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From cow to creamery

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by RENEÉ MIZAR

 

Communications Coordinator, Museum & Arts Center in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley

While matching Roosevelt elk statues along U.S. Highway 101 welcome travelers to Sequim, it was another four-legged animal that for more than 100 years symbolized local pride and prosperity: the dairy cow.

 

First introduced to the Dungeness Valley by Alonzo and Hall Davis in 1872, area dairy cattle reportedly numbered more than 7,000 by the turn of the 20th century as small farms and dairies increasingly dotted the landscape. As production and export demands grew, several local creameries were established and the dairy industry became a powerful economic force the region for decades.

 

The Museum & Arts Center in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley chronicles this history in “Cow and Forever,” a new exhibit debuting in June — National Dairy Month — at the MAC Exhibit Center, 175 W. Cedar St. in Sequim.

 

MAC members will get first peek at the exhibit during an opening reception at 5 p.m. Wednesday, June 19. All current and lifetime MAC members and those who join or renew at the door are welcome to attend. The exhibit opens for public viewing the following day.

 

In exploring the production process from cow to creamery, the exhibit uses personal narratives, photographs and artifacts, including vintage milking equipment, to recount the more than 140-year history of dairy farming in eastern Clallam County. Using an illustrated timeline, the exhibit chronicles the rise and decline of the once-flourishing local industry, including various changes brought with increased mechanization, innovations and acceptance of new techniques.

 

“When Washington was made a state, the Dungeness area had only been settled a short time. In the span of 40 years, the dairy industry’s highest producers were from this area,” MAC History Exhibits Coordinator Lyn Fiveash said. “In another 40 years, it had dwindled to a handful of dairies.”

 

The exhibit also includes a fake life-size dairy cow that visitors can try their hand at milking, on loan from the Bekkevar family. The cow will make its debut at the members reception.

 


On display

Central to the display are three newly constructed models — one of the Glendale Creamery by Kevin Regan and two of the Gierin milk cooling tower by Rocky Fankhouser. Both artists will be available to answer questions at the members reception.

 

Regan, who used historical images of the creamery buildings to design his model from scratch, spent about four months off-and-on to construct it board-by-board. The actual creamery remains standing in Dungeness, having been repurposed as Nash’s Farm Store.

 

Fankhouser said his exterior and interior models of the 45-foot-tall Gierin tower, built circa 1907 along Port Williams Road in Sequim, were based on measurement drawings provided by architect and Sequim mayor Ken Hays. The iconic local landmark, historically referred to as a milk cooling tower by its namesake family, measures 18 feet at its square base and used piped-in water to keep metal cans of fresh milk cool prior to exportation.

 

Fankhouser also noted the interior model, built of plexiglass and designed based on discussions with Hays, was made for demonstrative purposes to illustrate how the cooling process may have worked inside the tower.

 

“Only through the determination and strength of the pioneers in Sequim could the dairy industry have flourished along with the settling and development of a new town,” said Fiveash, reflecting on the exhibit. “These were strong people making an exceptional business from bare bones.”

 

The MAC Exhibit Center is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Membership forms are available at the MAC Exhibit Center and on the MAC website at www.macsequim.org.

 


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