Stories to tell in Corbett
Tourists passing through Corbett will soon be able to traverse along the "pathways" of history and learn what makes the small community in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge so special.
A new museum being constructed along the Historic Columbia River Highway will celebrate everything that is Corbett and the surrounding region. Visitors will discover photos and artifacts of the earliest days of the Indigenous people who lived off the land; the pioneers who made their way from around the world to make a living in the Gorge as fishermen, trappers and loggers; to the founding of the community after prominent Portland resident Senator Henry W. Corbett bought a farm in the area in 1885 around the time the first railroad in the area was built. Corbett would go on to lend his name to the unincorporated community, after residents tried out names like Leader, named for the first post office, and Taylor, to honor Ervine Taylor who sold Corbett his farm.
Even though there are already several museums in the Gorge, what will set the future Crown Point Country Museum apart is the passion and ideas brought by an all-volunteer group.
No one is getting paid to build the museum. Instead the goal is to get travelers to stop for a moment in Corbett as they continue along the highway to learn about what makes the community special.
"As many as 2 million people come by every year to view the Gorge," said Chuck Rollins, president of the Crown Point Country Historical Society. "We have stories to tell them."
Building a history museum has been brewing on the minds of Corbett residents for half a century.
The Crown Point Country Museum, 36901 E. Historic Columbia River Highway, is located in the old Chamberlain Auto Camp, which was once used by drivers as an overnight pit stop during the long journey into Portland. The 3,500-square-foot museum will display a collection of artifacts, documents and photos from the early days of the town.
Surrounding the museum will be a hiking trail that allows visitors to explore the industries, people and places that make the Columbia River Gorge such a beloved region.
The outdoor section of the Crown Point Country Museum will feature a Native American longhouse, being designed and constructed by Oregon's Indigenous people. There will be a stone wall dedicated to Oregon rockhounds, a memorial to veterans, and an amphitheater that will play host to local storytellers and musicians.
Visitors will be amazed by what is being described as a "Frankenstein steam donkey" — which the U.S. Forest Service is piecing together from parts of other steam donkeys scattered, damaged and discarded during the Eagle Creek Fire. A steam donkey — for those unable to wait for the opening of the museum — is a nickname for steam-powered winches that were widely used during logging operations.
And all of that can be enjoyed before stepping foot inside the museum, which will be filled with other exciting displays and artifacts. It also celebrates the many people who call Corbett home, and represents the partnerships making the museum possible.
The building itself is impressive, despite being about two years away from completion. The interior is cavernous, with towering wooden beams reaching 28 feet at the peak.
"We wanted something spectacular to do justice to the Gorge," said Rebecca Gandy, secretary of the historical society.
Planned displays will showcase the almost 10,000 pieces collected by the historical society.
There will be an Indigenous People's section with oral, pictographic and petroglyphic histories of the Indigenous peoples and tribes that called the region home. One area will also be dedicated to the explorers and traders from Europe, Asia, and North and South America, who did business in the early days of Corbett.
People can learn about the regional industry and way of life — fishing and canneries, hunting, trading, logging, vegetable and nursery plant farming, and dairying. An expert on Asian-American history is putting together a section on the Japanese residents who were forcibly taken to internment camps.
The museum will also house a gift and coffee shop, offices, and a partial basement for storage.
The previous owner of the land that now hosts the Crown Point Country Museum came from a pioneer family. That property owner wanted to celebrate the history of the community.
"She made us a really good deal on the property," Rollins said. "We couldn't have done it without her help."
From the very beginning it has been the help of Corbett residents that has made progress on the museum possible.
"We have had a lot of community support, and we are so appreciative of the donations and in-kind help," Gandy said. "People are already invested in their local museum."
The Crown Point Country Historical Society is looking to raise money to support completion of the history museum being built in the heart of Corbett.
Two fundraising auctions are being held to celebrate the society's 50th anniversary and to help complete construction on the museum's roof, gutters and windows before winter can cause structural damage. The fundraising goal for the auctions, which run through Tuesday, Sep. 15, is $6,000.
"We are getting close to being finished, but we still need support from the community," said Chuck Rollins, president of the historical society.
One of the online auctions is geared toward local residents, with larger items too difficult to ship at a distance. Some of the items include a Kinkade seascape painting, handmade mountain dulcimer, gift cards, themed baskets and more from local artists. To participate in this auction you must be able to pick up or pay for shipping.
The bidding on the local auction will be done on Facebook. Visit facebook.com/crownpointcountrymuseum to see the items and make a bid.
The national auction includes a winery tour, 3-day getaway to the Oregon coast, pieces by local artists and authors, and other items. Bidding can be done online at bit.ly/2EV8hDH
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