Saturday, May 25, 2024

Second honeymoon, Day 5 (supplement)

In yesterday's post, I hinted at a museum we stumbled upon called "Once Upon a Time in America Museum." It was not yet opened to the public (its grand opening should be no later than mid-June), but impulsively we pulled into the parking lot, hoping to take photos of the facade, before being on our way.

But then we had an extraordinary opportunity when one of the co-owners of the museum, Nicol Grossman, offered us a "sneak peek" tour. She and her husband Jason took upwards of two hours out of their busy schedules to show us around everything they were doing. (You can read a more detailed version of what we saw here.)

Don and I came away agog. This museum may not yet be open to the public – give it a couple more weeks – but the quality and quantity of exhibits should make it a premier destination for those interested in Americana. And I don't make that endorsement lightly.

Here are a few things we saw, with the understanding that not every exhibit was in its final form.

The building housing the collection is massive, upwards of 40,000 square feet.

The "Hall of Wonderment" has layers of displays. Along one wall are three-dimensional examples of the types of buildings that might be found in a frontier town, suitable for children to explore.

And yes, the stagecoach is real.

If you peek through the window of the general store, you'll see genuine items typical of a 19th century retail establishment. These items were the cherished half-century collection of an elderly woman. When she passed away, her son needed to put her house up for sale, and offered the collection to the Grossmans for an incredible price. Thus the collection can be observed and cherished for future generations. How cool is that?

On the other side of the hall is a massive collection of taxidermied animals. Many of these are donated, and some are grandfathered in. They are arranged by biomes – northern animals at one end, and graduating to the southern biomes. To prevent children from climbing upon the animals, a fence will be installed in front of the exhibits.

Elsewhere in the museum, you never knew what marvels you might see. This, for example, is the roulette table from Tombstone, Arizona, during the time of the famous shoot-out.

This is a candle-powered silent movie projector from 1904...!

This is an original Sioux Indian war club discovered at the fields of the Battle of Little Bighorn.

There was a massive collection of steins and decanters.

There was a whole gallery devoted to movie memorabilia. Most everything had original signatures.

A personal favorite:

A large section was devoted to the many Westerns filmed in the region. John Wayne featured prominently.

Here's his signature.

Other famous people such as Mark Twain were also on display.

And his signature.

(There was also another gallery devoted to music memorabilia. Yes, you can view hand-written lyrics by Elvis Presley, among much else.)

Possibly my favorite room was the Gallery of Documents, still being organized.

This held a breathtaking assortment of memorabilia of American heroes – Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Paine, Hancock, Franklin, and other luminaries. Letters, receipts, deeds, treaties, broadsheets – all signed, documented, and authenticated, all on display for the awestruck visitor to see. They had the photos of both the Union and the Confederacy political cabinets, all with signatures. Signed photos of Medal of Honor winners. A hat signed by endless World War II legends – Audie Murphy, George C. Marshall, Alvin York, George S. Patton, Omar Bradley, William Halsey Jr., Chester W. Nimitz, etc. Signed photos of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. Signed pieces by Samuel Clemens. They even had a lock of Abraham Lincoln’s hair. It. Was. Stunning.

Possibly the most beautiful section of the museum was the saloon. When open, it will be a full-service restaurant. It was an incredible room.

A gallery revealed an upstairs...

The upstairs saloon is more modern. It will also have outdoor patio dining available.

But wait, there's more. How about an extensive car collection? (This photo shows just a small selection.)


This is a 100% accurate (and drivable) replica of the DeLorean from "Back to the Future."

I have photos of other displays that are not open to the public, so I won't post them here.

This is Nicol and Jason Grossman. You'll never meet two nicer and more gracious people.

This photo tour barely scrapes the surface of what this museum has on display, and can't possibly do it justice. If you ever find yourself in the vicinity of Kanab, Utah, the museum is about eight miles east on Hwy 89.

Don and I saw many wonderful things on our trip, but the Once Upon a Time in America Museum was one of the absolute highlights. We can't recommend it highly enough!


  1. Finally! The article you linked to at WND did a much better job framing your trip into a more cohesive "come along" experience. From the beginning there seemed to be something missing, although the photography is always excellent. Now I can go back and re-read the first few days from the point of view of your plan.
    You have been very gracious to share your precious honeymoon with us all.
    I think there is a type of historical honesty in the region you're documenting that many other regions of our country have experienced erosion of. Perhaps not being in the middle of the civil war helped. And perhaps retaining their Native American people helped. But it's really great to celebrate our American heritage through this trip!

  2. Thank you! This sounds amazing and a remarkably cool side trip from our next hike when we drive up to that area from Phoenix.

  3. "Signed photos of Medal of Honor winners."


    One does not "win" the MoH.

    One *earns* it.

    The hard way.

    (I guess I need to visit their web site to make sure they haven't made the same mistake.)