In 1904, Andrew Carnegie, a notable steel entrepreneur, donated $10,000 for the building of a Public Library for the City of Chico. The original building (pictured below) was built to reflect both Romanesque and Queen Anne architectural styles.
"The Chico Carnegie Library in 1906", Source: CSU Chico, Digital Collections, "Chico Public Library"
In 1939, The Library Board asked the local architectural firm of Story and Brouchoud to do a major remodeling of the old Carnegie Library Building. The front tower was torn down, the entrance was moved to its present spot facing Salem Street, and the brick walls were covered in salmon-colored cement. Brightly colored glazed tiles, decoratively stylized wooden beams, and wrought iron railings gave the building a distinctly Mediterranean appearance. These features survive in the Museum to this day.
"The Chico Museum shortly after it was remodled in 1945.", Source: CSU Chico, Digital Collections, "Carnegie Library, Chico"
Becoming the Chico Museum
The building would remain the Chico Public Library until 1977, when plans to build a new, larger library were approved by the city. In May of that year, Soroptimist International of Chico, founded in 1930, was seeking a project to celebrate their 50th Anniversary. One of their members, Hester Patrick, suggested that they turn the soon to be vacated Carnegie Library into a Museum for the City of Chico as well as house the George Orberg collection of artifacts from the Chico Chinese Taoist Temple. After considering several other options, Soroptimist International agreed to the proposed project. A Steering Committee was formed consisting of Hester Patrick and Valene McIntyre and a Chico Museum Association was started by Jim Morehead. On March 19, 1980, by roll call vote, the City Council unanimously agreed to commit the building to the Museum Association, to operate as a museum. The incorporation was completed in July 1980 and an agreement with the city was finalized in 1981.
"The Chico Museum as it stands present day.", Source: Janine Rush personal photo.
Between 1980 and the start of remodeling in the fall of 1985, time was spent developing plans, specifications, and raising funds in order to transform the building into a first class museum. Renovations went under way on August 1, 1985, with the architectural firm Thompson & Hendricks leading the renovation process. The building was broken up into 3 separate zones: The North Gallery (now known as the Patrick Gallery), The South Gallery (now known as the Carnegie Gallery), and the Chinese Temple (now the reception area). Remodeling was completed on January 8, 1986, and the Museum was officially opened to the public with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, conducted by the Chico Chamber of Commerce, on February 22, 1986. For 30 years, the Chico Museum has enjoyed a successful run thanks to the support of the community. Some of the most popular exhibits include: Chico: Circus in Town, Highway in the Sky: Birds of the Pacific Flyway, Mechoopda: This is our Home, Here We Remain, and A Tribute to the Filming of the Adventures of Robin Hood. The Chico Museum continues to provide the community and visitors with enjoyable, educational exhibits on Chico history.