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Heritage Museum, Rogue Ales team up on hop history

INDEPENDENCE -- Before he passed away, local farmer Al Haener penned a short written history in 1987 about Independence's ties to the hop industry, a resource that staff at the Heritage Museum still consult.

An Oregon State Historic Preservation Office grant and matching funds from Rogue Ales will allow the Independence Heritage Museum to establish exhibits highlighting the area's history as a hop-growing region.

Photo courtesy of Independence Heritage Museum

An Oregon State Historic Preservation Office grant and matching funds from Rogue Ales will allow the Independence Heritage Museum to establish exhibits highlighting the area's history as a hop-growing region.

July 02, 2012

INDEPENDENCE -- Before he passed away, local farmer Al Haener penned a short written history in 1987 about Independence's ties to the hop industry, a resource that staff at the Heritage Museum still consult.

The height of hop activity here was during the 1920s and 1930s, and the area's population ballooned by the thousands every summer in anticipation of the September harvest, wrote Haener, who grew hops himself.

"Approximately 4,600 acres were planted in hops in the rich alluvial soil bordering the river," Haener wrote. That figure is comparable to all of the land dedicated to hops in Oregon today.

To accommodate and attract the onslaught of annual pickers, farmers erected campgrounds, stores and even dance halls, Haener said.

The hop business in Independence all but died by the end of the 1950s. The ties still remain, however, and the city and Rogue Ales will showcase that past thanks to funding from the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office.

The Independence Heritage Museum recently received a $10,000 grant from the agency to establish exhibits that detail the lives of hop pickers, the economic impact on the city, and the history of hop cultivation.

"There are a lot of wine towns and river towns in Oregon, but not a lot with the connection to hops that we have," said Shawn Irvine, the city's economic development director. "With craft brewing such a big thing these days, this is an opportunity to further brand ourselves."

The project will entail panel displays downtown, a permanent display at the museum and a long-term loan of artifacts to the Rogue Ales hopyard. Another $10,000 for the project will come from matching cash and in-kind donations from Rogue and other sources, said Peggy Smith, Heritage Museum curator.

Grant to help preserve hop history.

Photo courtesy of Independence Heritage Museum

Grant to help preserve hop history.

Research and work on the exhibits will start this summer and be ready by next spring or summer.

"I would put that up there with the largest grants we've ever received," Smith said.

Irvine said the idea for the project was born out of Rogue wanting to add a history component to its hopyard/pub near Buena Vista. The city was denied a Historic Preservation Office grant last year, but secured one this spring.

In a letter of support for the exhibit, Brett Joyce, president of Rogue Ales, said the company will make available a barn at the farm that will be developed as a hop museum for the project. Staff would help build and research displays, he wrote.

"Any program that can help bring tourists to the area and educate them about this wonderful local history will benefit the community at large," Joyce wrote.

Of Note

* Peggy Smith said the history exhibits will involve preserving artifacts related to the historic hop industry. During the research phase, Independence and Rogue will issue an open call for donations of hop-related items and stories. For more information or to participate: 503-838-4989 or send an e-mail to orheritage@minetfiber.com.

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