Harold LeMay’s Humble Beginnings

We’re all familiar with the expression “One person’s trash is another one’s treasure.” In the case of the late Harold LeMay, along with his wife Nancy, the trash led to the treasure. Washingtonians Mr. and Mrs. LeMay made their considerable fortune in the commercial waste management business – trash trucks. As is so typical of many uber-successful entrepreneurs, it all came from humble beginnings. Mr. LeMay began his business with a single trash truck. Which of course became two. Which then became many.

Exhibit poster talking about Harold LeMay's history

Exhibit poster talking about Harold LeMay's history

His business accomplishments supported a substantial classic car habit. And the ever humble, “couple next door,” the LeMays went big – not to be confused with showy – on their passion for automobiles. Over time, they amassed a gathering of some 3000 cars, trucks, and motorcycles, claimed to be the largest single family-owned car collection in the world – although it would be interesting to compare this number to that of the late entertainment, gambling, casino, and hotel magnate William F. Harrah – the original “mega collector” if there ever was one. Mr. Harrah’s rambling campus in Reno Nevada also at one time comprised several thousand vehicles.

An outdoor view of the 165000 sq ft facility at the LeMay museum.

An outdoor view of the 165000 sq ft facility at the LeMay museum.

Expanding and Storing the Collection

No matter, Lemay’s collection became so large they ran out of space to house everything, ultimately purchasing a former school property to expand their storage horizon, not to mention stashing cars in who knows how many garages and other properties around their home city of Tacoma, Washington. In 1997, the LeMays, with the assistance of business leaders from their city, state, and the automotive enthusiast and business community around the world, formed the Harold E. LeMay Museum and committed themselves to donating their Collection to the Museum for public benefit.

As a not-for-profit, charitable organization, the Museum was chartered to preserve and interpret the history and technology of the automobile and its influence upon American culture. A high powered and well-credentialed board of directors and steering committee was assembled with the notion of conceiving, designing, building, populating, and administrating a proper museum property that would professionally curate, honor, display and care for the best of the LeMay’s collection, and be a jewel in the public “places and spaces” crown of Tacoma.

No dusty dark warehouse would this be: Among the most significant decisions and steps were to conceive and create a museum structure and campus like no other worthy of the exhibits, activities, events and educational missions to be contained and enjoyed therein.

The foundation, literally, of the plan was to select and procure the right spot; which happened with the highly significant and valuable grant of a nine-acre land parcel by the city, (directly across the street from the Tacoma Dome sports complex, and highly visible from the Interstate Highway 5 freeway). Naturally, the ideation, design, and construction of such a property would take years and cost millions, so design, planning and fundraising headlined the next major tasks. The museum opened in 2012.

A photo of Nancy and Harold LeMay standing next to their Duesenberg car.Read More


By: Matt Stone
Title: A Trip to LeMay – America’s Car Museum
Sourced From: sportscardigest.com/a-trip-to-lemay-americas-car-museum/
Published Date: Wed, 13 Oct 2021 19:46:54 +0000

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