History of the Hall of Fame 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, an $8.2 million program which increased the Hall’s size to approximately 83,000 square feet, was completed in autumn of 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 Elliot, 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 recently announced his retirement, effective October 31, 1996. He will be replaced by John Bankert, the Hall’s long-time Vice President of Operations