The Quincy Regional Airport, formerly Baldwin Field, sits on the open prairie that rises east of the city. Built in 1969, the airport is a response to the growing popularity of commercial air travel. Throughout the 1960s, numerous small, regional airports were built in outlying areas of Illinois where there was no easy access to the major airports at Chicago and St. Louis. At Quincy, the airport reflected the glamour of early air travel, offering a restaurant, bar, and several outdoor terraces overlooking the airfield. Local architect John Benya (1911–1989) designed the single-story terminal around a series of circles and half circles.
The airport is approached via a long drive leading to a thin, circular, concrete porte-cochere. The exterior walls are mostly glass, but panels of rough green limestone with swooping sides provide accents at intervals around the perimeter. A deeply lobed flat roof shades the circular terminal space. The interior is reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Johnson Wax Administration Building with tapered columns supporting thin, circular ceiling plates. Between the ceiling plates are backlit opaque Plexiglas panels that provide light throughout the airy interior and whose curved edges trace the outline of the circular plates. At the bases of the columns are hexagonal planters surrounded by benches. The terrazzo floor is decorated with yet another series of arcs and circles that interplay with the ceiling.
A secondary circular wing on the north side of the terminal encloses a café and bar. On the roof of the café is a viewing area offering an expansive vista of the runways. Adjacent to the café is another outdoor viewing area that is attached to a balcony with a fireplace overlooking the terminal interior. The airport was designed to be a complete experience, much like the grand railway terminals of an earlier transportation era.
Benya was a prolific regional architect who designed everything from factories to churches, public housing to banks. Little is known of his life, though he attended Northwestern University and served in the Navy during World War II. Following his marriage in 1947, he seems to have begun practicing in Quincy. His earliest designs are dated 1949. Shortly after the airport was completed, he was quoted as saying “I never do the same thing twice.” His modern designs, as exemplified by the Quincy Regional Airport, are today some of the most admired buildings in western Illinois.
“John Benya, Well-Known Architect Dies.” Quincy Herald-Whig, June 19, 1989.
Russo, Edward J. and Curtis R. Mann, “Hugh M. Garvey House,” Adams County, Illinois. National Register of Historic Places Inventory–Nomination Form, 2009. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.