The selection of Hillsgrove created a furor
All of Rhode Island was thrust into the modern age as a result of Charles A. Lindbergh's historical solo flight over the Atlantic Ocean to the Le Bourget Airport in Paris on May 20 21, 1927. Lindbergh's visit to Rhode Island in July 1927 did much to spur the demand for an airport in the state.
Lindbergh commented on the superiority of European airports over those in the U.S. and spoke on the idea of government subsidies versus private enterprise. He pointed out that "...At Providence I find it takes an hour to come from the field where I landed (Quonset) to the city. It took forty five minutes to come from Hartford to Providence...(by air)."
Predicting the future
Lindbergh was optimistic concerning the development of commercial aviation and said, "Now there is coming rapidly enough demand for planes for purposes of commerce. No longer do we have to reconstruct army and navy planes for commercial purposes. Planes are now being constructed for commercial use. As things are now being developed we are going to have a finer system of commercial aviation than they now have in Europe..."
Gaspee Point considered
Rhode Islanders were convinced by Lindbergh's efforts and approved a state airport by more than 76,000 voters out of 85,650 in the general election of 1928. The feeling among the voters and the experts at the time was that Gaspee Point and Spring Green would be the site selected. One of the main reasons for the desirability of having an airport at Gaspee Point was the concept in the Twenties that a landing area on water was as important as a suitable land site. Gaspee Point and the adjoining area at Spring Green could combine both and could be approached without being hindered by tall buildings or high tension wires.
The Providence Chamber of Commerce strongly recommended Gaspee Point and in a widely circulated report listed several reasons for the choice. It urged the selection of Gaspee as it had ample surface, free approaches; ready accessibility to land and sea planes, and was close to the point of greatest concentration of population.
To emphasize its points, the Chamber even went on to measure the distance from the Biltmore Hotel to Gaspee as 7.3 miles and said it was just 16 minutes driving time. Experts, from aviators to industrialists, hailed the site as the only ideal location in the state.
After all this advanced publicity for Gaspee Point, most people in the state were very much surprised when, on July 1, 1929, word leaked out that the State Airport Commission under the leadership of Chairman Harry T. Bodwell, senator from Cranston, had selected Hillsgrove rather than Gaspee Point as the site for the airport. The news caused a furor in the state with many demanding the commission explain their actions.
The town council at Warwick quickly passed a resolution urging the selection of Gaspee Point rather than Hillsgrove.
The Providence newspapers blatantly opposed the move, as did residents of Hillsgrove. In spite of the opposition, the Commission, which had the power of condemnation, insisted that the airport would be at Hillsgrove and listed the land parcels, which would be taken. According to a Providence Journal article in 1969, "a long and loud hassle" followed. They pointed out that "...The aviation committee of the Providence City Council asked the airport commission to reconsider.... The civic clubs of Providence...deplored Hillsgrove and said Gaspee was the only place." Others said Hillsgrove would not "be worth a nickel" and that "the commission's site would be dangerous for the big planes of the future."
Hillsgrove at the time was still a rural mill village. Kilvert Street was a dirt road and the Methodist Church had a steeple which later had to be removed because of the hazard it caused to planes at the airport. United Methbodist Church collection