Discover Our History: Visiting the Museums in Maple Valley and Black Diamond
Whether you’ve been living here for decades, a newer to the area, or are visiting for a few days, there’s no question that the museums in Maple Valley and Black Diamond are a must-visit location.
Learning your local history is just one way you can feel connected to the community. Best of all, visiting the museums in Maple Valley and Black Diamond is an activity suitable for the whole family!
A Rich History Borne from Industry
With such a long and rich history dating back to the 1800s, there are endless stories of how our communities came to be what they are today.
Originally established as a company town for the Black Diamond Coal Company, it was the industries of both coal and lumber that allowed Maple Valley and Black Diamond to flourish.
The coal being mined was considered to be some of the best in the world, and the sweeping forests offered a massive supply for sawmills. This made the area an ideal location for thousands of European immigrants searching for work and economic prosperity.
That was just the beginning!
So, if you’re searching for an opportunity to brush up on your local history, look no further than the museums in Maple Valley and Black Diamond.
Let’s take a look.
The Maple Valley Historical Society
The Maple Valley Historical Society’s mission is “To collect, preserve, educate and promote the history of the Greater Maple Valley area. And to provide for everyone a greater understanding of the role people played in the history.”.
The goal of the organization is to allow people to not only learn the history of our communities but also have an opportunity to research and discover their own ties and roots within the area.
As a way to showcase all of this, the Maple Valley Historical Society (MVHS) maintains two museums right in the heart of the Maple Valley Community. This is made possible by the work of the volunteers, along with the society members, consisting of over 300 organizations and people.
Once patronized by the early residents, the Gibbon-Mezzavilla General Store acted as a hub for the locals to buy a vast array of goods. The store has since been restored to all its original glory and acts as a testament to the resiliency and lasting legacy of the settlers of the region.
The Fire Engine Museum is a gem of the community, acting as home to the original fire engine used by Fire District 43 Volunteer — a restored 1926 Howard Cooper. The museum also houses various displays that showcase the fire district’s early years.
Many people may not be aware of the active role the Maple Valley Historical Society plays in community education. Offering several free public programs each year at different facilities within the community, the goal is to make learning history accessible to everyone, regardless of ability. These programs are geared toward different audiences and are designed to generate even more interest in the history and museums of Maple Valley and Black Diamond.
The History Treasure Box curriculum is an initiative provided by the MVHS for the Tahoma School District and offers the opportunity for guided class tours to the local museums. To date, over 1200 students have been a part of the program.
The Gibbon-Mezzavilla General Store and the Fire Engine Museum are open the first Saturday of each month from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm or by appointment.
The Black Diamond Historical Society
If you’re looking for museums in Maple Valley or Black Diamond, the Black Diamond Historical Society (BDHS) is a can’t miss.
Established in 1976, the mission of the Black Diamond Historical Society’s mission “shall be the discovery, preservation, and dissemination of the history of Black Diamond and environs, as it relates to King County and the State of Washington.”.
The idea for the society initially came up when Carl and Ann Steiert were thinking of how they could preserve a piece of their community to honor America’s upcoming bicentennial. As a former mining town with deep roots, several locals had a growing concern over various artifacts and buildings slowly slipping away and were looking for ways to ensure nothing else was lost.
That year, the group of citizens, led by Carl and Ann, started the restoration of the old railroad depot building. Having been built in the early 1900s, the railroad depot not only represented the history of industry in the region, but it acted as a hub for locals and travelers for nearly 30 years.
Since that time, the railroad depot had many interactions within the community — a library, a restaurant, the water department office, a telephone exchange, and more.
Through the restoration, the building was returned to its original glory. From replacing windows to repainting the building in original colors, the work that went into the restoration was tireless. The crown jewel of the restoration was the addition of a bay window with a “coal mine entrance” constructed underneath.
Because the process was solely reliant on volunteers and whatever money could be fundraised, the work took roughly six years to complete.
In addition to hosting countless community events and running the museum, the BDHS has taken a leading role in the preservation of the Black Diamond Historical Cemetery.
The cemetery is listed as part of the State and National Registers of historical places, with the earliest gravestone, is dated all the way back to 1880. What initially started as a simple project to create a photographic record, but through the process, it was quickly discovered that the paper records contained various inaccuracies and were overall incomplete.
This project allowed the BDHS to create more accurate records while documenting the graveyard and headstones through images. Those looking for information on the graveyard can access the publicly available list, as well as order an image of specific headstones.
The Black Diamond Historical Society Museum is open to visitors on Thursdays from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
The Museums in Maple Valley and Black Diamond are Open for Visitors
With the weather getting warmers and summer right around the corner, now is a great time to discover our history in the museums of Maple Valley and Black Diamond.
You can learn all about the museums in Maple Valley and Black Diamond and how industry runs deep in our community right here.