The Deschutes Historical Society is an organization “to gather, preserve and make available museum, library and other historical material relating to the history of Central Oregon...”. It was incorporated August 4, 1975. When plans were being made for the National Bicentennial Celebration in 1975 it was felt that Deschutes County needed a historical society, so the Bend Chapter of the American Association of University Women sponsored the organization.
Artifacts were soon being donated to the society and the need of a location was evident. Several possibilities
were considered. Reid School, which was built in 1914 and is on the National Register of Historic Sites, was to be no longer used as a school. The Historical Society wanted to have the building for their home, many of the local citizens felt that Reid School should be preserved instead of destroyed, and the County Court felt that the building should be saved and used as a museum. After much negotiating, the county traded land to the Bend School District for the building and the grounds and in March 1979 the Historical Society assumed the responsibility for establishing and operating a museum and historic center.
There was much work to be done on the inside of the building to ready for the center. The plan of work on
the building was set up by the Board of Directors, but the actual work was under the direction of Leroy Smith, who did much of it himself. The heat for the building had come from another building, so it was essential to install a furnace before winter. A grant of $5,000.00 from the Office of Historic Preservation was received for this project.
As there was not enough money to pay for labor, volunteers were sought. Tamarack Learning Center needed work projects for their students, especially indoor work during the cold weather and they contributed a great deal of their time. Had it not been for their able assistance the building would not have been ready for opening when it was. They also donated much time after the opening.
The Deschutes County Pioneer Association had a museum in a county building at Greenwood Avenue and
Harriman Street. The county wanted to use that building for a law library, so suggested that the two organizations combine their artifacts into one museum. Both groups agreed to the suggestion and the Pioneers moved their things into Reid School in May and June 1980.