By Michael Buhler
One of Cheney’s best-known landmarks has been undergoing a facelift recently.
The Souders Historical Farm Museum, located southwest of Cheney on MacArthur Rd., has seen a major renovation under current manager Tom Gronniger and now is open on the weekends from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“From what I’ve read and from other things I’ve seen, it dates all the way back to 1898,” Gronniger said. “I’ve got old copies of the Cheney Sentinel from many years ago as well.”
An old telephone switchboard is among the many local artifacts on display at the Souders Historical Farm Museum.
Gronniger’s cousin, Raymond Kraus, was a caretaker for the museum – which is set up like a town, complete with a sheriff’s office and other businesses – until his death in October 2011. Allen Vosburgh took over for Kraus until being forced to give it up the following spring because of health issues. That’s when Gronniger was asked to come in, in part because of his ties to Kraus.
“Raymond probably was here when they started building all these buildings,” Gronniger said. “There are pictures around here of him with the crew of workers. Floyd Souders had him around to keep up the maintenance on everything. I used to come out here and help Raymond once in a while. I started walking around and started having dreams about putting things together.”
Those dreams are becoming reality. Gronniger has had laborers moving dead trees from in front of the museum complex and working back toward the buildings. Gronniger also has been painting depots and the schoolhouse, and he also plans to put bricks in front of the barber shop and radio shop – and to make the sheriff’s office an information center.
Gronniger also has had some volunteer help to make things happen at the museum, which as always has been a plus.
“The Methodist Church and their youth group have come out, mostly in the spring and the fall,” Gronniger said. “They painted the front of the building and picked up a bunch of trees that fell down out here.”
Last but not least, having consistent hours of business is a big boost for the growth and the resurgence of the museum.
“I’ve got another job during the week,” Gronniger said. “If I can set it up on the weekends, I’m out here able to work. I can just open the gates up and it’s self-explanatory. People come in here and know it’s open.”
While many buildings, like this chapel, are re-creations of early buildings in the area, Souders also houses the actual train depots that used to serve Garden Plain and Cheney.