By the late 1930’s the population of Boys Town was growing and Father Flanagan decided a new dining Hall was needed. In 1939 the new dining hall was constructed with the capacity to feed four hundred boys three times a day. Over the decades thousands of boys ate their meals and special events were held in the building. Each week Father Flanagan stood in a special spot and addressed the boys with announcements of life in the village. In the early 1970’s the dining hall was closed with the adoption of the Family Home program.
In the early 1980’s Mr. Henry Hess of Chicago left his estate to Boys Town with no stipulations to its use. Executive Director Monsignor Robert Hupp decided to use the funds to create a museum to honor the 100th anniversary of Father Flanagan’s birth in 1986. The design firm of Eisterhold and Associates were selected to transform the former dining hall into the new Hall of History museum. From 1984 to 1986 the empty rooms were filled with thousands of Boys Town images and artifacts. The museum would receive several awards for its design.
During the creation of the Hall of History the last exhibit sections were left partially finished with the idea to gradually add new displays detailing current Boys Town programs. Over the next thirty years minor updates were carried out, but the sections overall remained the same. With the advent of the centennial celebrations plans were made to finish these exhibit sections, and highlight the current continuum programs.
Beginning in 2015 the Hall of History and Marketing teams began to create a museum story line “The Dream Continues” which would present contemporary Boys Town to visitors. Several design firms submitted proposals for the new displays, and a final decision was made to once again use Eisterhold and Associates for the update project providing continuity for the overall Hall of History presentation.
“The Dream Continues” displays describe how each director of the Boys Town created a plan to answer the pressing issues facing America’s children and families. The current continuum of care is presented showing the various Boys Town programs touching the lives of over 2 million people each year. A major section describes how the students live today in the village from their schooling to home life. Special sections highlight Boys Town’s centennial, Father Flanagan Awards for Service to Youth, and the cause for Father Flanagan’s sainthood.
The displays feature interactive presentations on the continuum of care, the daily life of the students, and life in the village during Father Hupps and Father Peter’s administration. The BTNRH display will have several interactives showing the history of the hospital and an empathy test based upon the neurobehavioral research program. Throughout the coming months new artifacts will be added including the Boys Town Centennial coins created by the US Mint. Throughout the centennial year visitors will see new artwork from the students and other special items as the Hall of History continues to interpret the past and current programs of Father Flanagan’s Boys’ Home.