Banks, HISTORY, News

Banks Historical Society launches fundraiser to save Wilkes House

The Banks Historical Society has launched a fundraiser in an attempt to save a historic house —possibly the oldest site-built pioneer home in town — and an acre of very old trees in Banks that’s threatened by a planned development.

The “Save the Wilkes House campaign,” launched June 26 by the group and the newly formed Friends of The Wilkes House, seeks to pull in $20,000, which will cover legal representation as the group seeks to work with the city of Banks and developers to save the house; an arborist to do a tree inventory, and to repay the historical society $900 for a hired building inspector for a structural evaluation of the house, outreach to tribal governments that may have interest in the site and more.

As of press time, it had received $2,025 in funds after just a few days online. Eventually, it’s hoped the site could become a city park, cultural center and museum.

“The beautiful, 150-year-old landmark home belonged to the Wilkes family, the Banks area’s first permanent Euro-American settlers who came on the Oregon Trail with the Barlows in 1845,” a press release issued by the group read. “They made their land claim – on which most of the City of Banks now sits – in 1847. Historical records indicate the Wilkes family lived harmoniously alongside the Atfalati-Kalapuya people, who used the land along Dairy Creek for their summer encampments. Recently uncovered historical information, first-person accounts and Native American objects found in an archeological survey in the area indicate there was a rich, cultural exchange that took place on this property, and a more formal archeological exploration is warranted,” the group said.

“The current plan for the property is to tear down the historic house and the city’s largest continuous canopy of old (and possibly heritage preservation) trees to build a water treatment plant on the site,” the group said. They gave a presentation (which can be read in a .pdf here) to the city council in June.

“[The] Banks Historical Society is asking the developers to reconsider these plans and put the proposed water treatment plant elsewhere, so this beautiful, historic property can be preserved,” the group said.

The Banks Historical Society said they were not opposed to the development.

“The Wilkes House museum and park would enhance the aesthetics, value and livability of the Westside development,” the group said.

Find out more online and on the Banks Historical Society Facebook page.

Chas Hundley is the editor of the Banks Post and sister news publications the Gales Creek Journal and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

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