Historical Society relocates to temporary space

See why volunteers are working to find a permanent home for the David Douglas Historical Society, and where their collection is temporarily displayed …

David Douglas High School ASB President, Senior Kylan Carlson, greets guest at a special open house of the David Douglas Historical Society.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
It was both a happy and a poignant day for David Douglas Historical Society officials and volunteers, as they showed off a portion of their collection on April 11. It was joyful, because some their collection was on display; sad because the exhibit would be seen by few.

The event was held in the conference room at the David Douglas School District South Powellhurst Building, located in outer East Portland at 2900 SE 122nd Avenue.

David Douglas Historical Society President Ted Condon shows off their new display cases and artifacts.

“We’re having a special event here today, to show our new display cases,” said David Douglas Historical Society President Ted Condon.

“It’s important to have the cases here,” Condon continued, “because these exhibits show the history of the David Douglas School District community. These artifacts show more than just what was contained within the four walls of the old school buildings. There are items here commemorating the district as a whole.”

When Condon was called away to greet arriving guests, society volunteer and Powellhurst-Gilbert neighbor Delores Wood showed the classroom setting that was on display in the building’s lobby.

Historical Society volunteer Dolores Wood shows the “set” of desks that depicts a pioneer classroom.

“I volunteer, because I believe it is important to preserve the history and heritage of the neighborhood,” Wood told East Portland News. “A lot of people don’t know who are early settlers were, or what they contributed to the formation of the neighborhood.”

The smaller school districts that later became part of David Douglas were started in the mid-1800s, Wood said. “When the pioneers moved into the area, it was heavily wooded. They cleared the land, built schools, businesses and churches – and opened roads to the community.”

One of the things that can be learned from the area’s pioneers is their strong work ethic, Wood observed. “The families passed this ethic down to their children. There’s also a sense of neighborhood pride in these families.

“We have fewer problems with crime, vandalism, and graffiti, and other problems around the neighborhood, when people know each other and work together,” she reflected.

These historical artifacts, set out on tables, are only a few of the 1,700 items in the collection. At the end of the day, they were all returned to the glass-front cases that now line the walls of the conference room.

Condon stepped over and continued the conversation.

“We did have museum space in the North Powellhurst Grade School building (on SE 136th Avenue, near the high school), in a room all by ourselves,” Condon reminisced. “Elementary school children would come in, and we’d show them what it was like to go to a pioneer school.”

Most of the 1,700 artifacts which the historical society has cataloged are now in storage, Condon said. “Currently, the displays in cases can be seen by appointment only. It’s a school building, and it’s only open during school hours; it’s not available after hours or on the weekends.”

Hopefully, he said, the David Douglas Historical Society will find a permanent, and more accessible, home.

Visitor William Gilbert – the original school district was named after his pioneer grandfather. He holds a reproduction of the Land Survey of East Multnomah County, Gilbert District Number 45, established February 9, 1885.

Their web pages, normally found on the school district’s website, are not currently functioning. To stay in touch see their Facebook page: CLICK HERE.

© 2014 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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