The Fort Rock Homestead Museum
News and Updates:
Restore Oregon staff visit with local partners of the Fort Rock Homestead Museum
November 13, 2015
Listed as one of Oregon’s Most Endangered Places
During the early 1900s, hundreds of families flocked to Oregon’s Great Basin to “prove up” 320-acre parcels of land which was promoted by the Federal government as suitable for dry farming. Many communities sprang up in the Fort Rock Valley, an ancient lake basin, as a period of unusually heavy rain made long-term agricultural productivity seem likely. But the rain did not last, and neither did the people. They left, and the government repossessed much of the land for leased grazing use.
Interest in the lives of the homesteaders proved strong, however, and in 1984 a group of eight formed the Fort Rock Valley Historical Society, a nonprofit dedicated to restoring and preserving the history of these people. Land was acquired, and remaining homestead buildings brought together on one site.
Today, the museum consists of a visitor’s center, and eleven homestead buildings, each a museum in itself. There are residences, a church, a school, a post office, blacksmith, trapper, general store, a garden partly consisting of plants also brought from homesteads, and, yes, a three-hole outhouse.
Why it’s Endangered
Through grants and hard work by volunteers, the integrity of the buildings and their contents has been largely maintained. However, UV radiation, extremes of hot and cold weather, packrats, mice, and birds, are taking a toll on the buildings. Several buildings have compromised structural integrity, which must be addressed to ensure long-term preservation.
On some structures the siding is so warped that birds have begun nesting in the walls, sometimes becoming trapped within the buildings. Paint inside and outside the buildings is peeling to bare wood, logs of cabins need preservation, and many windows are loose and falling out due to aging of the wood and shrinkage of frames. Volunteers in recent years have not been able to keep up with the effects of the environment and investment in weatherization and repair of degraded materials is needed to ensure the continued viability of these structures.