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Road Trippin' : A peek into the past

Trish Glose/KTVL

At one time, Klamath Falls was the fastest growing town in Oregon. Klamath County Museum Manager Todd Kepple says the museum was started back in the fifties, as a way to preserve local history.

“The historical society had started gathering materials as early as the 1930’s and so by the time the county opened a museum in 1954, they had a nice museum actually in the basement of the current library building,” Kepple says.

The collection started to grow. In 1969, the museum moved into the old historical armory where it is today.

“In 1966, the county started to expand the museum system and added a piece of land at the Fort Klamath military post site, we have eight acres of land up there where the old site was located back in the late 1800’s,” Kepple says.

In the late seventies, the county acquired the Baldwin Hotel building. It had been a hotel since 1911 and it became the third and final edition in the Klamath County museum system.

“Here in the Klamath museum, we have your basic round-up of local history. At the Baldwin hotel, we have displays of various kinds, including what hotel life was like back in the thirties and forties, as well as various other displays related to local history. Then the Fort Klamath Museum, it's really quite different. It's mainly a park with a small museum building that interprets the story of the Modoc Indian war, as well as some other wars and army life on the frontier in the mid-to late 1800’s,” Kepple says.

The main museum highlights all things Klamath Falls, from the basin to how the town was settled.

“Klamath Falls is like a lot of towns on the west coast. It was agriculture, ranching and farming that got us off to a start and then once the railroad arrived in 1909, it was a boom in the logging industry that made Klamath Falls the fastest growing town in Oregon,” Kepple says.

Through the twenties and thirties, there were a lot of banks being opened and hotels were going up to accommodate all the business.

“Our boom came to an end, I'd say probably after World War 2 and we've been holding steady ever since,” Kepple says.

In the museum, you can find exhibits on Native American history, how the basin played a role in World War 2, and more recent history, like the county’s water issues.

“The homes we have, the streets, the churches, all those things were built by people who worked hard to establish our community and we're the ones here to take care of it and we want to hand it off to the next generation and make sure it remains a very special place.”

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