The new $3.5 million RV/MH Hall of Fame/Museum on the Indiana Toll Road in rural Elkhart (Ind.) County is expected to open to the public sometime in October with a more formal grand debut scheduled in conjunction with the August 2007 Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
Staff of the RV/MH Heritage Foundation Inc. also will move from downtown Elkhart into the new building in October, which initially will house the RV/MH Hall of Fame gallery, a display area for the 34 historic RVs the foundation already owns, a library and the foundation’s corporate offices.
“As soon as we relocate, the public will have access,” said Al Hesselbart, foundation historian and spokesman.
A special exhibit hall that will display the evolution of the manufactured housing industry, a 20,000-square-foot convention and convocation center and a wing to display industry historian David Woodworth’s collection of antique RVs and camping memorabilia will be added later when already-pledged donations to the foundation come due.
Foundation staff was to meet Friday (June 9) with representatives of the Indiana Department of Commerce’s Tourism Division to update them on the project.
The foundation earlier this week took possession of a 1931 Chevrolet custom-made housecar once owned by actress Mae West, the first of some 1,800 pieces in Woodworth’s collection that includes 35 pre-WWII motorized and towable RVs that will be displayed in the new facility.
The collection’s purchase was made possible through a “major contribution” to the foundation by Robert “Boots” Ingram and his wife Betty. Ingram is the founder of RV manufacturer Teton Homes, Casper, Wyo.
The sale price was not disclosed. However, a 2001 inventory by the California Department of Parks and Recreation, which at the time was considering purchasing Woodworth’s collection, placed its value at about $1 million.
“We hope that within a year or two we will be starting on the other phases,” Hesselbart said. “In the immediate meantime, David is storing most of the collection for a year in California. If the wing for his collection isn’t finished by then, we will have to bring it here and find storage locally.”
This year’s Hall of Fame induction dinner will be Aug. 7 at the Matterhorn Restaurant in Elkhart.
Among the 2006 inductees: Former Go RVing Coalition Chairman Tom Faludy of Scott Fetzer Co.; Crosby Forrest, founder Dixie RV Superstore; Joseph P. Hayden Jr. of The Midland Company; Bruce Hertzke, chairman of Winnebago Industries Inc.; Mike Molino, president of the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA); R. James Scoular of Iseman Corp.; Leon Shahnasarian of Instamatic Corp.; Randy Thompson, vice president of FreedomRoads; Donald C. Westphal of Donald Westphal Associates; Ronald Younkin of The Greenlawn Companies; Rolly Bannister of Bannister Properties; and Harris “Butch” Berg of Wick Building Systems.