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Kitsap Historical Society to celebrate 65 years

There’s a special birthday party planned in Bremerton on Friday.

There’ll be ice cream and music and lots of talk about how it all came to be when the Kitsap Historical Society and Museum celebrates 65 years of service to the community.

It’s all planned for 6 p.m. at the museum, 280 Fourth St. in downtown Bremerton. Along with an old fashioned ice cream social, entertainer Eric Haines will perform. He’s often called the one-man band.

And there will be the presentation of a Proclamation by Mayor Patty Lent naming July 5 as Kitsap County Historical Society 65th Anniversary Celebration Day.

The historical society and museum had very humble beginnings. In 1947, R.B. Campbell, a resident of Bremerton, wrote to the local newspaper suggesting that someone needed to begin recording the history of the area.

Others soon jumped in and formed the Kitsap County Historical Society on Jan. 16, 1948.

An elementary teacher, Chloe Sutton, was chosen as the first president, and Elgie Hoffman was appointed museum director. He and his wife, Marjorie, served together at the museum for 13 years.

That first museum was located in two rooms that were made available by the county commissioners in the courthouse in Port Orchard. Besides gathering items to display at the museum, the group also began the work of placing markers at historical sites throughout the county. Dues were $1.

In 1969, the museum moved to the former telephone company building on Fourth Street. Donations were sought from the community and a renovation of the building was completed.

In 1976, through a bequest from member Rosamond Johnson, the society purchased the former Silverdale State Bank building on Byron Street in Old Town Silverdale, which was home until 1995 when the museum moved to its current location, the former Seattle First Bank Building on Fourth Street in Bremerton.

Board member Sara Nell Davis thinks the society has continued for years because people understand the importance of history.

“History enables us to understand how we have become who we are,” Nell Davis said. “The historical society is sustained by the passion many members of our community feel for history — for researching it, preserving it, and sharing it. History is fascinating and fun.

“Quite a few of our staff and members are ‘hooked on history,” she added.

Davis said her favorite part of serving on the board of KCHS has been helping to organize the “Eat Your Way through Kitsap History” events.

“We take people to historic sites throughout the county (for tours and lunch),” she said. “I’ve helped set up tours to Burley, where there was a commune at the turn of the century, to the Westinghouse-Lindbergh house on Bainbridge and to Blakely Harbor on Bainbridge, where its wonderful historian, Andrew Price, Jr., gave us a personal tour. These tours transport us back to earlier times.”

Former museum director Carolyn Neal said her favorite times at the museum were when groups of young children came to visit.

“We’d have Boy Scouts and kids groups in a lot,” said Neal who was director from 2010 to 2012. “It was really exciting to see things through their eyes.”

An example of that, she said, was a group that toured and stopped by the exhibit about phones, looking over the old switchboard room.

“The kids had never seen a rotary dial phone,” she said. “They didn’t know how to dial it. I had to tell them to put their finger in the dial and turn it.

“We older people think iPhones are neat. They thought the dial phones were.”

How fast things change and become history, she added.

Neal came to the job after being a librarian with the Kitsap Regional Libraries system for years.

“When I retired, I thought I’d find a small, part time job,” she said. “It ended up being more than that but I loved the museum and the people were really fun.”

The museum currently has 325 members. Membership levels vary but begin at $20 a year.

Admission to the museum will be free on July 5 as a part of the First Fridays events in downtown Bremerton. Find out more at www.kitsaphistory.org.

 

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