."
The Civil Aeronautics Board, precursor of the National Transportation Safety Board, concluded after an 18-month investigation that the pilot, making an instrument approach to Runway 05, descended too low through ground fog, hit the tops of a stand of tall pine trees and sheared off the upper 20 feet of a 50-foot-tall oak tree. The plane cut a swath through the woods about 100 feet wide and 150 yards long. It exploded in a ball of fire and metal aircraft parts rained down on the neighborhood. While huge aircraft wheels and tires bounced off some house roofs, miraculously the main fuselage came within 100 feet of the residential area. Although some residents were awakened by the explosion, none was injured.
Veteran observers recalled only two other major crashes in the Jacksonville area: a B-25 bomber crash at the city prison farm during World War II and an unexplained "non-scheduled flight that crashed several years ago."
Elvis Presley visits Jacksonville
Elvis Presley was billed fourth under Andy Williams, Marty Robins and Ferlin Husky when he flew into Jacksonville. Elvis played at the Jacksonville Baseball Park in July 1955 and was such a hit, he was chased under the grandstands by rabid fans.
With the start of World War II, the USAAF began to use Jacksonville for antisubmarine missions in 1941. Later the airfield was turned over to the United States Navy, and by 1945, Naval Auxiliary Air Station Jacksonville began to use the improved PB4Y-2 Privateer (B-24). The base's maximum complement of 67 aircraft was reached in 1945.
After the end of World War II the Navy returned the field to the City of Jacksonville, which reopened it as a civil airport named Jacksonville Imeson Airport. The airport was named after Thomas Cole Imeson, a long time city councilman whose visionary work led to the opening of the airport in the 1920s. Imeson died in 1948.
With the establishment of an independent U.S. Air Force in 1947, the previously U.S. Army Air Forces-gained aviation organization of the Florida National Guard became the Florida Air National Guard and Jacksonville Air National Guard Station was established at Imeson, eventually supporting the 125th Fighter Interceptor Group (125 FIG), gained by the Air Defense Command (ADC). During this time the Air National Guard operated a variety of aircraft, including the F-51 Mustang, F-80 Shooting Star, F-86 Sabre and F-102 Delta Dagger.
Imeson flourished during the 1950s. With the introduction of jet airliners in the early 1960s, however, the geographic limitations which precluded lengthening of the runways became a fatal liability.
The new Jacksonville International Airport was opened to the north in 1967, and both civilian and Air National Guard aircraft operations at Imeson Field ended in 1968 as they relocated to the new airport.
In 1970, Webb International Inc. purchased the former 1,500-acre (6.1 km2) airport and turned it into a new commerce center, Imeson International Industrial Park, with numerous buildings being constructed over the former runways.
The remaining southeastern portion of Runway 30 has been reused as Imeson Park Boulevard.