The building that today houses the Pioneer Museum is 108 years old, but if you want its true origin, you’ll have to go back further — a lot further. Half a million years ago, Elden Mountain, a lava-dome volcano northeast of Flagstaff, blew its top, ejecting a type of volcanic rock called pumiceous dacite that proved to be fireproof and lighter than sandstone. That rock was used to build the Coconino County Hospital for the Indigent, which served the county’s poorest patients for 30 years. After that, the building spent another two decades as a boarding house before becoming a museum, which today is operated by the Arizona Historical Society. It provides a glimpse of life in Flagstaff’s early days through exhibits on ranching, logging and transportation. There also are remnants of the building’s hospital days, including an iron lung and antique surgical equipment. And train buffs will appreciate Locomotive No. 12, a 1929 Baldwin steam engine that’s welcomed visitors to the museum since 1994. In short, there’s plenty to see. That is, until Elden Mountain erupts again.
DIRECTIONS: From downtown Flagstaff, go north on Humphreys Street for 0.6 miles to Fort Valley Road. Turn left onto Fort Valley Road and continue 1.3 miles to the Pioneer Museum, located at 2340 N. Fort Valley Road. The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Admission is $6 for adults but is free for Arizona Historical Society members.
BUILDER: Coconino County
INFORMATION: Pioneer Museum, 928-774-6272; Arizona Historical Society, arizonahistoricalsociety.org/museum/pioneer-museum/