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Franklin County buildings named to Washington State Heritage Register

By: Katherine Trowbridge

& Shelly Harper

The Pasco Aviation Museum, owned by the Port of Pasco, along with the North Franklin Heritage Museum’s 1904 Presbyterian Church, were voted on to the Washington Heritage Register on Friday, March 15 by the Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation.

Museum Administrator Shelly Harper applied to put the old church on the Washington Heritage Register nearly a year ago.

The Washington Heritage Register is an official listing of historically significant sites and properties found though out the state. The registry list includes districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that have been identified and documented as being significant in local or state history, architecture, archaeology, engineering, or culture.

Listing in the Washington Heritage Register is strictly an honorary designation and raises public awareness about historic and cultural values.

Until March 15, there were only four buildings on the register from Franklin County; the Franklin County Courthouse (Pasco), the Moore Mansion (Pasco), the Carnegie Library (which is now the Franklin County Museum in Pasco), and Morning Star Baptist Church (Pasco). With the addition of the Pasco Aviation Museum and North Franklin Heritiage Museum’s Presbyterian Church, there are now six buildings from Franklin County on the register with the Presbyterian Church (Connell) being the oldest of the six buildings.

The Pasco Aviation Museum is located in the old control tower, which was once part of Seattle’s Sand Point Naval Air Station during World War II. It became one of the three largest training bases for aviators in the United States. The Naval Air Station was just part of the military presence in Pasco during World War II and along with Hanford, played a big part in our area’s role during WWII.

The building, located at 4102 Stearman Ave in Pasco, will be opening for the season on Saturday, April 20 from 10 am to 4 pm.

The mission of the aviation museum is to not only preserve the history for generations to come while sharing aviation with the community, but to also honor “the greatest generation.”

The Presbyterian Church is historically significant for its direct connection to the spiritual needs and aspirations of a small community, the museum shared. After several meetings, eighteen members officially organized as the First Presbyterian Church of Connell on March 11, 1904. For the next 75+ years, the church became a second home to three different denominations, hosting a variety of celebrations, weddings, birthdays, reunions, funerals, meetings, and classes.

Completed in 1905, the church also serves as an example of rural ecclesiastical architecture which is found in numerous rural communities across Washington State.

It was built by local community members and holds the distinction in Franklin County.

Services at the church were conducted in English, a first for any other congregation in the county at the time. All other church services at the time were conducted in German.

In 1981, the church was sold to private citizens who converted the buiding to use as a residence and art studio. They sold the bell to St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Eltopia where it remains to this day. The art studio business did not last long and by the late 1980’s, the building was beginning to show signs of disrepair.

Inspired by the 1989 Washington State Centennial, a group of Connell residents (who called themselves the Committee of Twenty) saw the value of the building to the community and sought to purchase the church privately. Plans for the long-term use of the building would come later. A group of like minded friends formed a non-profit foundation and contributed funds to purchase the building. Deperate for funding and additional support, they turned to the City of Connell who agreed in July of 1994 to take ownership of the building, securing and protecting it from vandalism while long-term use was studied.

Renovation began in 1999 by Coyote Ridge Corrections Center inmates included resetting the stone foundation, new wiring, plumbing, reroofing, and painting.

The first phase of restoration was clebrated on Sept. 9, 2000. Additional interior work followed, and after the assembly of a collection, the museum finally opened to the public for the first time on Sept. 24, 2002.

As a homage to the railway history, the museum installed a section of railroad ties and added a Burlington Northern Caboose to the site in 2003.

In 2018, the Connell Heritage Museum purchased the property back from the City of Connell and continued to renovate the building. That same year, the museum also moved a circa 1910 home built by Eugene Adams to the property for restoration, and also built the Hudlow Memorial Annex building which holds additional local artifacts and memorabilia.

In 2023, the museum was renamed the North Franklin Heritage Museum to better encapsulate its mission of preserving the history of not just Connell, but also Mesa, Basin City, Eltopia, and Kahlotus.

The museum continues to grow its attendance each year and now has a new venture of restoring the two-story brick Franklin County Bank building in historic downtown Connell (built in 1906 and became the American Legion in 1946). It’s the museum’s vision to save this historic building and many more buildings throughout N. Franklin County in the years to come.

The museum is hoping the old church building will be around at least another 120 years for future generations to enjoy.

The First Presbyterian Church of Connell sits at 350 W. Adams Street. The museum is open every Saturday from 10 am to 2 pm, year round. Stop on in and see your local history and support these efforts to preserve our history and save our historic buildings.

The museum will also be holding an open house at their C-Street Vault project building (former American Legion) on Monday, April 1 from 11 am to 7 pm. Stop by this historic downtown building and check out all the progress. It has been one year since the roof blew off and so much has changed!

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