Fort Lewis, Wash., military museum will get a facelift

FORT LEWIS, Wash. — If you've always wanted to check out the huge metal head and sword of Saddam Hussein brought back from Iraq, dioramas of famous battles, the jeep Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf drove when he was Fort Lewis' top officer or any of the other thousands of relics on display at the Fort Lewis Military Museum, you're going to have to wait a while.

The museum closed last week for a $9.6 million renovation project that should last until spring of 2011. Officials say the upgrades — mostly structural repairs to the 90-year-old building — should ensure the museum remains a link between Western Washington and its rich military history.

"It's an exciting time at the museum," director Myles Grant said. "We have a real opportunity to serve both the military and the public much better when we open again."

The museum may be the most visible face of Fort Lewis for the thousands of Interstate 5 motorists driving past the post. Unlike the rest of the installation, it's open to the public, and saw about 18,000 visitors last year.

During the closure, the building will be brought up to seismic and Americans with Disabilities Act code. Workers will install new wiring, as well as alarm, fire and air-conditioning systems. The windows will be removed, refurbished and reinstalled. The roof will be replaced, and the building’s derelict third floor will be transformed into classrooms.

The flagpole area and vehicle displays outside the museum also will receive repairs.

Fort Lewis received federal stimulus funding for the upgrades through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.