Mesa Historical Museum reopens after long shutdown The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

Mesa Historical Museum reopens after long shutdown

Mesa Historical Museum reopens after long shutdown
Mesa
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TRIBUNE NEWS STAFF

Since mid-March the Mesa Historical Museum hasn’t seen any visitors.

Yet, while it was closed by the pandemic like so many other venues as well as businesses, that doesn’t mean the museum was devoid of any human beings.

“Although our doors have been closed, museum staff has been busy working behind the scenes creating new exhibits for our visitors to enjoy,” said museum Executive Director Susan Ricci.

But all that work is now open for public inspection as the museum at 2345 N. Horne reopened on a modified schedule last weekend. During October, it will host visitors 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday but they must reserve a time to come by calling 480-835-2286.

At a modest gala attended by city officials and a few other community dignitaries on Oct. 8, the museum previewed the new exhibits staff has been working on during the long closure.

“Women in Aviation” honors the contributions by women aviators who lived, worked and flew in Arizona.

Notable aviatrixes, such as Ruth Reinhold, Ruby Wine Sheldon, Jacqueline Cochran, Jeannie Flynn and Martha McSally are some of the pilots featured in this new exhibit, which covers more than 100 years of aviation history in Arizona.

“Mesa’s Founding Families” showcases a wide array of collections and stories from members of the first founding families who settled in the Mesa/Lehi area.

Represented in the Founding Families exhibit are items from a host of city ancestors with names like Rogers, Dana, LeSueur, Crismon and MacDonald.

The collection includes clothing and other personal belongings of the pioneer families and their descendants.

There is also an interactive front porch within the exhibit which will feature rotating oral histories from founding families.   

After getting a start in the 1940s, the museum was incorporated in 1966 by citizens concerned about preserving Mesa’s rich history.

Its original home was at the old City Hall building downtown that now houses the Arizona Museum of Natural History.

While that venue focuses on the natural history of the region – including archaeology and paleontology – the Mesa Historical Museum is dedicated to exploring and preserving Mesa’s heritage.

It operates out of the Old Lehi school building that was built on land donated to the Lehi Settlers by the Rogers family in the 1880s. The building, constructed in 1914, replaced an adobe school house that had outgrown its usefulness by the early 1910s.

The replacement building was expanded in the Roaring Twenties with the addition of two new classrooms. During the Great Depression of the 1930’s, the Works Progress Administration made additional improvements, including the auditorium.

The auditorium was so well constructed that it was designated as the community bomb shelter during the Cold War.

Many years of improvements were not enough to save the school and it was condemned by the Mesa School District in 1976.

Slated for destruction, school officials discovered it would be more expensive to tear down the building because its auditorium was so sturdy.

The City of Mesa purchased the site and resold it to the Mesa Historical Museum in 1986.

The Historical Museum opened to the public in 1987.

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