Lake Stevens Journal - Your hometown newspaper since 1960


By Pam Stevens
Managing Editor 

Historical Museum offers more than facts


June 1, 2010

The Granite Falls Historical Museum houses hands-on displays that guide you through the great logging history of the small mountainside town.

There’s a quaint little house on Union Ave. with the Granite Falls Historical Museum sign out front. From the outside it offers spring flowers and antique machinery, but take a step inside the walls of the Granite Falls Museum and you will discover the city’s history is at your fingertips—literally.

The museum offers many hands-on displays and informed guides to walk you through the great logging history of this small, mountainside town.

Museum curators even offer you the ability to guide yourself through your cell phone. By simply dialing the phone number given at the front desk, visitors can listen to information regarding different displays.

Countless volunteer hours, grant money and privately donated money have all contributed to the museum’s character and quality.

“We got an initial grant of $50,000 from the State (none of which could be used on construction, but could be used to pay professional fees, equipment, etc.), one major grant of $70,000 from the Murdock Foundation, a smaller grant of $5,000 from another foundation, and finally a $30,000 grant from the State to help with the sidewalks,” Fred Cruger explains. “The rest of the $300,000 total we raised came from individual private donations—the largest of which was $20,000 from Barry and Bruce Miller, which helped clinch the large Murdock grant.”

Among the 5,000 photos, antique clothing, logging tools and other historical artifacts lays a gem of insurmountable value—a new computerized mapping system.

Granite Falls’ own Fred Cruger, along with Granite Falls High School student Kyle Rood and Mike Schmidt, who was responsible for all of the homestead information, spent over 700 hours completing this mapping system.

“I can’t say too much about the work Mike Schmidt put into all the homestead stuff, and about the hours Kyle Rood willingly provided. They made the task manageable, and we ultimately got it done on time, on budget, and surpassing our expectations,” Cruger said.

These men have taken maps from the original homestead maps of 1910, 1927, 1934, 1940, 1952 and 1975 and Sanborn maps from 1917 and have created a mapping system where you can lay one map on top of the other and follow the history of any piece of property in Snohomish County from its beginning. They have even included aerial maps.

This may not sound like a big deal, but when you consider that each map is at a different scale and that each mapping company did things a little differently, this is quite an amazing feat.

“Scanning pictures and documents was relatively easy, but garnering useful information from multiple generations of maps was not. Being able to digitally overlay them accurately (we call it geo-referencing) brought it all together, and the three year delay caused by building a new building played into our favor, because the PC-based tools had improved dramatically during that time,” Cruger explains.

Scanning and sizing the maps was a tedious job that took countless hours and painstaking detail. Rood gave his time to the project as part of his community service hours in High School but stayed on the project even after his hours were fulfilled.

“Without him (Rood), I would have gone mad and quit,” Cruger said.

The technology seems almost endless. Anyone can show up with just a name or address or even an entire area and the software will be able to not only find the name or address but can show you everything that person owned in the area and everything that has sat on that property since its homesteading days to now, including an aerial photo.

These maps are a great tool for genealogical societies and historical museums across the county because of all of the possible ways to look up information.

“Ultimately, it was an idea whose time had come, we had the support of the other organizations across Snohomish County, some financial help from the Snohomish County Historical Preservation Commission, and a committed workforce,” Cruger said. “There was lots of tedious effort involved, but our repayment has been the fun we and our visitors continue to have in looking up ancestors, friends, legends, etc.”

Cruger has many stories of folks coming in to find a family property or name and the excitement they feel when they go home with more than they ever thought possible.

The project started when Cruger realized how many maps the museum had in storage. He asked his son, who needed a project for his GIS (geographical information system) class at Everett Community College, to find a way to make it easier to use these maps.

From there the entire project took off.

They hope to continue adding maps as people come forward with new ones.

“We’ll continue to add more maps/layers as more of the organizations uncover things like their Sanborn maps, railroad maps, etc. When we add them, everyone across the county gets to benefit, so it’s a great example of both project leadership/sponsorship and cooperation,” he said.

They will also be adding a cybertour technology for those who would like to take that “tour” around the Mountain Loop Highway, which they hope to have working by this summer.

The Granite Falls Historical Museum houses hands-on displays that guide you through the great logging history of the small mountainside town.

“When finished, folks with smartphones or web-enabled devices like Blackberries or iPads will be able to travel the Loop, stopping at selected points-of-interest to see pictures and videos and hear audio presentations. Those people with devices like iPhones and Droids will automatically be notified by their GPS function that they are approaching the points of interest, and see things like photos of the falls’ bridge under construction or video of 1930’s-era cars pulling into the Big Four Inn,” Cruger explains.

Cruger and Rood will be heading to Oklahoma City in Sept. to an AASLH (American Association for State and Local History) convention where they will be showing off their mapping system.

For more information on the museum or the maps please call 360-691-2603 or visit the Granite Falls Historical Museum at 109 E. Union Ave. You can also visit their website at


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