The King Agriculture Museum is scheduled to open today in Centralia, Washington. Antique Power magazine is one of the best places for newbies to learn about antique tractors; another way is to visit a museum focused on tractors or farming history in general. If you travel to the Pacific Northwest this summer, be sure to see the brand new King Agriculture Museum, in the historic Lewis County Lumber building, right off Interstate 5. It contains more than 50 exceptional tractors, plus much more—other agricultural and farm equipment, implements, tools, toys, models, items related to logging, and even parts of the unique and recently scrapped Puget Sound ferry boat, the Kalakala.
Unlike other avid collectors, who might have to defend their urges to buy and bring home one item after another, life partners and co-owners of the museum, David King and Aunnitta White, both love collecting. In addition, King had a particularly good excuse to indulge.
“I purchased a bunch of stuff knowing I was going to have a museum,” he said. “I just never knew when I was going to open it.”
That time has come. The doors are scheduled to open to the public today (May 5, 2015), followed by a ribbon cutting by the City of Centralia at 12:01 p.m. on May 7. King and White especially look forward to the official grand opening on Saturday, May 16. On that day, visitors will receive free admission. There will be door prizes, souvenirs to buy in the gift shop, and food and drink also available for purchase.
I first met this couple when I wrote a feature story about King’s super-rare 1967 Case 830 LP high crop row crop tractor (see pic below) for the November/December issue of Antique Power. By the time King starting collecting tractors in 1995, he already had a massive collection of other old farm equipment and so much more, most of it rare. He is eager to meet and talk with people, share his knowledge with newbies, and bring back memories for others.
“When I started collecting old farm equipment and different tools,” he told me, “and especially when I started collecting tractors, I said to myself, ‘I may want to have a museum someday. When I’m collecting tractors, I need to be collecting a variety, so that when somebody comes through my door, they can relate to at least one of those tractors.’”
Although King says his favorite tractor is the Case 830 featured in Antique Power, his next favorites are the orchard tractors. He will have a special room in the museum called the “Orchard Room,” displaying a 1937 John Deere model AOS, a 1948 Case model DO, a 1959 Case model 600, as well as two McCormick-Deering orchard models: a 1936 O-12 and a 1948 O-4. All are beautifully restored and have all their sheetmetal skirting. (The skirting, a distinctive feature of orchard tractors, is often missing and extremely difficult to find.)
“I also have several high crop tractors beside the Case 830,” King added. “I have a John Deere and a McCormick-Deering A-V, and I have a David Brown vegetation tractor that is a high crop tractor, although they call it “vegetation” because I don’t think at that time they made a “high crop.”
King originally purchased property behind and adjacent to the Lewis County Lumber building, in 1982, and erected two buildings—one to house a machine shop he owned with someone else. A succession of businesses occupied the old lumber building over the years. Meanwhile, King wanted more storage space for his ever-growing collection.
“There was something going on with me,” he recalled. “You know that little itch you get, when you think, I should be doing this or I’ve got to do that? I had an itch that I needed another warehouse, and I looked at some, but I kept an eye on this building.
“Then, one day, I saw a ‘For Sale’ sign on it,” he continued. “It was about 8 inches tall and 10 inches long, clear up where you could hardly see it. I thought ‘Holy Cow! This thing’s for sale! I need to get this building!’ I bought it in 2007.”
Perhaps 75% of the museum is dedicated to agriculture—tractors, pedal tractors, toys, farm implements, and hand tools, among other items. Visitors will see about 50 toys by the All-American Toy Co. when they first enter the main building. King also collected plenty of items related to the logging and lumber industries.
“I have saws, crosscut saws, axes, undercutters, and slips for springboards, and a saw-filing vise that is pretty rare,” he said. “I’ve probably got between 15 and 20 sets of log tongs. I’ve got all the tools for sharpening all the crosscut saws.”
Typical of King, a curious man who tackles anything, he bought those tools for sharpening crosscut saws, plus all the books he needed to teach himself, because he thought he might want to demonstrate that task someday. Speaking of books, the King Agriculture Museum will eventually include a research library.
As we talked, he kept bringing up more and more items he has collected, such as oil cans, gas tanks, gas cans, oil pumps… you get the idea. He owns farm and household tools people have never imagined, much less seen. They all teach us how vastly different everyday life used to be and how much labor it involved.
“Every time I turn around,” King said, “I think, ‘I’m glad I didn’t throw that away, because that will go really well in my museum!’ The more I talk to people, and the closer this gets, the more I’m thinking there is a lot of interest.”
If you are new to the antique tractor hobby, or just love old things in general, you would certainly enjoy a fun and educational visit to the King Agriculture Museum.