Text of Columbia Air Center Historic Marker

In 1941 aviation history was made when the first black owned and operated airfield licensed in America opened on this site. Mr. John W. Greene, Jr., a pioneer in black aviation, was instrumental in developing the airfield, originally called "Riverside Field."

With the advent of World War II, civilian flying was restricted and many private airfields were utilized by the military to train pilots. Riverside Field was occupied by the U.S. Navy until 1944 for training missions.

After the war, Mr. Greene, with financial assistance from Dr. C.M. Gill, reopened the airfield as Columbia Air Center." It offered a flying school, charter services, and facilities for major and minor repairs. The first black Civil Air Patrol squadron in the Washington, D.C. area, called the Columbia Squadron, was formed here.

In later years, the field operated under the names of "W & J Flying Service" and the "Capital Flying Club," promoting such activities as skydiving and parachute jumping.

Activities at the airport gradually decreased, and by 1958 it was closed to all air traffic. The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission acquired this property in 1959, the first acquisition of the Patuxent River Watershed Park.