Pioneer Museum

Bringing history into sharp focus


What: Open House and Birthday Party

When: 10 am Thu., Oct. 19

Where: Lynden Pioneer Museum, 217 Front St.

Cost: Free


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

If there’s one museum I love to get lost in, it’s the Lynden Pioneer Museum on the city’s Front Street.

The 28,000-square-foot space has an amazing series of exhibits that take visitors back in time and give them a glimpse of city life, the agricultural history of Lynden, modes of transportation and the lives of local pioneers.

My favorite exhibit is the re-creation of historic Front Street to the way it looked between 1885 and 1935. I could spend hours perusing the thoroughfare as it was 100 years ago, particularly the storefront windows through which you can see the merchandise retailers sold and at what prices.

At the Lynden Drug Store, the walls are lined with turn-of-the-century bottles of drugs, and at the cheerful diner, buffalo steaks were on order for just 18 cents. Peek into the Pioneer Press, publishers of the Lynden Tribune and the oldest family-owned business in the county. As a woman, I always feel indignant when I pass the Miller Hotel, which advertises “room and board for families and single gentlemen.” No accommodations were on offer for single women!

A spooky casket lies on the table at the Northwest Methodist Church, where Dutch bibles published in 1873 are open for prayer. Other fascinating stores include the old Lynden’s saloon, the Waples Department Store, and upstairs, a dental clinic and surgery.

The museum’s main floor showcases the city’s agricultural history, including a life-size pioneer farmstead from the turn of the century. There’s even a wooden outhouse.

My eyes tend to glaze over on the museum’s lower level, but it’s a favorite among men—particularly those who are car and truck enthusiasts. (Who knew the Lynden Pioneer Museum is home to the largest collection of horse-drawn vehicles west of the Mississippi?)

Some 54 carriages, buggies, sullies and wagons on the lower level give visitors insight into transportation in years gone by and appreciation for our gas-guzzlers and new electric vehicles available. There’s also four tractors, an impressive threshing machine and eight antique cars.

One exhibit that brings the past into sharp focus is “Echoes From the Trenches: Whatcom County and the Great War.” Behind glass panels visitors can see military uniforms from those who fought in World War I, as well as the letters they wrote home to their loved ones in the county. It is heartbreaking to read those missives, which describe chaos, war casualties, deep homesickness and the general confusion of those who fought, but weren’t adequately informed about what was going on.

Bring your reading glasses, as the writing is small. But it’s well worth taking the time to read these posts and feel the angst, sadness and emotion of the county’s men of war.

The Lynden Pioneer Museum is a historical treasure trove of artifacts and information and a not-to-be-missed attraction in the city center. Admission is usually $4-$7, but if you’re keen to take a peek without paying a fee, head over to the museum from 10am-8pm Thurs., Oct. 19 for its annual open house.

From 5-8pm, demonstrators and volunteers will be on site to guide visitors through rooms that are locked at all other times of the year, and to offer more interesting stories about the city’s past.

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