History of the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Facts and History

Hall of Fame opened on 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 and 1995, and completed 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 internationally recognized institution and travel destination.  Currently, the Hall of Fame is undergoing the largest expansion and renovation in its history. The "Future 50" Expansion & Renovation Project has expanded the museum to 118,000 square feet. The two-year, $27 million project was completed in the summer of 2013 after a major renovation to 38,000 square feet of museum space was finished.

Today, 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 Highway 77. Highway 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 area guide the visitor 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. I-77 connects directly to both of these major routes. Canton is also located on U.S. Highways 30 and 62.

Canton lies approximately 50 miles south of Cleveland, 100 miles west of Pittsburgh, 120 miles northeast of Columbus and around 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 September 17, 1920. (2) the Canton Bulldogs were an early-day 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 1960's 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 December 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 January 25, 1961, William E. Umstattd of the Timken Company 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 this official site approval.

Wooded parkland was donated from the city and a civic fund-raising campaign had, by February 8, 1962, acquired pledges totaling $378,026. Ground-breaking for the original construction was held on August 11, 1962, and on September 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 complete 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, long-time general manager of the Washington Redskins, was named the Hall's first director on April 4, 1962. Mr. McCann died in November, 1967, and in April 1968, Dick Gallagher, a long-time pro football coach, scout, and general manager, was named the new director. He served until his retirement on December 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 on October 31, 1996. John Bankert, a long-time vice-president of the Hall of Fame, became the museum’s fourth director on November 1, 1996 and was named President in 2003. He served in that role through his retirement on December 31, 2005.

Steve Perry became the Pro Football Hall of Fame's fifth President/Executive Director on April 24, 2006 and served through his retirement in 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 on January 6, 2014. Baker served as the Commissioner of the Arena Football League for 12 years from 1996 to 2008. The 6’9” 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 Juris Doctorate 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, California. For four years before taking his position at the Hall of Fame, he worked as a Partner in Union Village, LLC, the largest healthcare project in the United States creating thousands of jobs in Henderson, Nevada as the first Integrated Health Village in the world.