History of the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Facts and History

The Pro Football Hall of Fame opened to the public Sept. 7, 1963

HOF_Constuction_100-85PHOTO GALLERY:

Hall of Fame through the years (click on image to view)


Since opening in 1963, the Pro Football Hall of Fame has grown in both size and stature.  The building was expanded in 1971, 1978, 1995 and 2012-13, and completed other major exhibit gallery renovations in 2003, 2008 and 2009. Together, these improvements have transformed the original 19,000-square-foot Hall of Fame Museum into an exciting and internationally recognized institution and travel destination now covering 121,000 square feet. The Hall of Fame stands as a shining tribute to the men who have made professional football America’s most popular sport.


The Pro Football Hall of Fame is located in Canton, Ohio, in the northwest corner of the city, just off Interstate 77. Exits for both northbound and southbound traffic are clearly marked on the freeway. Literally hundreds of other signs on lesser roads in the Canton and Stark County areas guide visitors directly to the Hall of Fame site. Canton is located approximately 40 minutes south of the Ohio Turnpike (I-80) and about one hour north of Interstate 70, another major east-west artery. Interstate 77 connects directly to both of these major routes. Canton is also located on U.S. Routes 30 and 62.

Canton lies approximately 50 miles south of Cleveland, 100 miles west of Pittsburgh, 120 miles northeast of Columbus and 225 miles from such centers as Detroit, Cincinnati and Buffalo.

Why Canton for the Hall of Fame Site?

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is located in Canton, Ohio, for three primary reasons. (1) The American Professional Football Association, later renamed the National Football League, was founded in Canton on Sept.17, 1920. (2) The Canton Bulldogs were an early pro football power, even before the days of the NFL. They were also the first two-time champion of the NFL, in 1922 and 1923. The great Jim Thorpe, the first big-name athlete to play pro football, played his first pro football with the Bulldogs, starting in 1915. (3) Canton citizens early in the 1960s launched a determined and well-organized campaign to earn the site designation for their city.

Pertinent Hall of Fame Historical Background:
The Pro Football Hall of Fame concept, as far as Canton was concerned, first was placed before the public by the Canton Repository on Dec. 6, 1959. That newspaper challenged its readers with the headline: "PRO FOOTBALL NEEDS A HALL OF FAME AND LOGICAL SITE IS HERE."

Canton civic groups quickly took up the challenge, and by Jan. 25, 1961, William E. Umstattd of The Timken Co. was in a position, as the selected representative of his city, to make a formal bid to the National Football League for acceptance of Canton as the site for a pro football hall of fame. Three months later, Canton was granted official site approval.

Wooded parkland was donated from the city, and a civic fundraising campaign had, by Feb. 8, 1962, acquired pledges totaling $378,026. Ground-breaking for the original construction was held Aug. 11, 1962. On Sept. 7, 1963, the building was first opened to the public.

The original two-building complex, containing 19,000 square feet of interior space, was almost doubled in size when a $620,000 expansion project was completed in May 1971. The expanded three-building complex contained 34,000 square feet of interior space. A second expansion, costing $1.2 million and adding a fourth building, was completed in November 1978 and increased the Hall's size to 51,000 square feet. A third expansion project, a $9.2 million program that increased the Hall's size to approximately 83,000 square feet, was completed in October 1995.

Dick McCann, longtime general manager of the Washington Redskins, was named the Hall's first director April 4, 1962. McCann died in November 1967, and in April 1968, Dick Gallagher, a longtime pro football coach, scout and general manager, was named the new director. He served until his retirement Dec. 31, 1975. In February 1979, Pete Elliott, an assistant coach of the St. Louis Cardinals who had had an extensive college playing and coaching career, was named the Hall's third director. Elliott retired Oct. 31, 1996. John Bankert, a longtime vice president of the Hall of Fame, became the museum’s fourth director Nov. 1, 1996 and was named president in 2003. He served in that role through his retirement Dec. 31, 2005.

Steve Perry became the Pro Football Hall of Fame's fifth president/executive director April 24, 2006, and served through his retirement in early 2014. He has had an extensive career in management of large private sector and public sector organizations. Most recently, he served in the federal government as the Administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) in Washington, D.C. Perry was a former member of the Hall of Fame's Board of Directors (1993-2001) and has been an active volunteer in numerous professional and community organizations.

David Baker was named president/executive director Jan. 6, 2014. He had served as commissioner of the Arena Football League for 12 years (1996 to 2008). The 6-foot-9 Baker was a power forward and captain of the basketball team at the University of California at Irvine from 1971-75. He also played two seasons of professional basketball in Europe before returning to obtain a law degree from Pepperdine University School of Law, where he served as editor-in-chief of the Law Review. As an attorney in California, Baker specialized in corporate mergers, acquisitions and real estate law. From 1984-88, he served as a city councilman and mayor of Irvine, Calif. For four years before taking his position at the Hall of Fame, he worked as a partner in Union Village, LLC, at the time the largest health care project in the United States, in Henderson, Nev.

Jim Porter became the Hall of Fame's seventh president/executive director when he succeeded Baker, who announced his retirement in October 2021. Porter had been on the Hall's Board of Directors for several years and had been hired as the Hall's chief marketing & communications officer in 2020. Previously, he had served as publisher of GateHouse Ohio Media, a group of award-winning newspapers in Canton and the surrounding area. His ties to the Canton community run deep. He has been a member of numerous boards (ArtsinStark, Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce and United Way of Greater Stark County, among several) and founded and chairs the Stark County High School Football Hall of Fame.