Wallowa History Center

This building at the home of the Wallowa History Center will eventually be converted into an interpretive center.

WALLOWA — The Wallowa History Center is closing in on its 20th anniversary celebration, and will be hosting an open house in celebration on the Fourth of July.

The celebration will take place in conjunction with the town’s Fourth of July Parade at the home of the center at the corner of 1st and Madison streets in Wallowa, the former home of the U.S. Forest Service station.

The open house will feature displays and give visitors an opportunity to look at the location that will be in the process of being converted into a library, interpretive center and more in the next few years.

“We have a brochure. You can read the brochure (and) do a tour of the facility up there,” center director Mary Ann Burrows said.

The center has undergone a lot of growth since its beginning 20 years ago. Burrows said it started with not much more than a display board that was set up at the Wallowa County Library.

“We really started out on the Fourth of July with one of our first displays,” she said. “We had a presentation board with materials in the library, and just moved on from there. We got a 501(c)3 to buy a computer and some materials.”

David Weaver, president of the board for the center, credited both Burrows and Mark Highberger for their efforts in growing the center.

“They started out really small and have moved around over time previously before landing here,” he said, “and kind of really expanding the work they have done. Both Mark and Mary Ann are really instrumental. … Mary Ann is the heart of the organization. It was her inspiration that got it going, and she knows a ton about Wallowa County history.”

Part of what got Burrows started building up the center was seeing a loss of town history.

“There were so many of the older families that were leaving. Nothing was being saved,” she said. “I’ve always been a history buff. I hated to see the history of the town disappearing.”

Highberger said Burrows would gather information and track down old photographs of the area. She even salvaged archivable items that were being thrown away.

“She did that by going through archives, talking to people, rescuing a lot of material from places like the city dump,” he said.

Many of the items the center has collected over the past 20 years will be on display when the new center is complete.

But on this Fourth of July, visitors will get to see what the future holds for a place designed to preserve the past.

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