O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, was constructed between 1942 and 1943, and was used as a manufacturing facility for Douglas C-54 aircraft during World War II. The location was chosen because of its close proximity to the city and local transportation. The factory was 2 million square feet and needed easy access to the city of Chicago, as well as the railroad infrastructure. Orchard Place was a small existing community in the vicinity and the airport was originally known as Orchard Place Airport/Douglas Field during the war.
The location was the site of the Army Air Force's, 803 Special Depot, which housed many rare or experimental aircraft, including ones captured from the enemies. The historical aircraft would later be transferred to the National Air Museum, and then go on to form the core of the Smithsonian Museum's National Air and Space Collection.
When the Douglas Aircraft Company contract ended in 1945, plans were proposed to build commercial aircraft at the factory. In the end however, the company chose to do the production on the west coast. With Douglas departing, the site took the name Orchard Field Airport, and in 1945, the location was chosen by the city, as the location for future aviation demands. The airport was renamed in 1949, after U.S. Lieutenant Commander Edward "Butch'' O'Hare, a World War II flying ace who received the Congressional Medal of Honor.
During the 1950's, Midway International Airport which had served as the primary airport of Chicago since 1931, had become too small and overcrowded for next generation jetliners. It was at this time the City of Chicago and the FAA began developing O'Hare to be used as the main airport of Chicago.
In 1955, the first international flights at O'Hare took place, and an international terminal was added in 1958. The arrival of the air traffic from Midway made O'Hare International one of the busiest airports in the world, serving 10 million travelers annually. By 1960, the number doubled, with more people passing through O'Hare International Airport than had passed through Ellis Island in its entire existence.
By 1997, more than 70 million passengers had passed through the airport and the number continues to rise each year. The airport is the largest hub for United Airlines and the second largest for American Airlines.
O'Hare International had 972,246 aircraft operations and an average of 2,663 per day, in 2005. The airport is the second busiest in the entire world, behind Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. O'Hare has a strong international presence and has flights to more than 60 foreign destinations and was voted the "best airport in North America'', 10 years in a row by readers of Business Traveler Magazine and Globe Traveler Magazine. Today, O'Hare International Airport still serves as the primary airport for Chicago, Illinois and surrounding communities.