In case you missed Teddy Roosevelt’s visit to Yakima in 1903, you have a second chance at the Yakima Valley Museum.
The museum, located at Franklin Park, recently put a Landau carriage with a mannequin representing the 26th president and hero of the Battle of San Juan Hill in the main lobby, dressed as Roosevelt was when he was driven down Yakima Avenue during his touch-and-go visit more than 100 years ago.
Roosevelt was the first of two U.S. presidents to visit the city, the other being William Howard Taft in 1909.
While the Landau — considered the limousines of their time — in the lobby was not the one that Roosevelt rode through Yakima, it has its own history.
The Landau is part of a collection of wagons, firearms and Native American artifacts that belonged to Dr. William Gannon, a Mabton hop farmer and collector of such things. Gannon showcased his collections at his own museum, the Gannon Museum of Wagons in Mabton, located on the Mabton-Sunnyside highway.
The museum opened in 1958. Along with the Landau, there was also a stagecoach, sleighs, a buckboard and a horse-drawn fire engine. The Landau, not a common vehicle in the western United States, was made in New York.
Gannon also had a collection of firearms, including a Gatling gun, the first machine gun, as well as a collection of baskets, beadwork, horse tack and other items made from the Yakama, Klickitat and Nez Perce tribes.
In 1968, a group of Yakima businessmen signed a contract to buy the Gannon collection and move it to the new museum they were opening in downtown Yakima, the Yakima Frontier Museum. That stood where the Yakima County jail’s Front Street building now stands.
The Washington National Guard’s 115th Transport Group provided heavy trucks to move the wagons up to the new museum.
But in 1975, the businessmen realized that museums are not profitable businesses (I can hear museum curators everywhere saying “Really?” in a delightfully sarcastic tone) and approached the Yakima Valley Museum about taking the collection. Yakima Valley Museum officials agreed to take the entire collection if the donors would pay off the contract to Gannon and build an addition to the museum to help house it.
Today, the Gannon Collection complements the museum’s collection of Native American artifacts as well as showcases of life in the 19th century.