Crosby Collection on the Road to Bing's Boyhood Home

September 05, 2014

Gonzaga News Service

SPOKANE, Washington — The public museum for Gonzaga University's renowned collection of Bing Crosby memorabilia has moved to the Craftsman-style Crosby House at 508 E. Sharp Ave. where the world-famous entertainer and Gonzaga's most famous alumnus grew up. The public is invited to a grand opening from 1-4 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 13 to view the Crosby exhibition in the 101-year-old house on campus.

The house, which sits on Gonzaga's northern boundary at the main entrance to campus, was designed by Bing's father and built by him and two of Bing's uncles. The family moved into the house when it was completed in 1913 and Bing lived there until he left for Hollywood in 1925. The Crosby family sold the home in 1936 to a neighbor, who lived there until 1978 when the Gonzaga Alumni Association purchased it. The University acquired the home in 2008.

The collection has been on display since 1957 in the Crosbyana Room of the former Crosby Library. Bing had organized an Emmy-winning television production to raise funds for construction of the library, which became the Crosby Student Center in 1992 when the Foley Center Library opened. With the John J. Hemmingson Center under construction and scheduled to open in fall 2015, the Crosby Student Center will be repurposed — offering the opportunity for the public exhibition to move to Bing's boyhood home.

Gonzaga polished the Crosby House in preparation to host the collection, installing lighting in its dining room and parlor, new cabinets to house the gold records and other materials, and new interior paint and wood trim. Gonzaga's office of sponsored research is located in the home's second floor and student employees will continue to serve as hosts.

"This move makes it much easier for visitors to find and gain access to the Crosby Collection," said Stephanie Plowman, special collections librarian who manages the collection, which will be open from 9 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. weekdays, and on Saturdays from 1-4 p.m. The exhibit is free to the public with designated free parking directly behind the house.

Bing Crosby began donating items to Gonzaga in 1957, including gold and platinum records, trophies, plaques, and photographs and more. In addition to the generous donations of materials by Bing prior to his death, Crosby fans and family began to recognize Gonzaga as the home of all things Crosby. In 1993, the University received the entire collection from the Bing Crosby Historical Society in Tacoma, Washington. Additionally, several collectors have given major donations of Crosby recordings. It's the world's largest public collection of Bing Crosby memorabilia.

Thousands of visitors — from all 50 states and at least 20 countries - flock to Gonzaga each year to view the Crosby Collection. Crosby fans recognize Spokane and Gonzaga as being his hometown and alma mater. Visitors can see approximately 200 items, including the duplicate Oscar he won in 1944 for "Going My Way." There are 22 gold and two platinum records from such titles as "White Christmas," "Silent Night," and "Swinging on a Star."

Also displayed are movie stills and photographs, record albums, books, and sheet music. There are many trophies and awards he received over the years from various organizations. There are also items from the Crosby Research Foundation, such as the "Trip Trap," a mousetrap that the foundation invented. There is also a health device that Crosby endorsed called "Stretch to Your Health with the Stars."

What's on display in the Crosby House represents just a portion of the total Crosby Collection materials. What is not on display is housed in the University Archives and Special Collections vault in the Foley Center Library. This vault also houses the University's Rare Book Collection, the Gerard Manley Hopkins Collection and other manuscript collections.