Editor’s note: This feature is part of a Hill Air Force Base 80th anniversary series. These articles will feature the base’s historical innovations and achievements, and will highlight mission platforms that have been operated and supported throughout the decades.
HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — Hill AFB opened its Heritage Museum and Aerospace Park on May 2, 1987, and hosted more than 50,000 visitors during its first five months in operation. Preparations for opening the museum began in 1985, and by the time it opened to the public the museum featured 26 aircraft, five missiles, and a 12,000 square-foot building with many artifacts and memorabilia. Achieving the goal to open the museum during the spring of 1987 depended on completing the renovation of Building 1919, a Word War II-era machine shop. There the museum staff temporarily housed the museum’s inside exhibits.
Hill AFB planned two phases for the opening of its museum. During the first phase, the museum operated temporarily using Building 1919 and the air park surrounding it while raising funds to support the construction of a permanent gallery space. After gathering sufficient funds the second phase began, which consisted of moving the museum into its permanent location.
By the spring of 1990, the State of Utah obligated $3.7 million and construction began on the museum’s 9,600 square-foot administration building and 36,000 square-foot gallery. On October 3, 1991, Utah Governor Norman Bangerter and Maj. Gen. Dale W. Thompson, Jr., Ogden Air Logistics Center commander, oversaw a ceremony at the newly completed museum complex, during which the State of Utah transferred ownership of the facilities to the U.S. Air Force.
According to a Hilltop Times article published on October 11, 1991, “this transfer marked the end of an uphill, four-year fundraising effort to create a new museum building at the 36-acre museum site near the Roy Gate of Hill AFB.” In July 1992, after museum staff finished furnishing the buildings and preparing the indoor exhibits, base leaders held a ribbon cutting ceremony to open the new museum facilities to the public – officially named the Hill Aerospace Museum.
As the base celebrated the opening of the Hill Aerospace Museum, the museum’s board, foundation, and staff were already planning the addition of a second gallery. In April 1999, Hill AFB leaders hosted a ground breaking event at the museum for a $1.4 million, 44,000 square-foot addition – planned to feature fighter aircraft. During the event, retired Lt. Gen. Marc Reynolds, chairman of the Air Force Heritage Foundation, surprised retired Maj. Gen. Rex A. Hadley with the announcement that part of the ceremony would include the dedication of the first gallery in his honor. Hadley played an instrumental role in the development of the museum.
The museum held a ceremony in December 1999, dedicating the newly completed Lindquist-Stewart Fighter Gallery. Twenty years later, in November 2019, the Hill Aerospace Museum celebrated its five millionth visitor. Since the 1980s, Hill AFB’s museum has added immeasurably to the installation’s heritage.