The past will soon become a big part of Elgin’s future.

The Elgin Museum and Historical Society is moving forward with plans to reopen its museum in Elgin’s old city hall building. The Museum Society’s board recently voted to ratify an offer from the City of Elgin for renting the building at 180 N. Eighth St.

“The vote was unanimous,” said Gerald Hopkins, president of the Elgin Museum and Historical Society.

The board’s vote finalized a three-year rental agreement, which the Elgin City Council approved earlier this fall.

The building on Eighth Street served as Elgin’s city hall until early this month when the city moved into its new home, the old W.C. Construction office building. The city purchased the building, located at 815 Hemlock St., earlier this year after the owners of W.C. Construction retired. The city moved into the building because it provide much-needed
additional space.

The future museum building served as Elgin’s city hall for at least a decade. Plans call for one of the building’s five rooms to serve as a place to record interviews with people who have stories to share about local history, Hopkins said. This room will also house books, and students in Elgin High School’s woodworking classes will construct bookcases.

The museum previously was located on the second floor of the Elgin Opera House for at least a decade, but it had to be moved about 10 years ago because of space issues and has not had a home since.

Unfortunately, some of the Museum Society’s display items have been lost since the museum was at the Opera House. Hopkins said attempts will be made to find as many of these items as possible.

“This will be a great
opportunity to put everything back together,” he said.

Long-term plans call for the museum to be part of a historical site that would include an old jail and an old church or school. Elgin’s old jail building, believed to be at least 100 years old, is a wooden shack about 70 feet west the former city hall. The historic building is currently on a slope, and the Museum Society hopes to get it moved about 20 or 30 feet closer to the museum’s new home, where it would be on flat ground, Hopkins said.

An attempt is now being made to find an old church or school that could be moved next to the museum. Hopkins said that such a structure would be a perfect complement to the jail and the historical displays.

“It would be (like) a mini town,” he said.

Hopkins foresees a time in which people traveling on the Eagle Cap Excursion Train, which operates out of Elgin and runs into Wallowa County, would visit the site and be greeted by individuals in period dress. Hopkins, a Methodist minister, said he might conduct church services there for visitors should a church building be brought in.

The Museum Society will begin moving items into its new home after the winter, and Hopkins hopes the museum can be opened this summer.

One of the first steps to be taken is moving two glass display cases into the old city hall. The display cases, which were donated to the Museum Society, will be moved in with the help of Elgin High School students, Hopkins said.

The museum will focus on Elgin but also display historic items from surrounding communities.

“Everybody I’ve talked to is very excited about it,” Hopkins said.