A very busy summer officially changed to fall amid record-high temperatures and a continuing high activity level for Project New Leaf. Calm and dry weather has definitely worked in Cantigny’s favor during Phase One.
Our top priority in August was to finish the First Division Museum in time for the August 26 Grand Reopening. And guess what? We made it! We hope you were able to attend. The museum’s makeover, inside and out, represents a key early milestone in Project New Leaf, which began last spring.
The Tank Park outside the museum has never looked better. Visitors will notice new brick pathways throughout and a new plaza in front of the museum’s main entrance. Even the stairs are new. Lots of work went into sprucing up the stream, too, with stone seating and new aquatic plantings along its edge. New light poles are coming soon.
The 11 U.S. Army tanks were cleaned and given fresh paint and historically correct markings. It’s great to see kids climbing on them again!
Behind the museum, a new picnic pavilion overlooks the museum courtyard and golf course. The shelter will soon be rentable for private events and also used for the museum’s educational programming. Roll-up sides render it practical for three-season use.
Of course, the most exciting news is inside the museum itself. The crown jewel of the thoroughly renovated space is “Duty First,” an all-new gallery occupying the 2,500-square-foot space formerly used for temporary exhibits and programs. Inside it, visitors will learn about the different types of missions performed by the 1st Infantry Division today with the information, in many cases, delivered by the voices of military veterans. Interactive exhibits apply virtual reality technology that is sure to leave a lasting impression.
The First Division Museum’s other major gallery, just off the redesigned lobby, is “First in War.” This space, updated with new media and more artifacts, will be familiar to previous visitors. Powerful immersive experiences remain intact, such the walk through a WWI trench, onto Omaha Beach and through the jungles of Vietnam.
Why, you might ask, does construction fencing still surround the area just west of the First Division Museum? The answer lies in blueprints of Project New Leaf, which call for an arrival pavilion located between the parking lot and the museum. The structure, to be completed in 2018, will offer visitor information and restrooms.
Installation of the Red Oak Colonnade, a double row of trees running north-south from the Visitors Center to the First Division Museum, begins in November. This is the other reason why the approach to the museum (from the west) is unfinished.
As always, we appreciate your patience as we execute the biggest changes at Cantigny since the park opened in 1958.