The Willamette Heritage Center sits on a five-acre campus and feels less like a traditional history museum than a hub for where the past and present collide in myriad interesting ways.
In all, 14 historic structures can be found on-site, hosting a variety of permanent and rotating exhibits, a research library, event spaces, and more. But the museum takes its mission one step further by also hosting art galleries, artist studios, and other community spaces that give the museum a vibrant energy.
Of course, the history is also worth your time: The Willamette Heritage Center hosts the 1841 Jason Lee House and Methodist Parsonage, the oldest standing wooden frame houses in the Pacific Northwest, as well as industrial artifacts, an exhibit on the region's history with winemaking, and more.
“It’s the breadth and the depth of the history that’s preserved and shared on this site,” says Kylie Pine, curator and collections manager at the Willamette Heritage Center, of what makes the museum so special. “I’m always in awe about the past, so I think it’s interesting to step into these spaces to see how much has changed.”
The newest feature at the museum is the recent arrival of a retail outlet from Pendleton Woolen Mills, which will sell the company’s signature blankets, apparel, fabric cuts, gifts, and accessories.
In a sense, the store’s opening at the Willamette Heritage Center brings full circle a regional wool-manufacturing story that dates back to 1890, when Thomas Kay opened a woolen mill on the site of the present-day museum; in 1909, three of Kay’s grandsons would found another woolen mill, located in Eastern Oregon, that would become known as Pendleton Woolen Mills.