The Richard W. Erickson Foundation’s Antique & Classic Power Museum is a hidden gem in the small town of Wallsburg, Utah, less than 30 minutes south of Heber City. The Museum showcases America’s heritage as it houses one of the largest and most unique collections of antique and classic automobiles, motorcycles, farm equipment, and Americana memorabilia.
The attractions include a vintage service station, a historic pioneer village, Wallsburg’s first general mercantile store established in 1890, a schoolhouse church, a print shop, shoe shop, cafe, log cabins from the 1800s, and much more.
The Foundation was established by Richard “Dick” and his wife, Rita Erickson. Dick was from Minnesota, but fell in love with Utah while serving in the military. After completing his military service, he came out to Utah in 1958 in a 1947 Ford Coupe with his Harley Davidson motorcycle strapped to the back. Dick’s brothers Dean and Donald followed him to Utah shortly after.
Dick had a classic American rags to riches story—the young man from Minnesota truly made his fortune in Utah. An entrepreneur at heart, after the military, Dick and his wife went on to build a successful business. Dick was a licensed contractor specializing in road construction, asphalt paving, excavation and railroad construction. But it wasn’t all work and no play; Dick and Rita’s favorite pastime was to immerse themselves in collecting anything from tractors to toasters.
As avid collectors, the Ericksons would go to auctions all over the United States visiting flea markets, swap meets and various auctions and by the 1970s, the couple started building one of the most impressive collections this side of the Mississippi. It was during the 1970s that the couple began purchasing property in Wallsburg as a place to escape and store a few tractors until they eventually acquired 360 acres altogether, which would ultimately house their massive collection.
“As Dick and Rita’s collection grew, Dick would build another building, fill it up, then build another building, " said Russell D. Baker, Chairman of The Richard W. Erickson Foundation. Russell, a close associate of Dick Erickson, has been involved in the Foundation since 2002, the year he combined his own passion for antique and classic vehicles with his professional expertise as an entrepreneur and corporate executive to help curate the Antique & Classic Power Museum’s automobile and motorcycle collections.
It all started in the 1970s, explained Russell. “It was a passion of the Ericksons,” he said. “They loved classic and antique motorcycles, cars, trucks, tractors, farm machinery, and Americana.”
Today, the collection is so big, you have to see it to believe it. Just a few of the treasures onsite include an early 1868 motorcycle, a replica (the original is in France) Roper, the first patented motorcycle. It has a wood frame and wood wheels with a boiler between the rider’s legs. Primitive, but it worked.
The museum has several historic Bonneville Salt Flats items, the guitar that belonged to Johnny Cash’s mother-in-law, a GTO, a Challenger, a GTO Judge, a Shelby GTH500, several Corvettes, and a very rare 1996 Ford Excalibur Cobra, a Continuation Car—only 178 were produced.
Achieving nonprofit status to preserve the collection
The Ericksons incorporated the Foundation in 1999 in a manner that they could fulfill their goal of preserving their collection for generations to come. “We lost Rita many years ago and Dick in 2018,” said Russell, who took over as chairman when Dick passed. “We have a Board of Trustees and many volunteers, who are all very active on the facilities and in the museum, and I want to recognize them,” said Russell.
“We’ve [the Board of Trustees] taken Erickson’s vision and taken it to a much higher level. I am sure they are looking down quite pleased at what they see,” said Russell.
Dick and Rita may have passed away, but their legacy lives on through Russell and the other members on the Board of Trustees. Russell said that he and his wife, Danna have their own large collection of classic cars, sports cars, and motorcycles, and that’s how Dick and Russell became associated. They would always be at the same auctions and run into each other at the same shows. Dick kept inviting Russell to come see his collection, and one day Russell finally drove to Wallsburg to see it, and before he knew it, he was deeply involved.
24 buildings full of treasures
Today, the Wallsburg facility is a sprawling 360 acres where it houses 24 buildings full of treasures—motorcycles, trucks, tractors, sports cars, antique classic cars, historic buildings, and much more. The museum has interactive demonstrations, a turn-of-the-century sawmill where full-sized trees are cut up into boards by turn-of-the-century belt-driven tractors. Another machine takes the boards and creates shingles. The museum has more machines and displays that are very interactive that are adored by the public.
“As a curator and collector my whole life, it’s about the story,” said Russell. “During our events, which are typically two or three-day events, it’s not just about the thing you are looking at, it’s all about the story behind it.”
The museum’s Antique Power Show is the only event that has working displays, a three-day event held the weekend after Father’s Day each year. There is camping on-site and live music. According to Russell, people come out from all over the country for the Power Show. “I tell people we’re like Disney Land—you cannot see it all in one day,” said Russell.
The Foundation’s indoor/outdoor museum includes a sawmill, a pioneer village with historic buildings, including a café. They have a shoe shop, an original Salt LakeTimes building with original printing equipment, and a historic schoolhouse/church, which to their surprise, they’ve had unique weddings in—so lots to see.
Through the Foundation’s philanthropy, a soundstage was built in one of the meadows on the property, which enabled the museum to bring music festivals to The Heber Valley. “As we speak, we are constructing a second stage,” said Russell. Every July, they’ll hold a bluegrass music festival and in August, a charity music festival called " Wasatch Boomerfest” where the Foundation selects a charity and all of the net proceeds go to that charity.
In 2022, the charity selected was Ronald McDonald House Charities and this year, the proceeds will go to the Wounded Warrior Project and Continue Mission “Our philanthropy work is very important to us,” said Russell.
The Richard W. Erickson Foundation was established in 1999 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with the vision of preserving early American history in a manner that would provide visitors with an enriching, educational and recreational experience. Thanks to its Board of Trustees and incredible volunteers, the execution of that vision has been a great success.
The Rickard W. Erickson Foundation Antique & Classic Power Museum is located at 50 Starks Lane in Wallsburg, Utah. The museum schedules private tours by appointment. Visit the museum’s website—www.richardericksonfoundation.org or Visitor Info for more information about one of Utah’s most cherished family activities.