Historical Societies – Turning “I Wonder…” to “Wow!”

Ever wonder what that strange concrete road underpass thing is at the intersection of Grove and Montgomery? When it comes to everyday, unabashed wondering, we are often rewarded when we resolve to go visit our local museums. But what if you don’t have a local museum? Well, you probably at least have a Historical Society.

Incidentally, the concrete road underpass was part of a 24-mile irrigation system built to accommodate a giant, 1906 investment opportunity in the Deer Park area called Arcadia Apple Orchards. I know this because a fellow named Don Reiter found a reel of 35-mm nitro-cellulose film in a storage room in the 1950s, and just recently donated it to the Clayton-Deer Park Historical Society (CDPHS), who had it digitized in Seattle, and then released it a few weeks ago on Youtube. You can watch it too: dpgazette.com/applecdphs

The film drips with juicy detail about the apple-making process – from digging ditches and mounting flumes to packing crates full of fruit. My favorite part, though, was stepping onto a trolley with the cameraman and taking a leisurely trip down Riverside Ave. and Howard St. in downtown Spokane. Getting to see what our own towns were like over 100 years ago is like getting a luxury ride through time, at no charge. This has been the power of historical societies since the Progressive Era, collecting and sharing priceless treasure, information, and perspective with anyone in the public who wonders.

Now that the CDPHS is in the midst of negotiating a city-owned space to be the new, visitable home of their burgeoning collection of information and artifacts, soon there may be a place where you can go in person to satisfy (and perhaps intensify!) your local curiosity. Turn “I wonder…” to “Wow!” by way of a physical portal to the past of your hometown.

In the meantime, you can still visit their website at cdphs.org, and join in on a monthly meeting (anyone can come!). Meetings are 9:00am on the second Saturday of each month, currently hosted at the Clayton Grange at 4478 Railroad Ave in Clayton, Washington.

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