University Place may not have a university, but it will soon have its own museum.
The nonprofit University Place Historical Society recently announced it will open the museum in available office space in Windmill Village, the current home of City Hall. The grand opening is scheduled to coincide with Duck Daze on June. 1. The annual festival celebrates the end of the rainy season.
University Place became a city in 1995, but its history traces back to late 19th century. Just in the last couple of months, society member Arne Handeland published a pictorial history of University Place, and Curtis High School celebrated the 50th anniversary of its first graduating class.
“I think it’s a long time coming,” Mayor Ken Grassi said. “I think the book that just recently came out really spurred an interest in the preservation of historical materials and making it available for the community to see it.”
The historical society formed in 2000, but it hasn’t had place to call its own until now. Dozens of historical photographs, books and artifacts that it collected over the years have stayed out of public view in the homes of society members because there was no place to exhibit them, said Howard Lee, the society’s treasurer.
“At least we have a place now that is ours, and it gives some meaning to our group because before we didn’t really have any place except a post office box,” he said.
Lee said he approached University Place city officials after reading that the parks and recreation department was moving into Town Center from Windmill Village. The museum will open in Building D3, located directly to the north of City Hall.
The lease is for $1 a year. The society can remain there until the city realizes its plans to move its offices into Town Center once Windmill Village is sold to a private developer. It’s unknown at this time when that might happen.
Although the museum’s location is temporary, it will serve to increase the visibility of the society. Increased interest in the society could help when the time comes to find a new location for the museum, Lee said.
The society has been mulling making use of the Curran House, the first building in UP listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as a museum.
But Lee said the house needs to be brought up to current building standards for public use at a cost that he estimated at between $80,000 and $90,000.
“That is going to take much more time,” he said.
The society is developing a business plan for the public use of the Curran House and plans to present into the City Council in the coming months, Lee said.
Operating hours for the museum will be announced at a later date. Residents who have items they’d like to donate or loan to the society are encouraged to call 253-778-6717.
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