Dec 05 2016

Mystery Foto #49 Solved:A 1957 Aerial of a “Spirit of St. Louis” Press Conference at Roosevelt Field

The Cradle of Aviation provided this weekend's Mystery Foto of an amazing aerial.

Mystery Foto questions:

  • Identify the location and orientation of the aerial

Roosevelt Field Shopping Center in East Garden City looking south/west. The shopping center was  built on the south west section of the Roosevelt Field Airport and opened on August 22, 1956.

  • On what date was the aerial taken?

February 26, 1957.

  • Identify the major buildings in the aerial

The Roosevelt Field Shopping Center before it was enclosed. The large white building is Macy's Department Store.

  • Why was there a press conference at this location?

A Warner Brothers' press conference promoting the film Spirit of St. Louis featuring one of the replicas used in the movie. The Spirit of St. Louis replica was located in the future location of Gimbel's, now Dicks' Sporting Goods. The actual take-off of the Spirit of St. Louis occurred approximately one mile east of this spot.

  • Name one famous person who participated in the press conference

Actor James Stewart who played Charles Lindbergh.

  • What Long Island Motor Parkway structures are seen in the aerial?

The Garden City Lodge and the embankment for the Clinton Road Motor Parkway Bridge in the right corner.

Congrats to Joe Oesterle, Lee, Fran Femenias, Tim Ivers, Dick Gorman, Michael Appice, Sam Berliner III, Mel Weed, Ace, Greg O., Steve Lucas, and Art Kleiner (see Kleiner's Korner) for correctly identifying Roosevelt Field.

Kudos to Dick Gorman, Michael Appice, Sam Berliner III,  Greg O.,  and Art Kleiner for linking the Mystery Foto to the film Spirit of St. Louis and/or Jimmy Stewart.

Funny story: When I was eight-years old, my father took my sister and me to see the film The Spirit of St. Louis at Westbury Drive-In. With 15 minutes left in the movie and Lindbergh still somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, a torrential rainstorm resulted in my father leaving the drive-in before the dramatic conclusion. When I strongly protested, my father tried to calm me down and simply said: "Don't worry, Lindbergh made it."


Howard Kroplick

Update: 12/14/2016: Cradle of Aviation has forwarded a photo of the N206 replica when it visitied Roosevelt Field in Febrauary 1957.


The Garden City Lodge (circled) and the embankment to the Clinton Road Motor Parkway Bridge (arrow). Several bunkers of the Old Westbury Golf Club were still visible.

Macy's Department Store and the LILCO Gas Tank, south of Stewart Avenue.

The Spirit of St. Louis replica and Food Fair grocery store.

Opening of the Film "Spirit of St. Louis" Press Conference-February 26, 1957

Actor James Stewart shaking hands with Major General Roger J. Browne, commander of the First Air Force based in Mitchel Field.

Newsday, February 27, 1927

Fun Fact: James Stewart's next film was an Alfred Hitchcock film called "From Amongst the Dead". James Stewart said " I'm hoping that by the time I get there they's have changed the title." They did: It was renamed "Vertigo".

The Spirit of St. Louis replica taking off from a grass field in the shopping mall. Note: The Meadowbrook Parkway and Roosevelt Raceway in the background.

Then & Now

Then: 1957

Now: 2016

The green line is the route of the Long Island Motor Parkway.

A Variation on the Mystery Foto

Another aerial taken on the same day as the Mystery Foto. Mitchel Field can be seen in the background. Aerial courtesy of the Cradle of Aviation.

Aerial courtesy of the Cradle of Aviation.

The same view as above as seen around 1950. Note: The LILCO Gas Tank in the background. Aerial courtesy of the Cradle of Aviation.

The Three Spirit of St. Louis Replicas Used in the Film.

According to Simon Beck's book The Aircraft-Spotter's Film and Television Companion, The Spirit of St. Louis was filmed from August 1955 to May 1956 in California. Additional shots were filmed in Paris, Ireland and Newfoundland. A total of three replicas were used in the film.

Two of the replicas (N7206 and N7212) were acquired and modified by Paul Mantz Air Services of Santa Ana, California. The 1928 Ryan B-1 Broughams were rebuilt in the Spirit of St. Louis NYP (New York to Paris) fashion and shipped to Europe for the French countryside scenes.

N7212 is now in the Cradle of Aviation.

N7206 is located  at the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis.

Update 12/14/2016: N7206 visited Roosevelt Field in February 1957. Courtesy of the Cradle of Aviation.

A third replica (N7209) was purchased from a private owner by pilot W.H. "Hank" Coffin and James Stewart. It was restored to flying condition and used for the US coastal scenes in California and the takeoff scene shot at Santa Maria Airport in California. James Stewart flew N7209 to help get himself into the role of Lindbergh.

In 1959, Stewart donated this replica to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. It is likely N7209 was seen in the replica in the Mystery Foto.

Kleiner's Korner (Submitted by Art Kleiner)

The Long Islander, March 7, 1956

The Long Islander, March 7, 1956

Newsday, February 19, 1957

The replica plane that visited Roosevelt Field was N7206 now in the Missouri Historical Museum (see above).

Newsday, February 19, 1957

Newsday, February 19, 1957

Newsday, February 19, 1957

Andrew Surini, a Roosevelt Field mechanic in 1927, checking out the Spirit of St. Louis replica thirty years later. Photo courtesy of Cradle of Aviation.


Dec 01 2016 Joe Oesterle 11:14 PM

That’s the Roosevelt Field open-air mall.  Looking SW.  Letting us peak at the remnants of the LIMP as they curve through the southwestern corner of this property, and eventually run concurrent with the south ring road of the mall.  The Garden City toll lodge, and manager’s building are there, just near Clinton Rd.  Macy’s is the large building dominating the view.

Dec 02 2016 Lee 7:58 PM

Awesome pictures - Roosevelt Field

Dec 02 2016 frank femenias 8:03 PM

Another amazing aerial, possibly a Fairchild’s. The scene at first had great resemblance to Green Acres Shopping Mall in Valley Stream looking northwest, former site of Curtiss-Columbia Airfield (1930-1939?), but the outer roadways didn’t match. And then it struck. This is Roosevelt Field Outdoor Shopping Mall looking southwest 1956?, with its outer ring-roadways in full glory. The checkered gas tank also helped determine location. The Motor Parkway structure(s) in the aerial were not visible to me but they’re either/and;  the Clinton Road parkway bridge (a treacherous underpass), the LIMP Manager’s House at Vanderbilt Court (still existing), or the LIMP Garden City Lodge (later moved to 230 7th Street, Garden City as the Garden City Chamber of Commerce). I’ve yet to visit inside but there’s a museum in its basement I’m told. Something definitely worth checking out.  Don’t know the major buildings in the aerial but guessing shopping paraphernalia, Gimbels, Macys? The press conference had to be for the crazy pilot who landed in that micro field out front. Having fun Howard, thank you for sharing a wonderful website.

Dec 03 2016 Tim Ivers 10:52 AM

October 3, 1956 announcement of the opening of the Roosevelt Field Mall.
View looking southwest with the easily identified checkered LILCO gas tank.
Running left to right across top, Stewart Avenue, LIMP, the A&P warehouse
And the old Curtiss Aircraft factory and Commercial Avenue, Clinton Road. She
The press conference probably included developer William Zeckendorf.

Dec 03 2016 Dick Gorman 4:17 PM

Mystery Foto #49… The photo shows the Roosevelt Field Mall looking northwest. This shot was done in April 1957. Some of the buildings shown are Macy’s, Woolworth, Wallgreens and Food Fair. The rest of my answer will be guessing. There may have been a press conference for the premier of the movie “The Spirit of St Louis”. The plane shown in the middle bottom of the photo is a “Spirit of St Louis” replica as used in the movie. Charles Lindberg and/or Actor Jimmy Stewart may have participated in the conference.
P.S. The reason that I recognized the plane and the pic is that I was there when the plane was on display participating in a L.I.S.C.A. sports car Gymkhana in a nearby parking lot. While I was at the Gymkhana The plane’s engine was started and after a warm up it axied out to the Mall roadway where it promptly took off in a strong head wind. AND SO I am able to brag to those who will listen that I was at Roosevelt Field when the Spirit of St. Louis took off!!!!

Dec 03 2016 Michael Appice 8:53 PM

The photo is Roosevelt Field Mall looking south towards Mitchell Field. The tall steel tank looks like the coal bin or gas at Mitchell Field. The date is 1957 the 30 the-anniversary flight of Charles Lindbergh flight to Paris. The movie The Spirit of St Loius was just released. Mr Lindbergh and his wife were in attendance. I think the Garden City toll house is west or right side of the photo.

Dec 03 2016 S. Berliner, III 11:04 PM

Not much of a clue as to the press conference but it’s clearly early Roosevelt Field Shopping Center looking SW at the intersection of Glen Cove/Clinton Road and Stewart Avenue.  Macy’s flagship store and Girl Scout HQ.  LILCO gas holder and Curtiss plant across Stewart.  Garden City sewage treatment plant dome, G. C. Toll Lodge and Super’s House this side of Stewart.  Only clue is what appears to be a replica of Lindy’s Ryan N-X-211 in the foreground, so it’s probably one of the three 1956 replicas made for the Warner Bros. film; thus, Lindy (and/or Jimmy Stewart) was probably there.  The picture seems too early for donation of the Cradle’s replica N-159.  Sam, III

Dec 04 2016 mel weed 8:02 AM

these photos are of Roosevelt field shopping mall around 1958

Dec 04 2016 Ace 5:08 PM

Roosevelt Field - photo taken looking North/Northeast (north at the top of the photo).
Charles Lindbergh was at the press conference
Lindbergh began his Transatlantic flight there.

Dec 04 2016 Greg O. 8:02 PM

Identify the location and orientation of the aerial
On what date was the aerial taken?
Identify the major buildings in the aerial
Why was there a press conference at this location?
Name one person who participated in the press conference
What Long Island Motor Parkway structures are seen in the aerial?

Going on a pure guess this week and saying this aerial is looking South at the opening of the new, outdoor, Roosevelt Field Mall and it’s buildings in 1956. There appears to be a replica Spirit Of St Louis parked where the ice skating rink will eventually be. Maybe Charles Lindbergh was there with Jimmy Stewart promoting the new Lindbergh movie opening around that time! Ha!

Garden City Lodge and The Parkway Manager’s office can be seen off of Clinton in the upper right.

Dec 04 2016 Steve Lucas 8:24 PM

We’re obviously looking at a recently completed Roosevelt Field Shopping Mall in Garden City with the photographer’s camera pointed south. That’s Macy’s with the white roof and Food Fair near the right border. In the background is the LILCO gas tank on Stewart Avenue and the old Curtiss Engineering Building. Since there is a plane in the parking lot which resembles the “Spirit of St. Louis”, could this be for the dedication of the original plaque to Charles Lindbergh which was at the north end of the mall and now sits near the Disney Store? If so, I’m thinking the photo could be from May, 1957 on the 30th. anniversary of his famous flight. Maybe Lucky Lindy himself was at the press conference. Regarding the LIMP, we can see a small remnant of the parkway along with the Garden City toll lodge and the General Manager’s office in the upper right area.

Dec 05 2016 Art Kleiner 8:28 AM

Identify the location and orientation of the aerial: Roosevelt Field Shopping Mall, looking Southwest.  Clinton Road on the right, Stewart Avenue on the top.

On what date was the aerial taken? Feb. 18, 1957 (based on press conference answer below)

Identify the major buildings in the aerial: In mall, Macy’s to the south, Food Fair to the north (near the plane).  Outside of mall, Esselte Pendeflex (Oxford Filing Supply) near Clinton and Stewart. Along Stewart, Equitable Insurance, LI Lighting Newsday, General Bronze.  Also see the gas tank (top) and the water treatment plant (round tank on right side). 

Why was there a press conference at this location?  Promoting the 1957 film about and named the “Spirit of St. Louis”.  But the press conference was more about teen idol, Tab Hunter, who was there but not even in the movie.  Another press conference initiating the second flight of the Spirit by a member of the “Hap” Arnold Squadron” in 1956 also took place but that was in March of 1956, before the opening of Roosevelt Field which clearly was open when the mystery photo was taken. 

Hey - just as I was writing this answer I heard an aircraft overhead that definitely wasn’t a jet (could it possibly be the ghost of Charles Lindbergh flying overhead as I’m just about 10 minutes from Roosevelt Field)?  Alas, opening up the blinds and looking out it was just a helicopter!
Name one person who participated in the press conference:  Besides actor Tab Hunter there was Sen. Jacob Javits and General Roger Browne of the First Air Force. 
What Long Island Motor Parkway structures are seen in the aerial?  General Managers Office and Garden City Lodge. 

Dec 05 2016 frank femenias 11:01 PM

This is neat. Great information from all, especially from eyes that were present to experience the event in detail! That’s the best.

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