The Lewis Army Museum is temporarily closed for much needed renovations but is slated to re-open in early 2017.
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.
If you are one of the hundreds of people who drive by the three-story white building on Interstate 5 between exits 120 and 119 and wondered if this historic building surrounded by military vehicles and aircraft is filled with even more interesting military and Pacific Northwest artifacts. The answer is a resounding YES!
Hello I am Master Sergeant Samantha Stryker volunteering here at the Lewis Army Museum at Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington. As a senior non-commissioned officer with 20 years of service, I have seen and worked with a lot of different service members, civilians and equipment throughout my career but one thing is true about today’s Army, it is not your fathers or grandfathers’ Army.
We could easily discuss the transformation of combat vehicles, evolution of military air support and transportation, women serving in combat jobs, the latest life and limb-saving battlefield medical procedures, secured communications equipment and uniforms. However, to understand and appreciate the latest military equipment and technology, we should look at the equipment and people that shaped the Techniques, Tactics and Procedures and best practices of today’s uniformed services. Here at the Lewis Army Museum, formerly the Fort Lewis Military Museum, visitors can do just that.
The general public is invited to view approximately 15, 000 square feet of indoor exhibits of Soldiers of the Early Pacific Northwest Gallery, Camp Lewis Gallery, the Fort Lewis Gallery, I Corps’ Gallery, Gallery of Valor, the Army Medical Gallery, Washington Territorial Gallery and Military Art Gallery. Visitors are greeted in the lobby by Army Soldiers and volunteers. There is also gift shop run by the Friend of the Fort Lewis Military Museum filled with great books, models and gifts for the whole family. Outside of the former historic Red Shield Inn building are numerous armored and tracked vehicles, aircraft, missiles and coming soon – a Stryker Combat Vehicle.
This is not just a collection of military memorabilia, the Lewis Army Museum offers a unique learning experience. Every week community groups, school-age classes, ROTC and JROTC classes and National Guard and Reserve units visit and learn about Captain Meriwether Lewis’ expedition to the region and about our nation’s defenders from the 1800’s thru World Wars I and II, the Korean War Era, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War to today’s modern war fighters. Museum Director Erik Flint and Curator Heidi Pierson, illustrator and historian Allan Archambault, historian and archivist Sythnia Santos and a few volunteers travel to events such as TankFest Northwest at the Flying Heritage Collection in Everett, www.flyingheritage.com Fort Nisqually Living History Museum in Tacoma www.metroparkstacoma.org/fort-nisqually-living-history-museum and Crater Lake Elementary School, a Clover Park District school located on post in order to take history to tomorrow’s leaders.
So the next time you find yourself in stop-and-go traffic on Interstate 5 between exit 122 and the Nisqually Bridge, make your way to exit 120 and visit the Lewis Army Museum. I guarantee you will learn something and take home an appreciation of our nation’s and regions past and future.
The museum is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm and closed on all federal holidays. Visitors without military credentials will require a base pass in order to visit. Procedures for obtaining a base pass can be found at the following JBLM visitor’s information page: http://www.lewis-mcchord.army.mil/des. For more information call 253-967-7206.