Check out the Mesa Historical Museum sometime. It's a little like "Ripley's Believe it or Not" because of the strange pictures and oddities from the past. It’s a close vacation attraction if you live in Mesa.
How would you like to save gas, money and travel hassles? And go on a vacation in your back yard? A "staycation" gives you the time to see cool museums right where you live. The savings in gas alone can easily pay for your admission and a nice lunch.
How about a vacation back in time? History can be made to come alive when you get to see it up close at a museum.
Ever wonder what happened to those time capsules that people bury? What would you put in a time capsule? What things go into a historical museum? Well there are places in he southeast valley that are time capsules that you can walk through! Like the Mesa Historical Museum.
The old museum was the original Lehi schoolhouse built in 1913. Lehi was one of the first communities in Mesa located in the north part of the city.
The Mesa Historical Museum is old. It’s tired. If you were almost a hundred years old you would show it too. When you walk inside the building, the floor boards creak and squeak. There are lots of rooms with strange old pictures and curious old relics. Then there are the familiar displays like the one with the covered wagon.
What did the pioneer homes look like on the inside? First off, you won’t see any big screen TV’s in there! There’s an amazing replica of a home that was the norm from the year 1890 to WWI in the room off the main hall. It’s the Phelps/Owen/Morris room. It looks archaic and is very snug. This is the size of a home that could shelter around a dozen people. That space is way small for so many people!
You think that’s small? Check out the size of the pioneer adobe home in front on the museum that was typical for the 1880’s.
The adobe pioneer home is like a storage bin. Most people’s garage is larger than this hut. And this is a deluxe hut! Most adobe homes were walls with tent tops instead of a solid roof.
You may wonder where the bathroom was located. Well in those days they were—outside.
Check out the Little Adobe Schoolhouse next to the outhouse which is a replica of the original schoolhouse in Mesa.
Roam around on the outside of the museum and you will see other interesting things like old farm equipment. Here’s a picture of an old combine.
Now here are some interesting things that you can find out when you visit the Mesa Historical Museum.
Take an easy quiz:*
True or False: Was there ever a winery in Mesa?
True or False: Was there really a school on Alma School Road?
True or False: Did the city of Chandler get its name from a veterinarian?
Did you know they used to grow grapes and make wine here? Oh, you thought it was too hot? Well there’s an old picture of some people with their grape harvest. They look happy. There were actually two wineries in Mesa by 1892! They got their priorities right.
Ok, you know that the street “Alma School” road has something to do with an old school. Well they have the picture of the original Alma School which was built in 1896.
Old relics are interesting. How about old stories? Like the one about a visionary man named Dr. Chandler.
Here’s a brief story about water that ends with Dr. Chandler. Water has been a major challenge in the desert for a very long time. Maybe that’s why the Hohokam vanished?
People need water and a constant supply of it to flourish in the desert. You can’t live on water during the monsoon season or in the winter. You need it steady and available all year long. The early pioneers realized the importance of water.
The early settlers rebuilt an abandoned water canal feeding off the Salt River called “Montezuma’s Canal.” Check out the park of the canals if you want to see what they look like.
What’s the deal about the water running uphill? The early canals sent water to Mesa and it looked to a casual bystander that water ran uphill, defying gravity. Why, because the water flowed on the top of the mesa, rather than in the lower area of Lehi. The trick was they went upstream where the ground was higher and sent it through the canals on the top of the mesa.
Dr. A. J. Chandler moved here around 1887. He vastly improved the southeast valley water supply in the desert with canal rebuildings, hydro power plants, etc. Sounds like boring stuff except when you realize this was way back when…
By the way, Dr. Chandler was the veterinarian who opened an office in 1912 in the southeast valley. You can see a resort that he opened called the San Marcos Golf Resort. Anyway, his office had more to do with water than dogs and cats. Eventually the area became the city of Chandler.
*Answers to the true-false questions are all true!
The Mesa Historical Museum old location was 2345 North Horne and
now is an annex. See the maps below. Telephone (480) 835-2286.Website: http://www.mesamuseum.org/
Then new temporary location is 51 East Main Street. See map below: