Old Town in Florence is usually abuzz with tourists enjoying the shops, restaurants, and views of the Siuslaw River along Bay Street. For me, part of the charm of Old Town is the sense of history that I get as I walk down the street or dine in one of the restaurants.
Located in the heart of Old Town is the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum. I’ve heard a lot of good things about this museum, so last month I was glad to spend a few hours there with my family. I enjoyed learning more about the history of this area and comparing it to the history of the Willamette Valley.
Early Florence was a remote place due to the rugged terrain which surrounded it in every direction. Early settlers traveled on the river or along the beach to reach the outside world. Despite this remoteness, the timber and salmon canning industries thrived. The population grew and by 1905 a 2-story school house was built downtown.
For settlers living around the Suislaw River, easier access to the outside world came with the railroad built through Cushman about 1914. Then two decades later, in 1936, the Siuslaw River Bridge was completed, opening up the Pacific Coast Highway.
The old schoolhouse is now home to the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum. I like this old picture, taken in 1936, which shows the schoolhouse, what appears to be houses, and a large sawmill along the river. Look at all those cars lining the streets! I’d say the bridge must have been completed when this photo was taken.
When you go to the Museum, you’ll find two large collections downstairs — focused on how people lived and worked in the area — plus several smaller collections upstairs. My favorites, though, are outside on the back porch, which include the original controls from the Suislaw River draw bridge and a scaled replica of an old sawmill which looks a lot like the one in the old photo.
The Museum is located on the corner of 2nd and Maple Streets in Old Town Florence. Admission is $3.00. Check the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum website for open hours.