Hidden History: Roseville’s Commercial Airport

Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons

By Jonathan Fouch

One of my college professors once remarked that history was like finding out over and over again that Santa Claus isn’t real.

What he meant was that doing historical research – going through old records and newspapers – often revealed unflattering things about people and events usually mythologized. 

That said, every now and then, you find something really interesting or cool while doing research.

Right now, I’m working on my family’s history.

I’m trying to put things into a booklet about how we came to be. 

Much of my family came through Hamtramck, an enclave in Detroit, to the eastside suburb of Roseville in the 1960s. 

Roseville followed the script of many post war suburbs. It was farmland until its population exploded after the war as people left urban centers to build new lives in suburbia. 

Roseville remains your typical suburb. It’s residential. It has a mall and places to shop.  There’s some light industry along the main roads.  

I had a great time growing up there.

But…you know…it’s a pretty typical suburb. And I mean that in a completely positive way!

Roseville Airport

That said, upon doing some rudimentary research, I was shocked to discover that at one point Roseville had an airport! 

Not only that, but it was one of the first commercial airports in Michigan (Wikipedia claims it was the first). 

It was at the corner of Gratiot Avenue and Frazho Road, a place where my parents and I lived for a few years when I was real little.

Here’s a brief history: the airport, named Packard Field, opened in 1919. It was renamed Gratiot Airport in 1929 and later Hartung Field.

In its heyday – the 1920s and 1930s – local residents would’ve seen old fashioned biplanes taking to the skies.

The airport was built over in the 1950s. The Eastgate Shopping Center, which is still there, was constructed on the site.

There remains a marker on the grounds of the shopping center. The marker states that the airport was founded in 1916, although some believe that this may be incorrect. Records point to 1919 being the actual date that the airport was founded. 

What about your hometown?

You too can find interesting facts and stories about your hometown.  To start, I would search Wikipedia.

From there, search google for the “hidden history [your town, state]” or “forgotten history of [your town, state].” There is a whole community of bloggers, historians, and journalists who dig this stuff up!

It might be an interesting way to spend 15 minutes.

FURTHER READING:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roseville,_Michigan

http://www.dailydetroit.com/2017/06/18/story-michigans-almost-forgotten-first-commercial-airport-packard-field/


Jonathan Fouch is the founder of History Creators. He has spent the greater part of his 9-year career helping families build their legacy through technology. You can read his full biography here.