History is lost. Irreplaceable artifacts stolen from museum
By Amanda Patton, Editor.
April 28, 2009.
Numerous irreplaceable artifacts are missing after the Coolidge Historical Museum was broken into recently. With more than 100 years of memorabilia on display, intruders entered the museum located at 161 W. Harding Ave. and took an estimated $50,000 worth of antiques.
Dan Reeder, historical society secretary, called the Coolidge Police Department around 9 a.m. April 21 after he had noticed several display cases had been broken into. The intruders were able to enter the newer building without setting off the alarm system. The building is located just behind the museum’s main building, the original courthouse and jail built in 1934.
“We’re not sure when they broke in,” said Reeder, who had last been at the museum around 5 p.m. April 18.
One of the main displays hit was a shrine featuring Walter Smith’s collection of Native American baskets. The display was opened to the public in the fall of 2007.
“I imagine a lot of the Indian artifacts are long gone,” said his wife Wendy, also a member of the historical society.
Now bare with only tags remaining of what filled the authentic display, items donated by Smith’s granddaughter can never be replaced. Smith operated the Vak-Ki Inn, formerly located where St. Michael’s Episcopal Church now stands. The glass display case featured numerous Tohono O’odham and Pima Indian artifacts.
The replica of a Coolidge classroom with an enormous collection of district memorabilia opened in 2006 called the School House, also was hit. Trespassers took items from the Coolidge Womans Club, Popular Department Store, military and history of Coolidge displays. The subjects took anything from dog tags, pottery, and jewelry, which are just a few of the many priceless items missing.
“Some items were on loan and some were donated,” Reeder said.
Police reports indicate the subjects entered the rear building from the south side by prying apart the aluminum siding and cutting away the insulation. Around $500 damage was caused to the building. The subjects then entered the museum through a storage room. Fortunately nothing was found missing from the main building or the building located just to the east.
“We just hope somebody might know something and they will call us,” Reeder said.
Plans for the initial founding of the museum coincided with the first Calvin Coolidge Days celebration in September 1985. The location at 161 W. Harding Ave. had historic significance and was a natural choice for the placement of the museum; the building was erected in 1934 as Coolidge’s first justice of the peace court and jail, presided over by Deputy Sheriff Asa Gardner.