The end for Colorado's first private airport

Near the corner of west 100th Avenue and Federal Boulevard in Federal Heights, a piece of Colorado history spent decades in disguise.

KUSA - Near the corner of west 100th Avenue and Federal Boulevard in Federal Heights, a piece of Colorado history spent decades in disguise.

“It was leased out to various places – a carpet place at one time,” Shellie Ruston Munn said. “The last lease we had was an auto parts store.”

Munn owns the blue, brick building that closed its doors as a Napa Auto Parts store several years ago.

“I don’t think too many people remember what it used to be,” Munn said.

Few remember the building used to be a hangar and part of the first privately owned airport in Colorado.

“It was a general aviation airport, had three runways,” Bob Briggs recalled. “The longest was 3,500 feet.”

Briggs is a former Federal Heights city councilman. He said his family moved to Westminster in 1943, a year before Harry Ruston opened Ruston Field.

“It was Ruston – Harry, who helped start Federal Heights,” Briggs said.

The story goes that Harry Ruston opened his airport to give WWII pilots a chance to keep flying. The airport had a single hangar and a classroom building which served as a training center for Regis College and the University of Denver.

“It’s history that all of us should be reminded of what happened here in the past,” Briggs said.

Few in Federal Heights may remember Ruston Field, but its namesake made headlines during his time. Harry Ruston’s 2002 obituary in the Denver Post reads like an adventure novel.

“He was a daredevil then,” Munn said of her father.

Ruston started work as a journalist and traveled around the world by motorcycle and boat in the 1930s. Later in life, he was appointed to a federal judgeship by President Truman and was known in Denver for being a philanthropist. Ruston closed his airport in 1961 after the Jefferson County Airport opened. Shellie Ruston Munn’s memories of the old airport begin after it closed.

“I remember seeing planes” she said. “I think they were my father’s planes. They were just parked there.”

The old classroom building became a bar called The Flight Deck which eventually closed and was torn down.

The hangar was home to businesses over the years until it started to crumble apart.

“It’s long past the point where it can be retained as a safe place to accumulate history,” said Daniel Dick, mayor of Federal Heights.

Dick stopped by the old Ruston Field hangar a couple weeks ago to take a few last pictures.  

“Once it’s gone, it never comes back,” he said.

Last week, a demolition crew tore down the blue hangar. The 33-acre property is now for sale.

“Actually, for the good of the community, I think it’s time to sell it,” Shellie Ruston Munn said.

Munn is hopeful a developer will see the potential she sees in the property. She also admitted it was a sad to see the hangar go.

“For me, it’s very historical,” she said.

Munn hopes people will remember her father, Harry and the airport he built more than 70 years ago.

“I hope Federal Heights will at least put a monument up somewhere,” Bob Briggs said.

Mayor Daniel Dick agreed that a monument or small replica of the hangar would be a fitting tribute.

For now, memories are all that’s left of a piece of Colorado history that spent decades in disguise.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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