Joint Base Lewis McChord, WA – The Fort Lewis Army Museum located on Joint Base Lewis McChord closed for restoration on July 2, 2016 and is expected to re-open its doors to the public in the new year.
Lewis Army Museum Director Erik Flint spoke about the changes visitors can expect to see when the museum re-opens in 2017.
“The museum’s first floor galleries will be closed for the next few months while JBLM Department of Public Works prepares the building for the installation of our new, updated exhibits. The new custom-made exhibits are being fabricated by Formations, Inc. of Portland and will be installed by them following DPW’s work.”
Erik predicts the museum will welcome visitors and guest early in the coming year. “We expect the museum to re-open, along with our new pedestrian access parking lot, after the first of the year. We are extremely excited to be able to share what will be a first-class museum experience with service members, families, and the public.”
The reasons for the renovation is more than just aesthetic. According to Curator Heidi K Pierson, “The artifacts will be more secure in new cases that were designed with artifact preservation in mind. Less damaging LED lighting and conservation figures will also provide a safer way to exhibit artifacts, especially textiles.”
With all new exhibit cases built at the same time, comes better security. “The new exhibit cases will all be keyed in a similar manner, allowing museum staff to more easily check on artifacts and maintain property accountability,” Heidi explained.
The Army Museum is located in an historic building built during the establishment of Camp Lewis during World War I. In 1918 the Salvation Army hired the Pratt and Watson Construction Company of Spokane to build a 150-room Western Stick-style Red Shield Inn for $107,000 to house Soldiers and their families. After the troop drawn down of WWI, the Salvation army sold the Inn to the U.S. Army for $1 on July 1, 1921 and it was renamed the Camp Lewis Inn. In 1927 when the Camp became a Fort, it was renamed the Fort Lewis Inn.
Minor changes have been made to the building over time. In 1955 the exterior was covered with cement asbestos shingle siding and exterior fire escapes replaced the original wood balconies. The plumbing, electrical wiring and bathrooms were upgraded. In 1962 the post engineer recommended that the Inn be demolished. Fortunately in 1965 his successor ordered an extensive structural analysis that resulted in another upgrade on the first floor lobby area when carpet was installed, interior and exterior painting, and construction of a new parking lot, landscaping and the remodeling of two rooms adjacent to the lobby.
In 1972 the Army condemned the building due to fire and safety concerns. However a historically significant building would be preserved as a post landmark on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and it became the home of the Fort Lewis Military Museum. Deferred maintenance left the third floor of the museum uninhabitable until a major renovation took place from 2009 to late 2011.
With the merger of JBLM in 2010, the museum continues to serve in its role as the Lewis Army Museum and is the only certified U.S. Army Museum on the West Coast.
Today the museum operates with by a small professional staff augmented by volunteers and Soldiers. The Friends of Fort Lewis Military Museum operate the Cannon Shop Gift Store in the museum or online at fortlewismuseum.com. All proceeds go back to the museum. The Soldiers are from various units on JBLM who serve for 90 days assisting with events, visitors, tours and give military history classes for local community organizations, schools and units on JBLM.
For more information contact Curator Heidi Pierson or Social Media Coordinator Samantha Stryker, 253-967-7208 or visit the website at www.lewisarmymuseum.com or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/lewisarmymuseum.