The advent of airmail service routes necessitated the construction of larger and more sophisticated airports throughout the country, an idea not lost on the citizens of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Since 1919, the city of Milwaukee had directed all aviation-related activities out of Butler Airport, northwest of the city proper. The airport, which is now a park and golf course, saw the nation’s first commercial air transport operation. The “Lawson Airliner”, a two-engine biplane behemoth, with a 95 foot wingspan, carried 16 passengers and two pilots from this field on August 27, 1919, on a demonstration flight to New York City and Washington, D. C. Milwaukee’s first airmail was flown from here on June 7, 1926, via the CAM-9 route, operating from Chicago to St. Paul via Milwaukee and La Crosse. However, airmail pilots complained that the airport was too far from the city and that there were too many obstructions surrounding the field.
The airmail contractor, Charles Dickinson, threatened to discontinue service to Milwaukee unless the situation was improved. Fearing the effect this would have on business in the city, Milwaukee officials decided to relocate their municipal airport.
On October 5, 1926, the Milwaukee County Board approved the $150,000 purchase of a new airport facility, to be located on land owned by Thomas F. Hamilton, a successful aircraft and propeller manufacturing magnate. Originally purchasing the land from the Hirschbuehl family, Hamilton had already located his business there and had built a small airport on that site that would serve both his business and its customers. The city of Milwaukee bought his property on October 29, 1926 and the airport became known as Hamilton Field.
This specific hangar, constructed sometime in the mid 1920s, was from that field and was used extensively during the early days of the airport’s existence. In 1941, the airport formally changed its name to General Mitchell Airport, honoring a famous Milwaukee aviator. The airport’s name was changed one last time, on June 19, 1986, to General Mitchell International Airport, which has become Wisconsin’s premier airport. The classic “T” hangar design is indicative of its use; the hangar is specifically designed to accommodate an airplane and when parked in the hangar fits snugly into the “T” slot.