In honor of Senator Theodore Francis Green
From the time the Rhode Island State Airport at Hillsgrove was formally dedicated on September 27, 1931, until the present day, Warwick residents have been amazed at the airport's growth. At its dedication, over 150,000 people came to see the aerial show and marveled at the daredevils. Many of us can remember how for many years, on a Sunday afternoon cars could be seen in the former parking lot as families came to watch the planes land and take off. With the growth of the airport, the old parking lot has been taken over for airport maintenance vehicles and now parking garages are used to house the plethora of cars that make their way to Hillsgrove.
Inexpensive freight shipment
During the early period, when the airport was small, it was hoped that commercial success would come through the transportation of freight. Within a very short time, Hub Airways of Boston, Massachusetts began a daily operation of a freight airline between Boston and New York with Providence as one of the stops. To ship goods to Boston by air in 1932 cost eighty cents for the first pound and ten cents for each additional pound. To send freight to New York from Providence by air was only ninety cents for the first pound. The number of firms to take advantage quickly made freight by air a reality for the Ocean State.
It was during the same year that scheduled passenger and air mail service was inaugurated by American Airways, Inc. This pioneer company was the predecessor of American Airlines. The service was discontinued in 1933 at the height of the Depression, but was resumed on May 30, 1936.
Success and improvements
By 1935, it was obvious that the airport needed to grow and incorporate improvements in the field. New lighting and concrete runways were added and it was noted that the R. I. State Airport "has been accepted by commercial air companies as an alternative port to Newark for all commercial ships coming in from the West." This was a major step forward for the airport which called for a rededication of the new and modernized facilities. Once again a magnificent air show captured the attention of over 75,000 wide eyed spectators who watched the miracle of flight.
Rules and Regulations desperately needed
The first decade of flying at the State Airport was often confusing and, in some cases, dangerous. Rhode Island had no laws governing the licensing and operation of aircraft which meant that an unlicensed plane could engage in interstate flying without any regulation or supervision. In addition, there were no laws governing the erection of buildings in the area and it was possible that tall buildings or spires within a mile and a half radius of the airport could pose serious problems. One example of this was the steeple of the Hillsgrove Methodist Church. This spire was not removed until 1943 much to the dismay of many of the pilots coming into Hillsgrove.
Senator Green is honored
One of the men most responsible for growth of the airport was Theodore Francis Green. As Governor of Rhode Island (1933 37) and then as U. S. Senator (1937 1961) Green was a constant supporter of aviation. Senator Green was given special recognition for his efforts on both state and national levels. On December 27, 1938, Governor Robert E. Quinn, by executive order, renamed the State Airport at Hillsgrove, "The Theodore Francis Green State Airport of Rhode Island.”
The growth from this point on was phenomenal. A hanger built in 1938 to handle anticipated needs for ten years was filled to capacity by the end of 1940. During that year, the Green Airport was cited as being the seventh busiest facility in the nation. In 1940, a Uniform Aeronautical Regulatory Act made federal registration for all aircraft and pilot's licenses mandatory. This brought Rhode Island in closer compliance with legislation favored by the Federal Civil Aeronautics Administration.
As might be expected, World War II brought about many significant changes in the role played by the airport.
Theodore Francis Green, Governor of Rhode Island 1933-1937. This photo was taken shortly before he was elected U. S. Senator. Green served in the U. S. Senate from 1937 until 1961. From Ralph Mohr collection.