Fred Albee Municipal Airport
Markers: Sarasota History
The first recorded flight into Venice brought a crate of fresh strawberries for the Hotel Venice. Pioneer pilot Capt. George Haldeman landed his plane on Nassau Street to make his delivery on January 13, 1927. Although there was an emergency landing strip in Venice by 1927, not until the mid-1930s was a serious effort made to construct an official airport.
In 1935 the Civil Aeronautics Authority and the Works Progress Administration approved east-west and north-south landing strips for a municipal airport, which was to be located near the Tamiami Trail and north of the first Venice golf course. On January 26 of the following year, concrete was poured for the airport marker, which identified the sod runways for approaching aircraft and distinguished the airport as more than an emergency landing strip. A hanger, with space for planes, offices, a flying school and repair shop, was completed in 1939.
The city dedicated the Fred Albee Municipal Airport in January 1939. A private pilot, Albee had given land for the airport. The dedication was a gala occasion, with speeches, a fish fry, ball, parachute jumpers, stunt-men and sky writing.
A variety of people used the airport. Steve Albee, Jr., piloted his uncle's five-passenger plane to fly patients to the Florida Medical Center. In 1933 Dr. Fred Albee had opened this orthopedic hospital, also a research and medical training center, in the former Park View Hotel on West Venice Avenue.
Visitors came in their private planes to participate in seasonal events such as the Tarpon Tournament. Crop dusters used the airport, as did National Airlines beginning in 1939.
The Venice Aviation Club, which raised money for airport improvements, became a major user of the airport. Formed in 1938, the club initially included Steve Albee, Jr., James Cousins, Finn Caspersen and J.E.Darby. The first Venice student to solo was George Hauser. His daughter, Betty Hauser Arnall, was the first woman pilot from the Venice area.
The Army Air Corps used the municipal airport while it built the Venice Army Air Base during World War II. After the war, the VAAB property was turned over to the city and became a civilian airport in 1946. The two airports co-existed until the 1950s, when the School Board acquired the Albee Airport land and began construction of an educational complex on it.
Dedicated by the Sarasota County Historical Commission