The new Sumas Historical Society and Museum occupies a former Methodist church parsonage at 114 Second Street, near the library. This absolute treasure of a place has an inviting stepped entryway adorned with antiques, and an expansive porch that wraps around to offer a view of some of the oldest sycamore trees in the area. The trees are incredible. The real historical treasures, however, are inside. The museum is open from 12:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
As a newcomer to the area, I am amazed at some of the stories from the history of Sumas. Did you know that the retail establishment known as Ship Happens was formerly an Opera House? Or that in the late 1800s three major train lines converged in Sumas? At one time Sumas was home to large hotels and had 12 saloons. Opium smuggling, farming, gold mines and logging are all part of this area’s history.
The museum is bright, cheerful and meticulously appointed. Its attempt to bring the stories of Sumas back to life are strident and humble.
To some, it might seem that this once-thriving border town doesn’t have much to offer but this museum is a gem of a reason to pause, stretch your legs, view and hear yesterday’s stories. The museum even offers free Wi-Fi!
The mission of the museum is to tell, share and preserve the historical stories of Sumas. After a lot of determined volunteer efforts, the museum opened August 5, 2017. Lizette Custer and Gail Kihn are now leading the time-consuming endeavor. Lizette’s husband Terry offers behind-the-scenes support, and others pitch in with secretarial and tech assistance, or by donating time and funding. It is admirable to see the grand efforts of this small group yield such rich results. The museum is just lovely.
Lizette, the board president, says it was the love of an old home that brought her and her husband back to Sumas. When that home turned 100 years old, the Custers hosted a birthday party for the house and folks who might have lived there in the past. The best part about the party is that people came! Twenty years later, the Custers are still here, and her affection for history has drawn Lizette to work with the museum.
Gail’s career in the newspaper business, along with her advertising and marketing skills, are also valuable assets for this project. She moved here to be closer to her family in Abbotsford, BC.
The Museum’s house was last used as a youth center. The city offered the dwelling to the group if they cleaned it out (a rather large undertaking). A garage sale helped to fund the legal costs of establishing a non-profit. Fixtures for displays were found. Objects of historical merit (many from private collections) have been located and placed in aesthetic groupings that highlight exhibits such as laundry day, farming, education, geology, local commerce, an old kitchen and correspondence connected to people from the area. Compelling historical photographs have been reprinted and displayed for easier viewing. Gail shares the joy of finding an entire collection of photographs and realizing they were about a significant Sumas Family. These treasures will help build the museum’s collection.
The board of the Sumas Historical Society and Museum wants the public to help make this local history come alive and to build the archive of historical stories. Come to the museum and see what it has to offer. Donations of family stories and artifacts are welcome. While the museum has a vested interest in collecting and cultivating the past, the members also want to be part of the future of Sumas.
Certain challenges still face the project. The lease on the building with the city of Sumas ends this December. A long-term lease and perhaps a more integrated relationship between the museum and the city of Sumas is hoped for. Quarterly signature events are being planned to draw public interest.
Stop by and visit the Sumas Historical Society and Museum on Second Street in Sumas. Or, check out the Sumas Historical Society And Museums Facebook Page. For more information, call 360-988-0906, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or send a note to PO Box 22 Sumas, WA, 98295.