BEND, OR -- While many local drivers like to curse traffic on Highway 97, the Deschutes Historical Museum is celebrating the thoroughfare with a new exhibit. Executive Director Kelly Cannon Miller tells KBND News, "Travel and tourism and the highway, and where the highway goes, has always had a huge impact on our local economy. We’ve always wanted people to come here and do things and enjoy this area, so I wanted to kind of pull people back and say, ‘actually, this has always been a huge part of our economy'."
The 1940 “Travel Guide to Oregon” offered 10 tours to encourage visitors to explore the state, "What our exhibit does is follow ‘Tour Four’ through Deschutes County, starting up in Terrebonne and working its way through Redmond and in to Bend, and south through the Lava Butte area, and to La Pine; and, what is there to see and do? It’s really super heavy on the natural wonders." The Cruisin' 97 exhibit highlights roadside attractions popular in the 1940s, like the Museum of Wonders (right), which Cannon-Miller believes is now a cannabis shop. It also looks at how downtown Bend changed as the highway shifted over the years.
Cannon-Miller says long before the highway was built, it was a trading trail for Native Americans traveling between the Klamath Basin and the Columbia River Gorge, "You always have people migrating along this path. So, when we come out and stick it on maps, it’s already an existing route. It’s just always been this corridor of moving people and ideas and things. And so really, what the exhibit tries to do is look at it as a snapshot in the mid-20th century, and what it was moving then."
The Deschutes Historical Museum is located in downtown Bend on NW Idaho, between Wall and Bond - which, at one point, was Highway 97.