July Culture Pass Spotlight: Mesa Historical Museum
As a lifelong resident of Arizona, it is rare I find myself falling farther in love with this beautiful place and its rich history. Experiencing something new and unexpected about this state is an occurrence I can count on both hands. However, when I recently visited the Mesa Historical Museum in the neighborhood of Lehi, I found myself caught up in those feelings again, of appreciation, and of admiration, for those who have made this their home both past and present.
The Mesa Historical Museum is in Lehi which was once separately incorporated from the City of Mesa and, “through creative exhibitions and programming the museum tells the stories of Mesa residents.” Founded by Mormon settlers in 1877, Lehi was initially known as Jonesville, then Fort Utah, and eventually was renamed by Brigham Young Jr. in 1883 after the prophet Lehi from the Book of Mormon. When initially settled, the residents invited locals from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian lands directly to the north to live with them. In 1970, Lehi was formally incorporated into what we now know as Mesa.
The museum is currently housed in the Old Lehi School, the second iteration of its kind in that location. The first, a one-room adobe schoolhouse, was originally built there and served as the school for the colony’s children. A replica of the first schoolhouse sits out front of the museum and is accessible to visitors. The current building was built between 1913 and 1914 to serve the growing population and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.
With its delightfully creaky wood floors, sunny hallways, and charming entrance, the museum houses several exhibits including the Cactus League Hall of Fame which features baseball memorabilia from the various teams that have called Arizona their home during Spring Training. It also has a rotating exhibit that currently features the entertainment industry’s history in Mesa where many TV series and movies were filmed as far back as 1931 and as contemporarily as 2016.
The modern community of Lehi is what I imagine old Phoenix looked like before I was born: old shade trees overhanging irrigation canals, long and low one-story ranch houses, and grassy, expansive horse properties dotting the area which surround the museum.
Across the street is a monument to Fort Utah which was built in 1877 as protection for the settlers. In 1891, the fort was washed away but the settlers built the current monument on its former location from the stones used to build the first Mormon church which sat adjacent to the fort and the Old Lehi School.
The Mesa Historical Museum is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10am to 4pm and is fully air-conditioned, so it is a wonderful respite from the Arizona heat. Parking is available directly out front along the road. Culture Passes for the Mesa Historical Museum are available at all Central Arizona program member libraries. If you would like to check out a Culture Pass to go to the Mesa Historical Museum, please visit our website at https://act1az.org/culture-pass to find a library close to you where Act One Culture Passes are available.
http://mesahistoricalmuseum.com | 2345 N. Horne, Mesa, AZ 85203 | 480.835.2286