December 26, 2013 in Washington Voices

Valleyford museum may be history

By The Spokesman-Review
 

History buffs in Valleyford have a simple drawing of their dream, a small museum, perhaps just a mobile home, to hold their simple collection of history of the small farming and railroad town south of Spokane Valley.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

How to help

Donations can be mailed to: Valleyford History Museum, c/o On Sacred Grounds, P.O. Box 291, Valleyford WA 99036.

The Valleyford History Museum is looking for a new home after losing its space inside the On Sacred Grounds coffee shop.

There are still a few old tools high on the wall inside the coffee shop at 12212 E. Palouse Highway, but the rest of the artifacts and documents have been farmed out to homes and storage areas from Valleyford to Rockford.

Organizers hope to have a trailer donated to house a historical display as well as collect donations to support projects, museum President Carol Elliott said. The trailer could be placed behind the coffee shop. “That’s the plan at the moment,” she said.

At one point, someone had promised the museum group free use of a building, but that hasn’t materialized, Elliott said. “We’ve kind of given up on that idea,” she said.

Valleyford is little more than a post office, a coffee shop and a fire station now. But about 100 years ago, Valleyford was a bustling town with a train station, two hotels, a barber shop, a bank and several churches. Only a few buildings, including the old store and bank, remain. Even the old train depot has been torn down. “What a distinctive building, and they tore it down,” Elliott said.

But if you know where to look, there are signs of what used to be there. If you take a drive down Atlanta Avenue, located south of the Palouse Highway, there are two sets of concrete steps that lead to nowhere. They mark the previous locations of a school and gymnasium. The steps and other landmarks are listed in a walking tour brochure available at On Sacred Grounds.

One of the documents Elliott has is a hand-drawn map of the town. It’s not signed or dated, but Elliott believes it depicts the town as it was in the early 20th century. It shows a jail next to a slaughterhouse and a baseball field, a blacksmith shop across from a lumberyard and a gift shop across the street from the train station. “There was even a cigar factory here,” Elliott said. “People now have no idea what used to be here.”

A large ad ran in The Spokesman-Review on June 9, 1907, advertising the good life in Valleyford. It boasts of rich soil and an “up-to-date water system” perfect for fruit orchards. The ad promised that such an orchard would provide an income “sufficient to support you without any of the health-breaking work of the city.”

But the good times didn’t last and the town disincorporated in the 1960s. Now some of the residents who are left are fighting to have their town remembered.

The group that runs the museum is small and funded by annual dues paid by members. They have about $300 in the bank and need donations if anything is to be done about finding a new home, Elliott said. “We’re not going to attract interested people,” she said. “We have to have something to attract them with.”

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