Baker Heritage Museum
Housed in the historic Baker Municipal Natatorium, the Baker Heritage Museum explores the history of the county from the 1860s to the 1960s. The exhibits cover topics such as the local Chinese culture, wildlife, local industries, and Native American culture. The building itself was erected in 1921, becoming the city's first major public park facility constructed after World War I. Here, residents learned how to swim in the olympic-size pool and participated in other activities. As such, the natatorium became an important recreation hub for the city.
Backstory and Context
The city started the process of building the natatorium in 1919. It was designed by architect Michael P. White, who was born in Cardiff, Wales and arrived in Baker City when he was 18 to be with his brother, who had already settled here. The natatorium wasn't just for swimming; it also hosted events including an annual auto show and dances. Visitors were also allowed to roller skate on the balcony above the pool. In these ways, the natatorium contributed to the Baker City's recreational and entertainment life.
The building ceased to be a public recreational facility in 1941 for the duration of World War II. It became a local wood products company which built truck bodies and made ammunition boxes for the U.S. war effort. The pool was filled in with crushed rock. After the war, the building was used for a variety of purposes. Veterans were taught woodworking and in 1947, a National Guard unit started using the building as a drill facility (they remained until 1949).
In the coming years, the building was used by community once again, this time as a place for meetings and other gatherings including livestock shows. It also became a workshop and garage for the city. In 1978, the Baker County Historical Society leased the old building. A few years later in 1982, the museum opened. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.
Homepage. Baker Heritage Museum. Accessed August 31, 2020. http://www.bakerheritagemuseum.com/index.html.
Kuhl, Betty et al. "Baker Municipal Natatorium." October 17, 1977. https://npgallery.nps.gov/GetAsset/8c34bf61-4c08-4078-9783-03bf297d5ff5.
Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives, via Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Oregon_Trail_Museum_(Baker_County,_Oregon_scenic_images)_(bakDA0095a).jpg