Our purpose is to collect information, materials and artifacts related to the establishment and growth of the greater Centralia area. The organization will disseminate information and provide resources, which will be shared with the citizens, schools, organization and publications.
Around 1960, Kenny Oestrich started going to sales and collecting items from Centralia's past, storing them in a spare bedroom of his home. To his amazement the room was near-full in a year's time. He then took half of his garage, remodeled it and moved the collection there, calling it "The Centralia Room".
Centralia's local newspaper, The Sentinel, did an article about Kenny's collection. A local businessman, Nate Rothschild owned the old Glore Lumber Co. building and after reading the article about Kenny's collection called to offer items he'd found in the lumber company building. After Nate viewed the contents of "The Centralia Room", he proposed the idea of starting a museum with Kenny. Subsequently, with the help of a local group of men and women, a meeting was held to begin the process of bringing this museum of Centralia forward.
Nate offered the second floor of the lumber company building to house the museum, but there were issues with the public entrance and gaining access to the upstairs rooms. The committee decided to wait a couple of weeks to consider what could be done to rectify the problems. However, during that two-week period a fire destroyed the entire Glore Lumber Company building.
The old Topper's building in the 100 block of East Broadway was offered to the group. There would be no rent charged but the museum would pick up the expense of the utilities. With the new location, people started coming in and donating items for the collection. It wasn't long before the new space was outgrown! Ralph Sprehe offered the old Kohl & Meyer building to the group, pictured on our home page. This most generous offer was accepted, and is where we are today.
We are still collecting donated items and also have items on loan. The collection has grown to occupy all three floors, and we are considering what it will take to expand into the basement. By all means come and visit, and let the museum conjure up the historical memories of yesteryear, learn a few new things about our town and the surrounding community in Marion County.
Do You Have Something to Donate?
The museum can only continue to grow thanks in part to the donations from patrons like you.
Feel free to conact us about yout items that you feel best represent the history of this area.