Restored doors brighten museum

Written by Katy Nesbitt/The Observer September 04, 2013 10:24 am

The Wallowa County Museum in Joseph is housed in one of the county’s many old bank buildings. The late 19th century architecture is a fitting home for the county’s treasures collected there.

This spring the front doors, badly in need of repair, were refurbished — welcoming visitors in to explore the county’s physical history preserved by a host of volunteers dedicated to the telling and retelling of Wallowa County’s history.

Marc and Teena Stauffer of Stauffers Refinishing in Enterprise undertook the task of exposing not only the beauty of the museum’s front doors but also their functionality.

The over approximately 10-foot doors were removed by Borgerding Construction and taken to the Stauffers’ shop where Teena Stauffer stripped and sanded them. Marc Stauffer carefully repaired and painted them before they were reinstalled in June.

Marc Stauffer said, “The doors were extremely weathered with rotted areas — the wood was splintered and shattered from use and some of the hardware was not functioning.”

Not much of the wood needed to be replaced except some new pieces added along the edges of the doors, but a lot of the parts were either replaced or reproduced, said Marc Stauffer.

Teena Stauffer said, “We tried to save the original wood to a great extent.”

“We used wood hardener on the doors; the wood was extremely weathered and it gets soft and fuzzy,” said Marc Stauffer.

With help from Stangel Industries in Enterprise, the twisted door handle was straightened out and restored to not only its intended usefulness, but its former beauty.

Teena Stauffer said, “The hardware turned out really cool. They cleaned and waxed it.” She pointed out that “1884” is stamped on the hardware, indicating the approximate age of the doors and possibly the building.

Fortunately, the original glass survived the removal and reinstallation of the doors, said Marc Stauffer. “We got advice from Mountain View glass on how to reinstall the windows.”

After the doors were reinstalled, paint started to bubble along the edges, said Marc Stauffer, perhaps from the heat, so he said he would keep working to sand them down and repaint them until the paint adhered.

Some of the other fine tuning after the doors were put back was to reset the upper and lower locks and the throw bolt, said Teena Stauffer.

The museum staff had to endure temporary doors for the first month of their summer season, but the Stauffers said they were patient. “The ladies at the museum were wonderful to work with and appreciative,” said Stauffer.

An effort to raise awareness of the county’s history is ongoing at the museum. In early August, the Friends of the Wallowa County Museum hosted a talk by Tom Dorrance, whose family ranched and trained horses in the Wallowa Valley.

“The Dorrances went on from here, working with horses and training people to work with them,” said Roberts.

The museum board is looking to host other events to draw people in, said Board Member Susan Roberts. “Some long-time residents had never been there before. Events bring interest to the museum and to the history of the county.”

Roberts said a Wallowa County history book, edited by Agnes Roberts, was published in 1983 and sold to raise money to buy the old fire hall next to the museum. It is being renovated to serve as an annex.

“If the Friends of the Wallowa
County Museum get enough grant dollars and donations, it will house artifacts too heavy for the bank building and provide room for gathering archives and eventually a research room,” said Roberts.

The Friends continue to raise money for maintenance and operation of the museum, but Roberts said they are in the process of beginning Volume II of the 1983 Wallowa County History book.

“It has family stories and we will be able to include more,” said Roberts. “It will also be for folks who have joined us in the valley more recently. History books are written for the future. Don’t think your story is not important — you are part of the history now.”

Roberts said the board is taking suggestions for event ideas. She can
be reached at the courthouse at
541-426-4543.

The Wallowa County Museum opens each Memorial Day and is open through the third week of September.