8 Minutes: Bradley Air Museum and the 1979 Windsor Locks Tornado

1980-1981: Reopening and Rebuilding


While museum leadership figured out how to afford a new home, they also worked to reopen temporarily and show the public that BAM was not out of business. Once the outdoor display had been cleaned up enough to be safe, it was reopened on weekends (weather permitting), with visitors paying 99 cents to view the storm-damaged aircraft.

Eventually a 2-acre site located behind the old hangar was secured. Fencing was installed and twenty-five aircraft were set up as a temporary outdoor display, which opened to the public in June of 1980. Meanwhile, fundraising efforts continued. That summer, an antique auto show held by BAM on the grounds of the old outdoor exhibit attracted more than 1,000 cars and 10,000 visitors and brought in thousands of dollars.

In early 1981, the museum was able to acquire a $750,000 disaster assistance loan through the Small Business Association. With this money, and the lease for the new site officially signed, things finally began to move forward at the new site. Ground was broken for a new display hangar on May 28, 1981, and as the building went up, volunteers began the massive task of moving aircraft and other material from the temporary location across the airport to the new location in time for a fall opening.


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