Three years ago, nonprofit Anaheim Museum Inc. quietly set up temporary quarters in a small abandoned home in the city's original downtown sector. The announced aim: a major museum devoted largely to chronicling and showcasing the history of Anaheim, the county's oldest city.
Still in search of that goal, the organization plans its biggest move yet this October when it opens shop a few doors away in the now-vacant Carnegie Building. The move to the Carnegie, the last large civic structure left standing from the city's pre-freeway era, will enable the museum to triple its exhibit space.
"It's historically appropriate that our museum be in that (Carnegie) building. Our focus is the history of a city that represents every trend of this region since the early 19th Century, from pioneer agriculturists to urban boom to Disneyland and the Big A," said Herbert Pruett, the museum's director.
The move also marks Anaheim's first important effort to fill a gap in the city's cultural establishment. Unlike Santa Ana and Laguna Beach, for example, Anaheim still doesn't boast a large-scale museum.
Anaheim has the county's oldest museum facility: the city-run Mother Colony House that has been opened since 1929. But that program, housed in a historic dwelling on West Street near Lincoln Avenue, is a tiny one devoted to family artifacts.
For the past decade, some local cultural-historical leaders in Anaheim have been attempting to form a separately housed, larger museum for far more ambitious exhibits of the 109-year-old city's role in Orange County's industrial, residential and recreational developments.
The move into the city-owned Carnegie structure at Anaheim Boulevard and Broadway was assured last month when the City Council gave final approval to a $563,000 renovation of the two-level landmark.
Although the structure will be leased by the city to Anaheim Museum Inc. for that organization's permanent home, the facility will be operated independently by the museum group.
In 1984, shortly after Anaheim Museum Inc. formed, the organization set up offices in a 430-square-foot downtown dwelling at 127 W. Broadway. A year ago, the organization moved to the present 8,000-square-foot storefront at 233 S. Anaheim Blvd., of which 3,000 square feet has been available for exhibit space.
The museum opened its first exhibition--items from the organization's household and farming collections--last May, followed by a display of historical children's toys in November. The museum is currently offering an 1840-1940 show of American costumes, quilts and other textile items.
Besides its $71,000 annual budget, the organization has won some key support, including a $25,000 revenue-sharing grant from the county Board of Supervisors and a $2,500 community service award from Disneyland, Pruett said.
The organization has had its eyes on the 9,000-square-foot Carnegie Building since 1984. The Carnegie was built in 1908 as a public library with a grant from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation.
After the city moved its main library to new quarters in 1963, the Carnegie Building housed the city's Personnel Department. The building has been vacant since 1980, when the personnel staff moved across the street to the new City Hall.
The renovation of the 80-year-old Carnegie Building will include installing air conditioning and elevators, in addition to re-roofing and other improvements. The city, through its Redevelopment Agency, has already received $81,000 in state historical preservation funds for the project.
"We're not sure what our opening (October) show will be, but we're exploring all sorts of possibilities," Pruett said. "The emphasis of all our shows will be historical, mostly Anaheim, but as this area also relates to the whole county and regional development."
Shows will include visual arts, such as photography, as well as artifacts and other works from Anaheim's earliest days as a German immigrant colony and vineyard. Exhibits also will capture the community's emergence after the opening of the Santa Ana Freeway as Orange County's busiest commercial, industrial and home building areas.
"We don't believe any of this will be in competition with other museums that also have historical themes, such as Bowers (in Santa Ana)," Pruett added. "We believe our role is different enough and that there is certainly a great need for our kind of comprehensive examinations."