First Time at the RVMH Museum

Our second day in Elkhart, we decided to see the RVMH Museum.  I think every one of our friends had visited the museum and although I had heard mixed reviews it definitely was something I wanted to do. The MH in RVMH by the way actually stands for manufactured housing not motor home, which was the first of many surprises, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  This place is best described in pictures though so let me walk you through it.

First off it is a really beautiful and large campus located on a large piece of property in Northern Elkhart.  If you are just passing by, they do have a huge parking lot and allow overnight stays, although there are no hook-ups of any kind.  We arrived bright and early when they opened and paid $12 each to enter.  The cost seems to be the biggest complaint, and I agree it is on the high side, but I personally felt it was totally worth it at the end.  If you don’t want to pay the $12, you can stop and take a picture with the elk outside and then visit the huge gift shop, which had lots of cool RVer items..many of which I had never seen before.

RVMH building

Lee immediately noticed that the museum was next store to the Furrion headquarters. I couldn’t place the name initially but Lee reminded me they make many, including ours, of the TV’s and electronics in RVs Coincidence…I think not!!

Nice pond in front which faced the turnpike

And I got my picture with the Elk painted like an RV. Yes it’s goofy but I think everyone I now has this picture and I couldn’t wait to take it

Like I said, huge gift shop, and the prices were pretty reasonable. I ended up buying toy trucks pulling fifth wheels so I could give them to my 3 year old nephews. They’ve been tough to buy for during our travels and they don’t really understand what I am doing so I thought the toy might help my brother and sister explain it

The building is currently divided into 4 major areas but they definitely have room to expand.  Upstairs there is a big RVer library that has manuals, magazines, and other books about RVing.  We walked upstairs first, at the suggestion of the very nice woman who was working in the gift shop, mainly to see a birds eye view of the gallery.

Along the wall leading to the library were the faces of contributing members. Not surprisingly they were all white men until

1980 was when the first woman appeared. There were more women later, but it’s not a very diverse group which is a shame because the people who are RVing is definitely becoming a more diverse group

We spent a little bit of time in the library. As a general rule I love them, but this one was not quite my cup of tea. Still it’s cool it exists and if you are ever looking for something specific, they might have it

And we got to see an overview of the showroom floor

We walked back down and were faced with three large rooms.  We started on the left (as we faced them) and went into the exhibitors hall.  The exhibitors hall is exactly what you would think with booths provided by numerous vendors.  It’s definitely worth a look though because a few of the vendors have provided historical artifacts and we found that part enjoyable. It felt a little like an RV show, without the people, and although I didn’t begrudge the museum the opportunity to have additional sponsorship, I did think wonder how these sponsorships impacted entrance fees.

Most of the exhibits were like this KOA Exhibit

But a few like Onan had some interesting things. This is an example of the first ever RV generator from the 1950’s. I thought that was neat

Lee was especially fascinated by this example of the first hitch. This clothes line tensioner was designed by Bill Whichello in the 1940’sw. It soon became obsolete with the electric dryer, but since he was an avid RVer he used the basic design to to make his own travel hitch. He decided other people might want the same thing and the towing industry was born

There were lots of stories, like the one above throughout the museum.  Initially RVing was a hobby and many of the standard features we have today started with as inventions that solved a problem by an enthusiast.  The whole history truly shows American ingenuity at it’s best and we both found it fascinating.

Next up was the Founders Room, and that is really what people come to see.  There are tons of old RV’s crammed into this section and it was extremely well done.  We have been to RV museums before..including an excellent one in Amarillo, Texas and although I really liked it.  Each description card had really good information and I read every one.  What fascinated me the most were all the examples of “firsts.”  As you know from reading my blog titles I am a big fan of “first” and seeing how things we take for granted got started was really cool.  My only complaint was this section was jam packed and a little cramped.  They have lots of unused space in other areas of the building and in my opinion they should expand this area and make it even better. Anyways, here are some of my favorites, but by no means are these all the RVs we saw. 

First up was a 1913 travel trailer which was custom made for a cal-tech professor. It was billed as the oldest RV in the world and the wood was really beautiful

These “telescoping apartments” were made in 1916 in San Francisco and actually provided warm water for shower from the engine radiator heat.

The Tennessee Traveler was a really cool example of an early motorhome

With a little pot belly stove inside

And a cool front seat.  Amazing that this was the precursor to the current day Captain’s Chair

They had Airstreams of course including the original 1958 model

And this prototype which was the smallest airstream ever built. They actually didn’t mass produce these, but they look an awful lot like our current day tiny campers to me

The 1954 Yellowstone Travel Trailer was one of the firsts to have a residential style refrigerator and stove. Again major innovation and thank heavens someone went there!

The 1985 Fleetwood bounder was the first Type A motorgome to have storage compartments in the “basement.” Needless to say they changed the industry.

This 1967 Fan Luxury liner was one of the first examples of Mor-Ryde suspension. We found that particularly interesting because ours was in the process of being installed and I had no idea they had been in existence so long and was encouraged by the fact the design seemed fundamentally similar.

This 1938 Hayes Motor Home was possibly the first to coin the term. It features a full steel body, including underneath, which makes it varmint free. For those of us who have had a mouse in our house that is an attractive feature!!

From a sheer beauty standpoint I loved this 1928 Pace Arrow Fleet Housecar. It was a high end model built in New York and the grill work on the outside was fantastic. Reminded me of a trolley car. Someone should bring this back 🙂

The 1929 Weidman Housecar was also really pretty and I loved how functional it was.  Could totally see a family going on a camping trip in this.

Compared to this 1969 Pace Arrow motor home, with the very cool front grill



My absolute favorite though was probably this 1955 42 foot mobile home It reminded me of that trailer Lucy used in the movie and was  open so you could walk inside. It was incredibly spacious, especially for the time, and although it needed more windows, the floor plan was solid. I’m guessing these were mostly stationary, but it was designed to be towed

Really nice living room with a sewing machine, that many people I know would appreciate today

Long kitchen with a four burner stove

Bunkbed area and there was a master bedroom on the other side

And a modern bathroom with a full sized toilet

My second favorite was this 1937 Hunt Housecar which was designed by cinematographer Roy Hunt to use on movie shoots.  We probably owe quite a bit in function and design to the movie industry as they have used these vehicles since the beginning when filming on locations.

I couldn’t live in this but thought it looked really cool, like a Jetson’s mobile

Finally we toured the last section which was the Go RVing Hall.  This section again was pretty sparse and the materials were largely provided by vendors but they did have an excellent model of the RV Manufacture process which I found fascinating.  I really didn’t know the order they used when they created an RV and it was neat to see the overview.  Plus they had a few new models on display and we walked through a very nice Jayco and checked it out.

Lee and I like the concept of a Super C, but we haven’t found one yet we think we could live in. The models are getting closer though.

After we finished with the museum we did walk outside and see the manufactured home on display.  Lee was curious and I’ll have to admit when we walked inside the double unit we were pretty blown away.  First of all, their was so much room (in comparison to our RV) and there were some very nice features.  Lee actually talked about how he could live in one of these eventually which really surprised me.  We talk about getting a piece of land and eventually putting a house on it someday, but I always pictured building a small home.  A manufactured home might be a better solution, especially since we plan on finding a place kind of out by ourselves and are not really interested in one of the senior living communities.

We liked the porch

And the kitchen was fantastic

After we saw the home, I was starving and we tried a local diner called Stacks Pancake House which the gift shop employee recommended.  What a terrific little restaurant.  For $7.99 I got an excellent club sandwich, soup, chips, and a drink.  The service was great, the place was clean and  I give it my highest recommendation.

Check out these breakfast prices…now that’s what I am talking about

Perfectly prepared club sandwich!  I did pay an extra 99 cents for the cheese 🙂

So that’s all of the posts on Elkhart, Indiana.  It was a jam packed two days with a Mor-Ryde installation, buying RV Furniture, seeing friends, and of course the museum.  We are on our way to Columbus to see our families, then a quick trip to the Carolinas to see my daughter and sister, and finally will arrive at Amazon in Campbellsville, KY October 30th.  I am committed to keeping up with the blogs as best I can…although I often find myself writing these posts at 4am, and because Lee and I are going to be in two separate states for awhile, it’s going to be doubly hard to get these out in a timely manner. We are making it a priority though, and ask for your patience as we wind through the next couple of weeks.

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2 thoughts on “First Time at the RVMH Museum

  1. Glad you liked a manufactured home! We have been super happy in ours, and even though the community is not for everyone, the proximity to the beach is what keeps us theilled to live here!

  2. I am shocked that with so many people recommending the museum, you don’t have more comments on this post! Intriguing. Anyway, glad you enjoyed it! We visited in 2010 and loved the walk through history. I wonder if the vendor area and RV Lifestyles sections are new – I don’t recall them at all. Nor the manufactured house outside. Guess we’ll have to go back next time we’re in the area. 🙂

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