Heritage Center & McChord Field
The mission of the McChord Air Museum is to portray the history of McChord Field, the aircraft woven through that history and the people who made that history part of our heritage. The museum is divided into two sections. The main museum (located at Building 517 on McChord Field) contains an extensive collection of armament, instruments, paintings and art from the U.S. Air Force art collection, photographs, vintage uniforms, scale models, unit exhibits and other memorabilia. The other section, the museum’s air park, is on Heritage Hill overlooking the McChord Field runway where 14 aircraft sit ready to be inspected, and admired. The aircraft collection of McChord Air Museum contains some of the rarest and most unusual aircraft in the world. These aircraft include: the Douglas B-18 Bolo (one of five in existence), Douglas B-23 Dragon (one of five in existence), the last flying C-124 Globemaster II, Convair F-106 Delta Dart (participated in the USAF’s record-setting 1959 Speed Record Project),
a Canadian CF-101F training variant (one of four in existence), McChord’s first Lockheed C-141 StarLifter (The “Tacoma StarLifter”), and the USAF’s last Lockheed T-33 “T-Bird” (“Exodus”). All aircraft types, all once assigned to the base, represent the many diverse missions performed by McChord units during the field’s long history in the Pacific Northwest.
Admission to the museum is free and the facility is open Wednesday through Friday, noon to 4 p.m. It is closed all other days of the week, as well as on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Visitors (U.S. citizens) without a current military vehicle registration decal and federal ID card must first obtain a Visitor Pass at the McChord Field Main Gate Visitors Center by presenting a driver’s license, vehicle insurance and current automobile registration. A pass will only be issued during regular museum hours.
Lewis Army Museum
The mission of the Lewis Army Museum, Building 4320, is to collect, preserve, exhibit and interpret the history of JBLM, the units that served here and the story of the United States Army in the Pacific Northwest. Five major galleries depict the colorful history of JBLM.
The museum, housed in the old Fort Lewis Inn, was originally constructed in 1919 by the Salvation Army and named the Red Shield Inn. It was used as a lodge and social center for Soldiers and visitors to Camp Lewis. Situated in an area known as Greene Park, it was named after the first commanding general of the 91st Infantry Division and Camp Lewis, Maj. Gen. Henry A. Greene.
In July 1921, the Army purchased the Inn on a quit-claim deed for $1 and renamed it The Camp Lewis Inn. In 1927, the camp was designated a fort, and the inn acquired the title it was to keep for 46 years, The Fort Lewis Inn.
In 1973, the structure became the home of the Fort Lewis Military Museum, and today serves as a distinguished reminder of JBLM’s historic past. In 1979, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, preserving a historically significant post landmark. During 2009-11, the museum underwent a major renovation to include a new elevator and updated electrical, infrastructure improvements, security and landscaping.
The museum has many exhibits covering the history of military activities in the Northwest. Exhibits are arranged chronologically, highlighting the divisions that have trained at JBLM and their overseas duty, including I Corps. Special exhibits are devoted to early military presence in the Puget Sound region; WWI and WWII in Europe and the South Pacific; and combat art from Vietnam. Uniforms, equipment and weapons represent all eras.
The museum’s collection of military artifacts is rich and varied, with weapons, uniforms, vehicles and thousands of other items pertinent to the history of Fort Lewis. The museum’s holdings also include weapons, vehicles and uniforms from the Persian Gulf War and current operations. Outside the museum is a 2.5-acre park containing military vehicles, artillery pieces, tanks and missiles.