The Corvallis Museum

BCHS to Build a New Museum in Corvallis

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This group photo of firemen on horses on 2nd Street is one of the only early views we have of the buildings that used to be there.

The new museum will be a landmark building in the historic heart of Corvallis at 2nd Street and Adams Avenue. Oregon native Brad Cloepfil of Portland’s Allied Works Architecture has designed the new building.

Already over $6 million has been donated towards a $9 million goal by over 370 community members.

The historic Philomath College building will still be the headquarters of the Society and the collections will be housed at the Johnson Collections Center.

The new museum is scheduled to open in 2018. For more information or to make a gift, contact Irene Zenev at the museum, 541-929-6230.

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BCHS Executive Director Irene Zenev accepts a ceremonial check from a representative of the Siletz Tribe.

Native Neighbors’ Grant Supports Education Room

The Siletz Tribal Charitable Contribution Fund, headquartered in neighboring Lincoln County has given us a grant of $1,500 to purchase furniture for the education room in the Corvallis museum. Members of the Tribe and their consultants visited the Philomath museum campus earlier this year to draw on our experience and learn of our plans.

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Historical Society taps Gerding Builders, LLC for Corvallis museum project

The Board of Trustees of the Benton County Historical Society is excited to announce that we have chosen Gerding Builders, LLC of Corvallis, Oregon to enter into a contract to construct the Society’s planned museum in downtown Corvallis.

The Facilities Committee of the Board interviewed three construction firms to determine the best fit for the project, then made the recommendation to the Trustees.

For the past four years, we have been raising money to build a museum in downtown Corvallis. The $9 million project is designed by internationally-known museum architect, Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture of Portland, Ore., and New York.

Now, with over half the funds raised from over 300 donors, we are moving ahead by choosing a contractor to work closely with the architects. We hope to break ground in early 2017 and open in early 2018.

Upon learning of their selection, a representative of Gerding Builders remarked,

 “Gerding is absolutely thrilled to be coming alongside of the Benton County Historical Society for this great community project. We believe wholeheartedly in the growth and strength of our community, and feel strongly that the Museum will be a local landmark for generations to come. As a local contractor, we are committed to stimulating the local economy and respect the BCHS's decision to keep the project local. It is our utmost desire to be good neighbors during the construction project and we will be working closely with area businesses and residents to accommodate their needs and concerns.”

The museum project is the result of acquiring the Horner Collection from Oregon State University. The need for more exhibition space became apparent when it was determined that the combined collections numbered over 100,000 objects, photographs, manuscripts and archives. The collections are stored in a purpose-built storage facility on the Society’s Philomath campus, but the Philomath College building does not have the capacity for more public display space.

For more information about how to contribute to the Corvallis museum project, please visit our website corvallismuseum.org or call Irene Zenev, Executive Director at 541-929-6230, x302

  • A World-Class Vision for a New Museum

  • A World-Class Vision for a New Museum

GALLERY NAMED IN HONOR OF
BENTON COUNTY PIONEER FAMILY
James Plunkett and Ashnah Norton were early pioneer residents of Benton County.

James was born in Iowa in 1836. He arrived at Fort Hoskins about 1864 with the 4th California Infantry, a volunteer infantry regiment. Fort Hoskins was one of three forts built by the U.S. Army during the Civil War to monitor the Coastal Indian Reservation in Oregon. James was a bass drummer in the Drum Corps at the fort. The Plunkett drum is part of the Benton County Historical Society’s collection.
Ashnah was the granddaughter of Nahum and Sarepta Norton King. The Kings and their extended family arrived in Oregon Country in the fall of 1845 and settled King’s Valley, which is named for them. They traveled from Missouri and Ohio in wagon trains and took the Meek cutoff which proved to be a precarious trail through the Malheur Mountains and the Oregon desert. Ashnah’s parents were Hopestill King and Lucius Carolus Norton, Sr. who traveled with the King family and others to Oregon.  Ashnah is thought to be the first child born of settlers in this part of Oregon. John B. Horner, for whom the Horner Museum was named, said of Ashnah, “She was the beautiful daughter of Lucius Norton.”
James and Ashnah lived at Fort Hoskins following their marriage in 1864. They later built a house and barn in 1875 on the site of what is now known as Beazell Memorial Forest. Both the house and reconstructed barn are still standing. One of their nine children was named Bertha Plunkett, born in 1876. She married John Thompson and one of their children was named after his father, John, but called Johnnie. Johnnie and Norma Thompson were the parents of Gene Thompson, who along with his wife, Charlotte (Ralls) Thompson have been longtime supporters of a new museum in downtown Corvallis.
Through the Thompson Foundation, Gene and Charlotte, their three children Eric, Gina, and Courtenay, and their families have named a gallery in the new Corvallis museum The James and Ashnah Plunkett Gallery to honor their ancestors.
Gene remembers visiting the Horner Museum on the Oregon State University campus as a youngster with his mother when it was located in a building which later became Mitchell Playhouse. His most vivid memory is of the large whale bones located outside. He also remembers looking for his great-great-grandfather’s Civil War drum from Fort Hoskins at the Horner Museum after it moved to the basement of Gill Coliseum.
Gene and Charlotte have always enjoyed learning about the history of family and places. When they travel, they often visit museums to learn about the history of the area. They are members of Oregon-California Trails Association (OCTA) which works to preserve the history of the various trails that brought pioneers across the plains to the west. Charlotte’s ancestors also traveled across the Oregon Trail and settled in Jacksonville, Monroe and Bellfountain.
The Thompson family chose to donate to the new museum in downtown Corvallis because they value the importance of having the history of this area available to citizens and visitors. In an interview with The Society Record Gene said, “The new museum will provide more space for the museum and will draw people to downtown Corvallis.” He also feels that museums today need to be interactive and involve the visitors more directly. Charlotte added, “The staff and volunteers at the museum are doing wonderful work! We are happy to be part of this project. It’s important to hang onto our heritage.”  
The BCHS appreciates the Thompson family’s desire to remember James and Ashnah Plunkett by naming a gallery at the new museum in Corvallis in their honor.

BCHS to Build a New Museum in Corvallis

The construction of a new museum in Corvallis will allow the Benton County Historical Society to display more of its collection, improve facilities, offer dynamic traveling exhibitions and add new programming for families and students.

The new museum will be a landmark building in the historic heart of Corvallis at 2nd and Adams Streets. Oregon native Brad Cloepfil of Portland’s Allied Works Architecture has designed the new building.

Already over $6.3 million has been donated towards a $9 million goal by over 120 community members.

The historic Philomath College building will still be the headquarters of the Society and the collections will be housed at the Johnson Collections Center.

The new museum is scheduled to open in 2018.  For more information or to make a gift, contact Irene Zenev at the museum, 541.929.6230.

Be Part of History

We still have opportunities for donors to have their gifts recognized by naming areas in the new museum. The museum lobby, one gallery, office spaces, and even the museum itself will be named in honor of leadership donations. This is a wonderful way to enhance the value of your gift—you can honor your family or a loved one and double the value of your gift through the match.

See the naming opportunities >>