Kittitas County
Historical Society

The idea of starting a local history museum began forming in the mid-1930s. At that time, there was a group called the Kittitas County Pioneer Association, which was made up of individuals descended from the original pioneer families who emigrated into the area during the Washington Territorial days. They were concerned that local history and heritage was being lost as both Indigenous and Pioneer individuals were passing away, and they wanted to do what they could to preserve the memories and items before they were lost.

Between the mid-1930s and the 1950s, the Washington State Historical Society began organizing local county historical societies and museums to help preserve the disappearing history and heritage in communities throughout the state. The Ellensburg Daily Record printed articles in the late 1950s relating to the need for preservation, that things to be saved and not destroyed, and that memories should be recorded and not lost.

The idea of starting a local history museum began forming in the mid-1930s. At that time, there was a group called the Kittitas County Pioneer Association, which was made up of individuals descended from the original pioneer families who emigrated into the area during the Washington Territorial days. They were concerned that local history and heritage was being lost as both Indigenous and Pioneer individuals were passing away, and they wanted to do what they could to preserve the memories and items before they were lost.

Between the mid-1930s and the 1950s, the Washington State Historical Society began organizing local county historical societies and museums to help preserve the disappearing history and heritage in communities throughout the state. The Ellensburg Daily Record printed articles in the late 1950s relating to the need for preservation, that things to be saved and not destroyed, and that memories should be recorded and not lost.

In early 1961, a group of interested individuals began meeting in Ellensburg with the intention of collecting, preserving, and sharing our collective history. The Kittitas County Historical Society, Inc. was officially organized on September 20, 1961. It issued 200 charter membership cards and elected 11 members of the Historical Society to serve as the first Board of Directors.

At the same time, the Kittitas County Commissioners offered space in the Morris Sorensen Memorial Hospital Building, located at 507 North Nanum Street. While the space was only one room in the basement, it allowed for a museum to be set up and displayed during open houses beginning on May 6, 1962.

Mrs. James M. Snowden (Erma Laura Russell Snowden) (left) and Clareta Olmstead Smith (right) at Kittitas County Fair showcasing the Historical Society collections, Circa 1961.

circa 1961

In early 1961, a group of interested individuals began meeting in Ellensburg with the intention of collecting, preserving, and sharing our collective history. The Kittitas County Historical Society, Inc. was officially organized on September 20, 1961. It issued 200 charter membership cards and elected 11 members of the Historical Society to serve as the first Board of Directors.

At the same time, the Kittitas County Commissioners offered space in the Morris Sorensen Memorial Hospital Building, located at 507 North Nanum Street. While the space was only one room in the basement, it allowed for a museum to be set up and displayed during open houses beginning on May 6, 1962.

As with most museums, the Historical Society collected any items related to the history of Kittitas County. Almost bursting at the seams with objects, the Board and membership were told in 1973 that the space in the Morris Sorensen Memorial Hospital Building would no longer be available as of 1974. It was then they began to seek a new location to house the growing collection.

As with most museums, the Historical Society collected any items related to the history of Kittitas County. Almost bursting at the seams with objects, the Board and membership were told in 1973 that the space in the Morris Sorensen Memorial Hospital Building would no longer be available as of 1974. It was then they began to seek a new location to house the growing collection.

2003-003-054_Damman_1970s

Ruth Damman, longest-serving Board Member of the Historical Society, shows guests around the Kittitas County Historical Museum.

circa late 1970s

The Historical Society negotiated to purchase the Cadwell Building, and the owners were willing to sell to them. However, the Historical Society lacked the funds for even the mortgage. Around the same time, the Rollinger Brothers had donated their rock and mineral collection to Kittitas County with stipulations that it must be permanently displayed and housed under one roof. The Board of the Kittitas County Historical Society, Inc. agreed to take in the collection and display it in the museum in exchange for rent, which would be paid toward the mortgage, in addition to a grant that was provided to the organization. Through this creative deal, the Historical Society was able to pay off the debt within a few short years.

The Historical Society negotiated to purchase the Cadwell Building, and the owners were willing to sell to them. However, the Historical Society lacked the funds for even the mortgage. Around the same time, the Rollinger Brothers had donated their rock and mineral collection to Kittitas County with stipulations that it must be permanently displayed and housed under one roof. The Board of the Kittitas County Historical Society, Inc. agreed to take in the collection and display it in the museum in exchange for rent, which would be paid toward the mortgage, in addition to a grant that was provided to the organization. Through this creative deal, the Historical Society was able to pay off the debt within a few short years.

The Historical Society then opened the Kittitas County Historical Museum on June 1, 1975. Over time, the organization purchased the adjacent buildings and incorporated them into the overall structure. While each building dates to a different time period and had a different original use, the combined structure provides nearly 9,000 square feet of space for displays and exhibits.

The Historical Society still is going strong over 60 years later, and still retains the same mission as it did on Day 1 – to collect, preserve, and share the history of Kittitas County. Any person or business can join and become part of the Historical Society.

The Historical Society then meets annually in December and elects the Board of Directors who are serve a one-year term and meet on a monthly basis. If you are interested in learning more about the Historical Society, the KCHS Board of Directors, or our KCHS Annual Member Meeting, please contact us!

If you are not yet a member of the Historical Society, please consider joining us today!

The Historical Society then opened the Kittitas County Historical Museum on June 1, 1975. Over time, the organization purchased the adjacent buildings and incorporated them into the overall structure. While each building dates to a different time period and had a different original use, the combined structure provides nearly 9,000 square feet of space for displays and exhibits.

The Historical Society still is going strong over 60 years later, and still retains the same mission as it did on Day 1 – to collect, preserve, and share the history of Kittitas County. Any person or business can join and become part of the Historical Society.

The Historical Society then meets annually in December and elects the Board of Directors who serve a one-year term and meet on a monthly basis. If you are interested in learning more about the Historical Society, the KCHS Board of Directors, or our KCHS Annual Member Meeting, please contact us!

If you are not yet a member of the Historical Society, please consider joining us today!

Board of Directors

The Kittitas County Historical Museum is governed by a Board of Directors, consisting of the President, Vice-President, Secretary, and Treasurer and five (5) other active members. The Board of Directors are elected annually from the membership of the Kittitas County Historical Society.