By the Paso Robles Area Historical Society and Museum
As we bid farewell to the chapters of 2023 and eagerly anticipate the unwritten pages of 2024, the Paso Robles Area Historical Society and Museum takes another look at last year’s exhibits, welcoming you to join us for the next journey that 2024 brings.
Our main exhibit entitled “Mighty Oaks from Little Acorns Grow,” gives a timeline of Paso Robles from its Rancho days to the small town of “Hot Springs” and onto “Paso Robles Meets the World.” Through a series of beautiful panels visitors are able to see the growth of Paso Robles through the years beginning with the discovery of the natural hot springs.
To compliment this theme, we have exhibits on the Salinan tribe who first discovered these natural springs, an exhibit on Ignacy Jan Paderewski who came to this area because of the curative powers of the waters, and an almond exhibit — we were professed to be the “Almond Capital of the World” during the 1930s. Our “Pioneer Families” display features an outstanding background historical study of the Claassen and Franklin families.
As Paso Robles grew and was settled, wine production became an integral part of our history. The Wine History Gallery at the museum opened in October of 2021 and is curated by Libbie Agran of the Wine History Project of SLO County. Through Libbie’s vision and knowledge, the gallery continues to be of great interest to our visitors. The present exhibit is titled “How the Italians Changed the Landscape and Wine Culture of SLO County.” In the months to come, the gallery will showcase the Italian women who changed the landscape and culture of our area. These strong women cleared the land, planted vines, tilled the soil, picked grapes, ran the harvests, made and sold wine, and cooked for family members and workers each day. Five critical women to be featured are: Caterina Dusi, Catterina Pesenti, Silvia Nerelli, Dorothy Dusi, and Joni Dusi. In 2023, the first of these women, Caterina Dusi, was showcased in the gallery. Displays in the gallery also feature our wine partners.
Evenings of History & Wine has become extremely popular. Our first evening was held in October 2022 and featured EPOCH Estate Wines. Our second evening was in January and celebrated Italian families, charcoal production, and featured Janell Dusi and Frank Nerelli. In March, Erik Hormann presented the history of the almond industry in Paso Robles and Ray Derby of Derby Wine Estates spoke on the almond processing plant, which he thoughtfully and successfully restored and which is now 100 years old. The July Evening of History and Wine featured the Dubost family and the history of Adelaida. In October the program, presented by Coral Kessler, the “Ghosts Stories of Paso’s Past,” were showcased. These evenings are quarterly events our members receive advanced invitations.
QR codes have been developed for a historic walking tour and for the Salinan display. A guided walking tour is being developed as well.
Our website, pasorobleshistorymuseum.org, features several history based blogs of interviews with some of our local pioneer families and a fascinating conversation regarding our Richard J. Arnold photography archive.
The annual meeting for the Historical Society was held in June at Halter Ranch Vineyard Estate. Attendees enjoyed a delicious lunch, a new board of directors was installed and a review of accomplishments for the year was presented. Amyl Perkins Sisk, granddaughter of Juanita Booker (a local soloist who sang the national anthem at President-elect Ronald Reagan’s inauguration), gave a stunning rendition of the national anthem to those present.
Our team of dedicated docents share their knowledge of Paso Robles’ history with our visitors to the museum, and our hardworking volunteers in the research area continue to collect, archive, and preserve our extensive collections.
If you have an interest in local history, please consider becoming a member and/or joining our team of volunteers and docents.
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