Preserving Woodland’s history

Volunteer effort to transform home into a museum

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Across the street from what John Stark calls the “fire hall” and behind a row of buildings sits a small, green house that looks not unlike most of the houses in Woodland.

A sign on the side sets it apart: “Woodland Historical Museum Society.”

The wheelchair accessible ramp that leads to the front door is a twist, too.

“We’re in here for a year rent-free,” says Stark, one of the historical society’s 70 members. The group has been active since 2005 but is only beginning to fulfill its dream of operating a museum celebrating the history of Woodland and the Lewis River it’s nestled against.

“Once this building was offered to us, you could see the enthusiasm grow,” the 75-year-old says. “Now we’ve got something to work with.”

That’s because of the generosity of the Colf family and their Genteel Investments, LLC, and a pledge to allow the society to use the home to launch the museum.

Genteel, Stark says, is a fervent supporter of “historical-minded people.”

He’s optimistic if all goes well in year one, he’ll eventually be able to make some changes to the house, possibly pulling out closets and cupboards to create more space for displays.

The displays will include poster boards with photos of historic figures — such as T. Horn, A.W. Gray and C.C. Bozorth — and their biographies.

One display will feature a timeline of the events that led to Washington’s statehood.

“C.C. Bozorth is the fella that named Woodland,” Stark says.

Community members say Bozorth named the city Woodland because it was surrounded by wooded areas.

While Bozorth may wind up a museum fixture, Stark says the museum’s displays will change frequently.

“If it didn’t, people would only come once,” he says. “There are different exhibits that are roving exhibits that we’ll probably have come in for a weekend or a month.”

Benefit to city

Kei Zushi, Woodland’s city planner, said the museum will benefit a city trying to revitalize its downtown core.

“I’ve only heard good things,” Zushi said. “I think it will attract visitors.”

Virginia Wilkerson has worked at the Chamber of Commerce and Woodland’s information center for 11 years. She said visitors often drive up to the visitor center wondering what to do.

“I’m just thrilled to death,” said Wilkerson, who’s also a member of the historical society. “It’s badly needed.”

The society holds monthly meetings and Stark’s plan for growing the museum centers on increasing membership and fundraising.

He’s kicked off the effort with a book of photos he produced called “Woodland Pictures — Then and Now.”

In it, set side by side, are photos of locations in Woodland from the early 1900s and modern times.

The book sells for $35.

Stark says he initially printed 50 copies.

“They sold out in three days,” he says.

After subsequent printings, Stark says he sold more than 200 copies.

Stark has planned an invitation-only fundraiser for Feb. 25, and envisions an open house once the museum starts to take shape.

“I’ve always been interested in the town and the people in the town,” Stark says. “We’ll get to share it.”