Arlington Airport first evolved from a 1934 radio broadcast in which President Franklin Roosevelt announced that several million dollars were to be allocated by the Work Progress Administration (WPA) to work on airstrips for defense. Town residents, aviation enthusiasts, and barnstormers brought an airport project proposal before city officials who took immediate action.
Officially, Arlington Airport dates back to 13 February 1934, when the Arlington Commercial Club leased 200 acres of forestland from Mr. M. Mirckenmeier for $100 per year. With financial help from the Town of Arlington and WPA, a strip of land measuring 4,000 feet by 400 feet was cleared and graded of trees and burn-over stumps left by loggers who had taken choice timber off the land 50 years before, and surfaced the area with a light asphaltic material at a considerable cost of $760; 100 grader hours at $1.50 hourly; 800 gallons of diesel at 15 cents per gallon; one barrel of oil at $25; 100 ripper hours at $1.50 hourly; 50 bulldozer hours at $1.50 hourly; and one ton of powder at $240.
On 13 April 1934, the Town of Arlington acquired the 200 acres under a five-year lease at an annual rental rate of $100 per year. In September 1935, WPA funding was secured for clearing and grading a 2,000 feet by 400 feet crosswind runway, what later became the northeast-southwest runway.
Over the next several years the airport was used by local and itinerant private fliers, aerial circuses, and the Forest Service for ferrying supplies to fire fighters battling costly blazes in remote, heavily timbered areas of the rugged Cascades. Local forest rangers reported that supplies were often dropped by parachute within an hour’s flight from the field, when it would have taken three days to reach the same spots by truck and pack train.
In February 1939, the lease expired and the Town of Arlington was given the option to purchase. Caught in a bind, the Town could not afford to purchase the land and appealed to the United States War Department for assistance.