Located in McMinnville, Oregon, the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum displays a variety of military and civilian airplanes and spacecraft, including the famed Hughes H-4 Hercules Spruce Goose, and offers an aviation-themed water park and IMAX theater. The Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum was the vision of Captain Michael King Smith, the son of Delford Smith, founder of Evergreen International Aviation, an international aviation services company best known for its commercial helicopter operations related to the agricultural industry.
The museum’s collections began with a collection of vintage aircraft displayed at the Evergreen headquarters facility, renamed and rebranded as the Evergreen AirVenture Museum in 1994. Following Smith’s death in an automobile accident in 1995, the museum was renamed in 1997 as the Captain Michael King Smith Evergreen Aviation Educational Center.
In 1992, the museum was selected by the Aero Club of Southern California as the new home of the Hughes H-4 Hercules Spruce Goose, a historic prototype airlift flying boat formerly owned by the Walt Disney Company, known as the largest flying boat ever constructed with the largest wingspan of any aircraft. A second museum building housing spacecraft was constructed in 2006 and opened to the public in June of 2008, and a seven-story IMAX theater was added to the complex in 2007. In 2009, the museum became a Smithsonian Affiliate museum, and in 2016, the Michael King Smith Foundation sold the museum to the Falls Event Center at a cost of $10.9 million.
Permanent Exhibits and Attractions
Today, the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum is owned and operated by Falls Event Center, showcasing a variety of collections related to aviation and space travel history. The museum is located directly across Oregon Route 18 from the McMinnville Municipal Airport, housed within former Evergreen Aviation International facilities. In addition to the museum’s permanent collections, a number of displayed aircraft and artifacts are loaned to the museum by the Air Force Museum, the Naval Aviation Museum, the Marine Corps Museum, the Smithsonian Museum, and private aircraft collectors.
The museum’s centerpiece exhibit is the Spruce Goose, produced in 1947 at a total development cost of more than $23 million. Though it was commissioned as a transatlantic transport aircraft for use in World War II and intended as the first in a line of similar flying boats, the craft only made a single flight on November 2, 1947 and the project was never developed further. Following World War II, ownership of the craft was disputed until a settlement in the 1970s which bestowed the bulk of the craft to the Summa Corporation and a wing to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum for exhibit display. In 1980, the craft was acquired by the Aero Club of Southern California, and in 1988, it was briefly owned by the Walt Disney Company when it acquired the Aero Club’s Queen Mary exhibit. Following the Evergreen Museum’s acquisition of the craft in 1992, eight years of reassembly and restoration were undertaken by museum volunteers until the Spruce Goose was completed for display in December of 2001.
A variety of other historic aircraft and spacecraft are displayed at the museum, including the Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird reconnaissance plane, the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, and the North American T-39 Sabreliner. A Titan II intercontinental ballistic missile is showcased at the museum’s space center, along with a Martin Titan II SLV Space Launch Vehicle, Gemini and Mercury space capsules, and a recreated missile control room exhibit and space shuttle flight simulators. Many museum docents are former aviators who offer personal anecdotes with their flights aboard the museum’s aircraft, and film presentations throughout the museum chronicle the development and use of displayed artifacts. The museum is also home to the Oregon Aviation Hall of Honor, a seven-story IMAX Theater showcasing aviation-related films, and the adjacent Wings and Waves Waterpark, opened in 2011, which features four slides docking from inside a retired Boeing 747 craft. Two cafes, the Liberty Belle Café and the Cosmo Café, serve light locally-produced fare, and future museum plans feature the addition of an 84-room hotel and full-service restaurant.
Ongoing Programs and Education
Guided museum tours are offered for small groups and organizations, including curriculum-incorporated tours for elementary and secondary school groups. Tours of the Spruce Goose’s cockpit are also offered daily on a first-come, first-served basis. Summer camps, spring break activity days, and Night Flight overnight experiences are also offered for students, along with homeschool day and scout group programming. Several annual scholarships are presented by the museum for high school students, including the Captain Michael King Smith Private Pilot Scholarship and the Thomas E. “Tom” Pitzer Aviation Maintenance Scholarship. Private birthday party events may also be booked through the museum’s catering department.
500 NE Captain Michael King Smith Way, McMinnville, OR 97128, Phone: 503-434-4185