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The Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum explores the history of the region where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. Founded in the early 1980s, it holds 23,000 artifacts dating from the time the Chinook people inhabited the area through 20th century. The exhibits cover Chinook life, European exploration, pioneer life and industrial development. There is an intact freight depot as well as a passenger coach train car, which is the largest artifact in the museum. The museum offers various events such as talks, concerts and auctions, and many educational programs as well. The Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum is housed in the former Ilwaco Telephone Utilities (TU) building, built in the mid 1960s, which underwent extensive remodeling in 1990 to disguise it as a museum.

The Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum

The Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum

The passenger train car

The passenger train car

Original TU building on First Street Ilwaco before the expansion was built on Lake Street.

Tire, Building, Wheel, Window

Original TU building on First Street Ilwaco before expansion on Lake Street.

Window, Black, Style, Black-and-white

Front exterior of TU building on Lake Street in 1967.

Black-and-white, Facade, Tints and shades, Monochrome

Building, Window, Facade, Tints and shades

TU building on Lake Street 1967

Car, Motor vehicle, Vehicle, Building

TU building Lake Street 1967

Car, Land vehicle, Tire, Wheel

The Accounting Department of TU, Edna Knudsen & Jane Brenenstahl 1967.

Office equipment, Table, Office supplies, Art

1967 Telephone Utilities, Inc. IBM 360 computer system.

Electronic instrument, Gas, Monochrome, Machine

The TU building can be seen to the right of the Ice Palace in 1975.

Automotive parking light, Land vehicle, Car, Vehicle

The Founding of TU

The story of the Telephone Utilities begins in 1903 when J.A. 'Andy' Howerton strung a phone line with two crank telephones to help his brother-in-law maintain contact with his fish-buying scow. When the experiment worked, he connected their homes as well. When other community members became interested in telephone service, the Ilwaco Telephone and Telegraph Company was born.

By 1955, customers had grown to 400, and Norm Howerton began expanding. Selective acquisition of small, mostly rural phone companies began. Within a few years, a patchwork of telephone companies in Oregon and Washington had been amassed. In the mid-1960s the company needed a larger building for its headquarters. Architect Donald S. Avery of Olympia was engaged to design the new building, which was constructed by Perrott-Kaufman Steel Building Company, also of Olympia. 

New Building on Lake Street

Inside the building, the new office building featured vacuum-tube main-frame computers, plus air-conditioning to keep them cool and functional. Companies that were overseen from this location when the building was completed included: Ilwaco Telephone Company; Island Empire Telephone Company (Kitsap Co., WA); Evergreen Telephone Company (Lewis Co., WA); Knappa Telephone Company (Knappa, OR); Rose Valley Phone Company (Scappoose, OR); Inland Empire Telephone Company (Spangle, WA); Orting Telephone Company (Orting, WA); Columbia Basin Telephone Company (Eastern WA); Lopez Telephone Company (Lopez Island, WA); Puget Island Telephone Company (Cathlamet, WA); Deschutes Telephone Company (Maupin, OR); and Sound Telephone Company (Lakebay, WA).

Telephone Utilities was sold to Pacific Telecomm who eventually moved operations to Vancouver leaving the building to the City of Ilwaco.

CPHM Research Files

CPHM Murfin/Tribune Photo Collection

Image Sources(Click to expand)

CPHM photo archive - 1987.110.300 First National Bank in Ilwaco

CPHM photo archive

CPHM photo archive - May 19 1967 Telephone Utilities, Inc.

CPHM photo archive

CPHM photo archive - May 19 1967 Telephone Utilities, Inc. (3)

CPHM photo archive - May 19 1967 Telephone Utilities, Inc.

CPHM photo archives - May 19 1967 Telephone Utilities, Inc.

CPHM Photo Archives

CPHM Photo Archive - Larry Weathers