The History Of the Whalan Museum
The Whalan Museum opened in May 2002, under the direction of life-long resident Doris (Soiney) Peterson. It is important to note the history of the building in which the museum is located, the Whalan Town Hall, built in 1898. This two-story building served the citizens well over the years. The lower level first served as the city jail and housed the fire apparatus. Later, in the 1940’s, the space was converted into two separate rooms in which the City Council, Holt Township and Whalan American Legion and Auxiliary held their meetings. Currently, City Council and the American Legion continue to meet here as well as many other groups and special events.
The upper level served as Whalan’s social hall. It is said, travelling vaudeville troupes and the Elliot Medicine Show, upon passing through the area, performed here. Whalan School held their plays and various programs here, as well as the Memorial Day programs. Rural schools often held their speech contests here. For a time, Saturday night dances were held here. Locals would play piano and fiddle. The original ticket window remains. Built across one end of the room is a wooden stage complete with a large canvas stage curtain displaying painted advertisements of early area businesses. Sometime in the early 1960’s, upon the discontinued use of the room, the curtain was taken down, rolled up and put away. Years later, with the revitalization of Whalan, the curtain was rediscovered. It became the focal point of the museum…..the crown jewel.
In 2009, a group of concerned citizens organized to formulate a plan to renovate the entire building. It was in dire need of repairs and updates. It was an ambitious project, but with much hard work and dedication by many, the project was completed in June of 2013.