December 05, 2015

Nielson Tower

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    Inaugurated in 1937, the Nielson Airport stood on a 42-hectare piece of land owned by Ayala y Cia. The land was originally part of Hacienda San Pedro de Macati (part of which is present-day Ayala and Paseo de Roxas Makati), a large estate owned by the Spanish-Filipino Ayala family. Nielson Airport was a venture of Laurie Reuben Nielson, a British businessman based in the Philippines, along with his partners.

    The airport served commercial flights and became the gateway between Manila and the rest of the country, and later between the country and the rest of the world. However in 1941, due to the expansionist plans of Japan’s military which posed security threats to its neighboring countries, the airport was turned into the headquarters of the Far East Air Force, with the commercial flight services halted and relocated to give way to the US Army Air Corps.

    During the attacks, Japan was able to bomb Clark and the Americans were forced to retreat. When the Japanese forces took over, the airport became under their siege and made it their headquarters. The airport eventually went back to American control during the liberation. The partially damaged facility was restored and the commercial flight services resumed in 1946.

    In 1948, when the airport finally ceased operations in Makati to relocate elsewhere, ownership of the airport’s permanent facilities was passed on to the owner of the land, Ayala y Cia. Although the runways were eventually converted into roads and other airport structures were sacrificed to give way to the development of the Makati business and commercial district, the owners took extra pains to preserve the airport’s passenger terminal and control tower, which came to be known as the Nielson Tower.

    In the succeeding years, various uses were found for the Nielson Tower. At one point, it served as the headquarters of a police detachment. It also housed the offices of the Ayala-owned Integrated Property Management Corporation for several years. From the late 1970s up to April 1994, a group of Filipino investors leased the Nielson Tower and turned it into a semi-private, first-class club/restaurant. In 1996, after almost two years of renovation work, the Nielson Tower was used by the Filipinas Heritage Library until 2014. After the library was moved to Ayala Museum, the historic building became the home of a high-end restaurant called Blackbird.

    Did you know?

    ・ The shape of the airport control tower is like an airplane when it is viewed from above.

    ・The name of the restaurant ”Blackbird” came from the nickname of the U.S. spy plane ”SR-71”.   

    ・Philippine Airlines was established in 1941. The first flight was operated from Nielson Airport to Baguio.


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