FIRST THE ROSELLE AIRPORT, THEN THE SCHAUMBURG AIRPORT

The portions of this article that are in italics  first appeared in the Roselle History Museum Newsletter in Spring 2012.  They are reprinted today, courtesy of the Museum.  

Roselle residents have had aircraft in their skies for some time, even before an airport was established.  During World War II, an area around what is currently Schaumburg and Barrington Roads was used as an Outlying Landing Field (OLF) for pilots training at the Glenview Naval Air Station.  [It is outlined below.]

The airport as we know it today had its beginnings in 1959 in an unincorporated area of Cook and DuPage counties, between the villages of Roselle and Schaumburg.  [Leonard Boeske, owner of Boeske Real Estate of Villa Park, developed the field.]  Although the airport was not (and never has been) officially part of the village of Roselle, it was originally called Roselle Airport, probably because it was closer to Roselle than Schaumburg.  [During its early days it was referred to as Roselle Field and Roselle Air Park.]  In June of 1961, the owner of the airport approached the Roselle Village Board about the possibility of annexing the airport into the Village.  Talks continued for eighteen months, and in January of 1963, the Roselle Planning Commission recommended to the Village Board that the airport be annexed into the Village.  

For reasons that are not documented, the proposal of airport annexation was never voted on by the Village Board.  In 1963, [after an October 19 referendum for Schaumburg residents] the airport was annexed to the Village of Schaumburg.  In the early 1970s, the airport’s name was changed from Roselle Airport to Schaumburg Airpark, which fueled speculation by some Roselle residents that Roselle “gave away” the airport.  Today, the airport’s official name is Schaumburg Regional Airport.  

[On February 6, 1970, President and Mrs. Nixon landed in the Marine 1 helicopter at the Schaumburg Airpark.]  The purpose of President Nixon’s visit to our area was to dedicate a water treatment plant at the corner of Barrington Road and Irving Park Road.  The President viewed a sewage treatment operation that was considered necessary for his Administration to meet antipollution goals and federal water quality standards that were in place at the time… 

The airport continued to be privately operated until 1994, when the Village of Schaumburg purchased it in order to prevent it from being sold to developers.  The Schaumburg Village Board and Schaumburg Park District purchased the airport for $14 million and paid for $8 million of improvements.  The biggest improvement was replacing the 30-year-old 3,000 foot by 40 foot asphalt runway with a 3,800 foot by 100 foot concrete runway.  The new runway also had a parallel taxiway and concrete tie-down areas for parking.

Kathy Schabelski
Roselle History Museum

*********************************************************

The following are additional facts about the airport found in the Daily Herald and the Village of Schaumburg’s website.

  • The first plane, piloted by Dan Smith, an Illinois aviation safety inspector, landed at the airport on May 25, 1961 while the field was still being developed.
  • To honor its original name of Roselle Field, 400 yellow rose bushes with flowering crab bushes in between, were planted in 1961 on both sides of the drive leading into the airport.
  • The original airport had an administration building and two hangars that could each accomodate 10 planes.
  • Skyview Chicken House was an early restaurant at the airport.
  • In the late 1970s, the airport was owned by Chicago hotelier Jack Pritzker, developer William Lambert and the Bennett and Kahnweiler real estate firm.  The group also owned the nearby Centex Industrial Park.
  • Gene Bouska was a long time manager of the airport in the 1980s and 1990s.  He had both a watch horse named Amy to patrol the grounds and a mascot dog named Runway who was found half frozen to death on the runway.  Mr. Bouska died in a plane crash at the airport on April 16, 1995, the day the airport closed for renovation after the village’s purchase.  He was commemorated at the reopening ceremonies later that year.
  • Before the village purchased the airport, the grounds of the airport were labeled the Schaumburg Air Park.  It was one of three privately-owned, public airstrips in Cook, Lake and DuPage counties.
  • In 1998, after purchase by the village, a 26,000 square foot terminal building was completed, including space for a restaurant, public meeting rooms and units for individual businesses to operate.
  • Pilot Pete’s also opened in 1998 and continues operations today.

  • A new fuel farm for jet fuel and aviation gasoline was added in 1999.  New hangars that could accomodate 32 planes were completed between 2000 and 2001.  This same time period saw the installation of the PAPI (Precision Approach Path Indicator) which “is a system of lights that provide pilots vertical guidance to the runway.  This assists the pilot in determining whether they are too high, too low or right on the glide path.”
  • The year 2016 saw the installation of an AWOS (Automated Weather Observation Station) “which provides pilots flying in and out of [the airport] with accurate and up-to-date weather information which is essential to safe operation of the airfield.”

More details about the airport can be found on the village’s website and on the Wikipedia article on the airport.

If you have more to contribute or have taken a ride out of the airport, please chime in.  It would be great to have your impressions!

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library
jrozek@stdl.org

 

 

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