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posted: 8/24/2017 1:00 AM

Images: #TBT Gallery looks back at Wheaton's First Division Museum

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By Jeff Reiter
Cantigny Park

This Saturday, the First Division Museum at Cantigny Park in Wheaton will reopen its doors after a 10-month redesign, part of Cantigny's ongoing Project New Leaf. The updated museum includes a new gallery showcasing the post-Vietnam history of the U.S. Army's 1st Infantry Division and the unit's current activities around the globe. The iconic tanks outside the museum are reopening, too.

The original museum, then called the Cantigny War Memorial Museum of the First Division, opened in 1960 inside a repurposed horse stable -- the building that's now the Cantigny Park Visitors Center. Tanks and other military artifacts were displayed outside along the entry drive. Back then, as today, park visitors were free to climb on the tanks if they wished.

Cantigny is home to the First Division Museum because of Col. Robert R. McCormick, a World War I veteran who served in the First Division. His experience at the successful Battle of Cantigny in 1918 made such an impression that he renamed his Wheaton estate upon returning from Europe. Previously, the property was known as Red Oaks Farm. Through the years, until his death in 1955, the Colonel hosted military reunions on the Cantigny grounds for his "Big Red One" colleagues.  

Twenty-five years ago this month, in 1992, the First Division Museum opened in its much larger current home. While the "footprint" of the museum was not altered during the current renovation, big changes await visitors inside. Guests will enjoy a more engaging and interactive experience, with greater emphasis on what it's like to be a soldier in today's military. For more information, visit fdmuseum.org.

The "Cantigny War Memorial Museum" opened in 1960, in the former horse stables that would later become the Cantigny Park Visitors Center. The museum was later renamed the First Division Museum.
The "Cantigny War Memorial Museum" opened in 1960, in the former horse stables that would later become the Cantigny Park Visitors Center. The museum was later renamed the First Division Museum.
Photo courtesy of Cantigny Park
Visitors at the 1960 grand opening included some well-dressed VIPs.
Visitors at the 1960 grand opening included some well-dressed VIPs.
Photo courtesy of Cantigny Park
Military tanks, vehicles and artillery shells lined the original museum's entrance in the early 1960s.
Military tanks, vehicles and artillery shells lined the original museum's entrance in the early 1960s.
Photo courtesy of Cantigny Park
Original museum interior. Even then, the displays included a fair amount of interactivity!
Original museum interior. Even then, the displays included a fair amount of interactivity!
Photo courtesy of Cantigny Park
Kids climb on the tanks in August of 1960.
Kids climb on the tanks in August of 1960.
Photo courtesy of Cantigny Park
This 1967 photo shows the west side of the original First Division Museum -- what is now the front of the Cantigny Visitors Center.
This 1967 photo shows the west side of the original First Division Museum -- what is now the front of the Cantigny Visitors Center.
Photo courtesy of Cantigny Park
The "Big Red One" shield was the visual centerpiece inside the original museum.
The "Big Red One" shield was the visual centerpiece inside the original museum.
Photo courtesy of Cantigny Park
The grand opening of the original First Division Museum, on August 20, 1960.
The grand opening of the original First Division Museum, on August 20, 1960.
Photo courtesy of Cantigny Park
Eddie Ireland and his family were the museum's 500,000th visitors in 1963.
Eddie Ireland and his family were the museum's 500,000th visitors in 1963.
Photo courtesy of Cantigny Park
Gardens were planted in the late 1960s, directed by landscape architect Franz Lipp. Now people had another reason to visit Cantigny.
Gardens were planted in the late 1960s, directed by landscape architect Franz Lipp. Now people had another reason to visit Cantigny.
Photo courtesy of Cantigny Park
This image shows the east-facing side of the original First Division Museum and some of the early garden plantings. The large oak tree still stands.
This image shows the east-facing side of the original First Division Museum and some of the early garden plantings. The large oak tree still stands.
Photo courtesy of Cantigny Park
These horse stables would become the original First Division Museum in 1960. The building is now the Cantigny Visitors Center.
These horse stables would become the original First Division Museum in 1960. The building is now the Cantigny Visitors Center.
Photo courtesy of Cantigny Park
This 1950s image shows the Cantigny front entrance and future First Division Museum in the distance.
This 1950s image shows the Cantigny front entrance and future First Division Museum in the distance.
Photo courtesy of Cantigny Park
These horse stables would eventually become the First Division Museum, and later the present-day Cantigny Visitors Center.
These horse stables would eventually become the First Division Museum, and later the present-day Cantigny Visitors Center.
Photo courtesy of Cantigny Park
A M1917 tank from a World War I is placed in the museum's Tank Park in 1992.
A M1917 tank from a World War I is placed in the museum's Tank Park in 1992.
Photo courtesy of Cantigny Park
After the museum opened, the front entrance received an upgrade.
After the museum opened, the front entrance received an upgrade.
Photo courtesy of Cantigny Park
The small museum was popular from the start. This 1960 image shows that a ticketing system was needed to manage traffic flow.
The small museum was popular from the start. This 1960 image shows that a ticketing system was needed to manage traffic flow.
Photo courtesy of Cantigny Park
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