Pendleton Air Museum finds first home

The Pendleton Air Museum has found a home in downtown Pendleton near the Pendleton Underground Tours.

The Pendleton Air Museum will soon take a place among the city’s other historic exhibitions downtown.

The museum board recently announced that it signed a lease to rent a space at 21 S.W. Emigrant Ave., just a few doors down from the Pendleton Underground Tours.

The space represents the first permanent home for the nonprofit, which now has room to publicly exhibit its collection of historical aviation memorabilia.

The museum website asks volunteers to help prepare the building for a targeted opening date of Sept. 9.

Originally established in 1989, the Pendleton Air Museum has long sought a physical building for its displays. One of its latest fundraisers to reach that goal was a gala in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Doolittle Raids, which featured personnel who trained at the Pendleton air base.

Chris Sykes is familiar with the situation in several ways — he’s the president-elect of the air museum board, the president of the underground tours board and his real estate office is on the same block as both.

Sykes said the air museum still wants to keep an eye out for a larger facility near the airport that could house historical aircraft, but the museum wanted to get its start with the downtown space.

“This is a spot we can launch from,” he said.

Sykes said the Emigrant Ave. museum will focus on World War II-era history and will include historical items like uniforms, pictures and artillery.

The Pendleton Air Museum joins a small group of museums that are located in the downtown area, including Pendleton Underground Tours and the Heritage Station Museum.

Pendleton Downtown Association Executive Director Molly Turner said adding another organization that showcases Pendleton’s history will be a plus for the downtown area.

“Foot traffic is a great thing for everyone,” she said.

Pendleton’s history in aviation stretches back nearly nine decades.

According to “A Century of News and People in the East Oregonian,” the Pendleton City Council voted in 1930 to establish the city’s first airport two miles east of town.

Just four years later, the city built a new airport to obtain a stop on an air mail route.

During World War II, the airport was turned into an air base, which housed members of the Doolittle Raiders and the “Triple Nickles,” an all-black unit that performed smokejumping operations at forest fires across the country.

Pendleton was designated an Essential Air Service community in 1978 and is now the only city in Oregon with subsidized commercial air service.

People interested in volunteering can contact the air museum at 541-278-0141.

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Contact Antonio Sierra at asierra@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0836.

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