LAKE COUNTY – Caltrans' future plans to widen the Highway 29 in the area of Kit's Corner have led to a chain of events that will see the creation of a museum to showcase our local history.
Located near Kit's Corner, the Ely Stagestop House was built about 1860. It's one of Lake County's oldest buildings. Early on in the history of this historic structure it was used as a stopover for travelers riding the stagecoach from Calistoga to Lakeport.
This fine example of pioneer architecture would have likely been demolished due to future plans to widen Highway 29 until the owners of the Ely house admirably offered it to our county government. The Beckstoffer family, who are the building's owners, also offered a five-acre parcel of land on Soda Bay Road to become the new home of the Ely House.
This generous Beckstoffer donation proposal and ensuing negotiations with county officials became the catalyst for the Lake County Historical Society (LCHS) plans to develop the new site on Soda Bay Road as a "country museum."
LCHS will showcase Lake County history on a grand scale at the Soda Bay location for the enjoyment and education of the local population and visitors alike.
The Beckstoffer donations includes a stipulation that the main focus of the museum contain an agricultural theme. This original concept is right in line with the LCHS goals, as the group already has a collection of unique antique farm tractors and implements stored at various locations in the area.
Recently, three well-preserved old barns have been acquired by Ely Stagestop Committee Chair Greg Dills. LCHS plans to house antique agricultural equipment in these grand old barns once the barns are moved and rebuilt on the Soda Bay site. The group will need volunteers to help complete this task. How about an old-fashioned barn-raising event, neighbors?
County Deputy Redevelopment Director Eric Seely is the county's liaison for this project. Seely has painstakingly prepared the Ely House for its move to the new location on Soda Bay Road and is now in the process of sending out bid packages to contractors interested in moving the building.
LCHS anticipates that the Ely House will be moved this summer. Once the building is in place, the county will turn over the museum to LCHS. Seely has also held two well-attended public meetings to garner public input on the museum concepts. A third and final meeting is planned but the date is yet to be announced.
The additional museum concepts offered by the public and the historical society have been very interesting. Permanent exhibit concepts offered include a print shop, a blacksmith shop, an exhibit of old mining equipment and the re-creation of one of local 19th century saw mills. Several mining equipment donations have already been offered by the Wilder family. Various other rare artifacts have been offered by other locals, too.
In addition, an amphitheater for living history presentations and folk music events has also been called for as well as a general store that would feature goods provided by local farmers, ranchers, artists craftsmen and craftswomen.
The Lake County Historical Society is currently engaged in fundraising efforts to help make the previously mentioned conceptual exhibits a reality. The next general meeting of the Historical Society will be the summer picnic on June 24.
Monies collected from the group's 50/50 fundraiser raffle will help to start the project off on the right footing – specifically, the footing and floor slabs for the first exhibit barns is the group's main priority at this time. Local contractors are asked to volunteer their time and purveyors of construction materials to volunteer construction goods to assist LCHS in this 2007 summer project.
The LCHS summer picnic will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday, June 24, at the Kelseyville County Park, located on Park Street off Soda Bay Road in Kelseyville (not to be confused with the state park). The guest speaker will be Bill Brunetti who will share insight into the interesting geology of Lake County.
The historical society will furnish hot dogs, hamburgers and soft drinks. Please bring a dish to share and a comfortable chair. All are invited to join in this celebration of Lake County history.
For information and reservations for the Lake County Historical Society summer picnic contact Randy Ridgel, 279-4602.
If you would like to help with renovation of the barn project, contact Greg Dills at 263-0295, Extension 12. LCHS is a tax-deductible organization.