Anyone who thinks Keizer doesn’t have a history isn’t looking in the right place. But it is not hard to see that the area in which we live is filled with history that dates back 200 years. Many of the stories about the past two centuries of what is now known as Keizer can be found at the Keizer Heritage Museum.
A person could be forgiven for, after looking around Keizer, to think we are a relatively new settlement. Our city does not have a downtown filled with buildings dating to the 19th century like other Oregon cities. We do have two buildings in the downtown core that date back to the early 1900s: the Frank Evans house (where Mommy and Maddi’s is located) near the corner of River Road and Dearborn Avenue; and the old Keizer School which found new life as the Keizer Heritage Center (at the civic center campus on Chemawa Road).
The first Americans are said to have set up a fur trading post on a bluff overlooking the Willamette River in what is now southeast Keizer. That was in 1812.
After the house/fort/trading post was abandoned there was little activity in our corner of the world until Thomas Dove Keizur and his party rode into the Willamette Valley and settled down where Shari’s Restaurant now sits. Our city’s name comes from our earliest settlers.
The Heritage Museum, on the ground floor of the Heritage Center, tells the story of Keizer and should be a stop for any resident who wonders how Keizer came to be and how it grew, and most importantly, who were the people who grew Keizer from a farming community into the proud city it is today.
The Keizer Heritage Foundation has operated the museum since its inception. A group of volunteers have tirelessly worked over the years to assure that the institution tells the story of Keizer’s past and its present. Evelyn Melson Franz and Sue Miletta, along with Al Rasmus, have built the museum into the attraction it is today. The Keizer community is asked to help maintain and grow the museum.
The Heritage Foundation is not only seeking new members but also to add volunteers staff members in the museum to host tours, to man the front desk and to help curate the thousands of items.
The museum recently expanded its space within the Heritage Center at the urging of Mayor Lore Christopher. Today the museum is easier to navigate and more items are on display. There is always room for more historical items. There is a monthly themed exhibition that tells a small story of our city.
As Keizer moves into the future and our city changes and grows, the Heritage Museum is a constant reminder of where we’ve been. That is certainly worthy of the community’s help.