Abandoned JFK: Neat photos of hangars and stuff

Old JFK logo

The old logo

I really like riding my bike in places where you’re not supposed to ride a bike. So last week, when I needed to pick up a rental car at JFK airport, I decided to bike there (JFK is about 13 miles from my apartment in Brooklyn). The cycle trip was so interesting, I decided to return the car the same way, but this time I brought a camera.

So today I made JFK airport my destination. In particular, the areas that most people don’t see. Abandoned hangars, empty outbuildings and crumbling warehouses. And of course, the most famous of JFK’s abandoned structures, the Eero Saarinen TWA terminal. It happened to be a gorgeous day, too. (In retrospect, the day before the 11th anniversary of 9/11 probably wasn’t the smartest time to be creeping around an airport taking pictures of stuff, but no one stopped me.)

AA offices

I love the old American Airlines typography — the way the letters slant, and all the space between the letters. I wish they would resurrect it.

Old airline hangar

To get closer to this old hangar, I had to sneak into a a parking area. It wasn’t hard: the guard was asleep in his booth.

More old hangars

More old hangars. You can see the active airport at the far right, where you see the Delta tail fin.

Allied Aviation

Another great example of aviation typography. I like how the TV aerial mimics the shape of a plane.


A symphony of fencing…

File boxes

This old building is full of floor-to-ceiling file boxes. I was dying to know what was in them, but nothing was labeled on the outside.


Okay, if anyone knows what a “Chef’s Orchid” is, please let me know. And there’s a JFK dentist, and a credit union on site. Actually, there are a bunch of banks out there. Not sure why.

TWA terminal 6

The most famous of JFK’s abandoned buildings, the Eero Saarinen TWA terminal, which went into service in 1963. It’s been used in hundreds of movies and TV shows. Jet Blue briefly tried using is as an active terminal, but it’s just too small. The building was meant to echo the shape of a bird, and you can really see it here; it looks like a bird of prey. Back then, JFK was called Idlewild airport, named after the golf course it replaced.

Eero detail

Detail from the Saarinen building. The lines are just beautiful.

TWA interior

You can’t go into the terminal. There’s one guy sitting at a desk with a TV — probably the most boring security job ever. He gave me a little wave. The interior is all tile — floor, structures, stairs. If you’ve seen the Sydney opera house up close, it’s just like that. I’m imaging the great party I could have here…

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14 Responses to Abandoned JFK: Neat photos of hangars and stuff

  1. Fr. Chris KUlig says:

    That is fascinating! Thanks for sharing…..I like the “less seen” place of the world. If I ever get to NYC with my bike, I would love to join you in such an adventure!

  2. Jenni says:

    Neat stuff. Totally agree with you on the lines of the terminal and the old typography. And I’d love to know what the chef’s orchid is.

  3. Rebecca says:

    Very interesting. Thanks for the great commentary as well.

  4. MDC says:

    The Chef’s Orchid was a restaurant at JFK that mainly catered to mainly airport employees. Unfortunately, they are closed now. At least….that is what I have found online.

  5. Coriander Lafrith Porterfield says:

    Pan Am hangar rocks the house, a decimated must see.

  6. conry says:

    What happened to TWA building 95’s dining and commissary Depts?

  7. Paul F says:

    My dad worked for TWA back in the day and we frequently flew from that terminal. At it’s peak, TWA also used the current Jet Blue terminal (the old National Airlines Sundrome). They were connected by a covered walkway. TWA used the Jet Blue one for most domestic flights while the original building mostly international travel. In those days 747’s and :L-1011’s. filled the gates. The Saarinen building was filled with red carpeting in keeping with TWA colors in the waiting areas and the long tubes that fed to the various departure and arrival gates. Customs were downstairs. The Paris Cafe (actually a diner type eatery) was on the upper level as the Ambassador Club. The Domestic Terminal was much larger, better laid out and offered a larger selection of food choices. If mostly after security which in those days consisted of showing your boarding pass. Unlike today, where one pays inflated prices to purchase questionable foods, TWA billed themselves as offering “The Finest food in Flight” and they really delivered on that (and it was all included)!.

  8. Jack K. says:

    Chef’s Orchid, also had contracts with several airlines to provide the “in flight” meals for them. Yes, it was also a great place to pick-up lunch to go, as well as a Bagel with cream cheese for us airline employees…at least between 1961 and 1969 when I worked for TWA.

  9. john blazek says:

    I was an aircraft mechanic for pan am and worked on aircraft in hangar 16 and 17. we also took care of Aeroflot, SAS and other carriers at 17. Hanger 17 was considered an overhaul aircraft location for pan am. In the early 60s we even polished the aluminum on the fuselage. we had great pride for pan am and passengers we treated like royalty

    • cfrietch says:

      Hi John. Those are great stories. I’m happy that many of the older hangers and buildings out at JFK are either still being used or are just allowed to be fixtures of the landscape. Daydreaming back to those years of flying when passengers wore their “Sunday best” and everything just felt so much more special. Thanks for the comment.

  10. Marc Neves says:

    Chef’s Orchid was created by my wife’s grandfather, Paul P. Poulos. He was an immigrant from Greece and served in WWII as a cook and earned the rank of Staff Sargent. Initially, he had a small sandwich shop close to JFK whereby TWA and Pan Am crews would come by and pick up prepackaged sandwich meals for their international flights. They would include an orchid in each of the boxed meals. He, eventually, was able to get a contract to provide food to the airlines within the airport. From what I’ve been told, he and his partners drove the invention of the food “lift truck” that is still used today to get food and drinks into airplanes. Paul passed away in 2003 at 84 years of age. I did not meet my wife until after that time so I never knew him personally. He was a totally self made immigrant American and patriot.

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