On June 6, 2001, the Evergreen Museum, formerly the Captain Michael King Smith Educational Institute and Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, opened in McMinnville close to Highway 18. It features displays on military, passenger, and freight aircraft from all periods of aviation. An aviation-themed water park debuted in 2011, and the IMAX cinema and Space Museum followed in 2007. The Evergreen Museum, which was acquired by vintner Bill Stoller in 2020, is most renowned for housing the Spruce Goose, the biggest wood-built aircraft in the world.
Captain Michael King Smith, a former F-15 fighter pilot with the Oregon Air National Guard and the United States Air Force, is the creator of the museum dedicated to aviation and the history of flying. When Captain Smith was killed in a vehicle accident in 1995, he and his father, Delford Smith (1930-2014), had already started collecting airplanes for a museum they called the Evergreen Museum (later, the Evergreen AirVenture Museum). The museum was afterwards named after him and carried on operating in his honor.
The Gilded Age estate that houses the Evergreen Museum is surrounded by 26 acres of gardens and woodlands. The Garrett family of Baltimore amassed a renowned collection of fine and decorative arts, rare books, and manuscripts for the museum over two generations (1878-1952). Evergreen was built in 1858, but the Garretts significantly changed and expanded it to fit their diverse collections, and as a result, it is now included on the National Register of Historic Places. The Garretts, their astonishing collections, and Evergreen’s evolution from a rural villa to a center for contemporary singers, writers, and artists are all explored during the museum’s guided tours, which are available to visitors.
Evergreen International Aviation, Inc. and its connected businesses in McMinnville were founded by Delford Smith. The earliest helicopters held by Smith’s 1960s-founded Evergreen Helicopters company are among the collection’s holdings.
Spruce Goose Museum
The HK-1 Flying Boat, also referred to as the Spruce Goose, is a significant aircraft housed in the museum. The Goose was created by Howard Hughes in 1947 and brought to McMinnville in 1993. Its one flight in Long Beach Harbor lasted just seventy seconds. Originally constructed to transport supplies and troops across the Atlantic during World War II, it was deactivated because to safety concerns. When the iconic plane’s previous owners in Long Beach, California, ran out of money for its upkeep and display, the museum bought it.
The Spruce Goose is like walking inside a huge shipping container. Clomp, clomp, clomp; everything is muffled and creaking because it is made of wood, including the floors, walls, and ceiling. The Flying Lumberyard is how the aircraft was dubbed by its detractors.
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The Spruce Goose’s wings, which are the longest in history, extend high above the ticket window and well over to the building’s opposite side. There are dozens of other antique aircraft parked on the floor, including a Flying Fortress bomber, a DC-3 passenger plane, and many more. They’re all wonderful, but the Spruce Goose is a giant among them. The Goose’s wings could potentially serve as a runway for some of the smaller aircraft.
Other aircraft in the museum include the Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress, the Supermarine Spitfire Mk. XVI, and the North American P-51D Mustang. The Ford 5-AT-B Tri-Motor Tin Goose and the Douglas DC-3A are examples of passenger and business aircraft. A model of the Wright Brothers’ 1903 Flyer and popular 1930s stunt planes are also present. The Oregon Aviation Hall of Honor is comprised of Oregonians who have made significant contributions to aviation history and is chosen by the museum each year.
Donations from service members and aviation enthusiasts are preserved and displayed in the museum’s archive and library. Some of the aircraft are still able to fly, and they are maintained as closely as possible to their original specifications. To restore ancient and damaged aircraft to their original state, a restoration and preservation team works.
Visitors to the Evergreen Museum can better comprehend the science of aviation thanks to interactive flight and engine simulators. Additionally, the museum offers on-site aviation classes for nearby high school students.
Bankruptcy in 2020
When Stoller, a Yamhill County native who established his vineyards on the Stoller Family Estate, purchased a stake in the struggling museum for $9.5 million in 2020, the museum was on the verge of going out of business. The entire property, including the water park and the neighboring vineyards, is now under the management of Stoller’s business, McMinnville Properties. As a result, the public can still visit the museum and its collections.
As part of our volunteer initiatives at Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, the restoration crew has been active for the longest. They assembled the Spruce Goose and returned it to its former splendor; they also finished restoring the majority of the other aircraft that are currently on show on the museum floor.
The team is proud to add a significant relic to the collection of the Evergreen Museum so that tourists from all around the world can enjoy a different chapter in the history of aviation or space.
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