Chandler Historical Society is fading into history - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler Historical Society is fading into history

March 27th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Chandler Historical Society is fading into history

By Ken Sain
Staff Writer

The Chandler Historical Society is very close to becoming history itself.

After 53 years of chronicling the growth of Arizona’s fourth-largest city from farming community to major metropolitan community, the Chandler Historical Society will come to an end probably this summer.

“It was time,” said Michel Larson, the Society’s current secretary and a past president. “The membership was waning and it was hard to attract new members. Even people who were born, and raised, and educated in Chandler, weren’t all that into it. The membership was declining, the support was declining, it was time. It served a good purpose.”

A lot of what the Chandler Historical Society has done since it began in 1969 will be done by the Chandler Museum Foundation in the future.
It’s a bittersweet moment for those who volunteered for years. While they are sad to see the end come, the main goal they strove for became reality at the end of 2018 when the Chandler Museum finally opened.

“The real thing that motivated it was when the city, a few years, we kept trying over the years to get the city more involved, and finally they decided they would be more involved, but they wanted their own situation,” said Jim Patterson, a past Historical Society president and mayor. His mother was one of the Historical Society’s founding members.

Both sides agreed it made no sense to have two different nonprofits competing against each other for funds to do basically the same job. So, the board of the Historical Society began taking steps toward its end.

“There just wasn’t a place for us anymore,” Larson said, “and we decided the better thing to do than to keep beating our head against that wall was just to wrap it up, close the door and donate the money we have to additional” nonprofits.

Jody Crago, the city’s museum administrator, gave credit to the Historical Society for helping get the museum built.

“The Chandler Historical Society was instrumental helping to pass the two bond elections in 2004 and 2007 that provided the funds to build the new Chandler Museum,” Crago wrote in a prepared response to the SanTan Sun News.

“Once the Museum Foundation was established, it allowed the Chandler Historical Society Board to contemplate retirement. The City of Chandler applauds the 50-plus year effort of the Chandler Historical Society to preserve the history of Chandler for future generations. Their work should be lauded and celebrated.”

Four members of the Chandler Historical Society’s board are serving on the 11-member board for the Chandler Museum Foundation.

Martin Sepulveda, the current Historical Society’s board president and a former city councilman said the city and his group have not always worked hand-in-hand – which might explain why it took so long to get the museum built.

“The magic in these organizations is when you have a city and the leadership, the elected and professional leadership, that are really in sync, pushing these public-cultural programs,” Sepulveda said. “We have not always had that – I’ll just cut to the chase.”

The Historical Society recently presented a $50,000 check to the Chandler Education Foundation to provide scholarships to worthy students. The Society plans to give away the rest of the money they have raised over the years to other worthy causes.

They expect to finish giving the money away and closing their books for good this summer.

“You have to have a purpose, you know, for your members, … and that purpose kind of went away with the city’s involvement and the city going out in their own direction to build a museum,” Patterson said.

“A lot of purpose for a long time was to build a museum, brick and mortar, and here it is,” Sepulveda said.