HANFORD — Opening as Hanford's first library in 1905, the Carnegie Museum has stood for many years as a historical relic for the city of Hanford and Kings County.
The building, with its Romanesque architecture style, was built after a group of women from the Hanford community requested funding from then well-known millionaire and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie for a library.
In the early 1900s, Carnegie, after amassing a large amount of wealth, turned to philanthropy and began to donate a lot of his money to communities in need of funds and resources for public institutions, like libraries.
“A lot of people have no idea that there are libraries built by Andrew Carnegie all around the country,” said Hanford Carnegie Museum general manager Patricia Dickerson.
Hanford residents' requested $15,000 for the library but received $12,500. The rest of the money came from local residents.
The building remained a library until 1968, when the city and county libraries were combined and moved to the current Kings County Library building across from Superior Dairy. With the building now empty, the Hanford City Council considered demolishing it and putting a parking lot in its place.
However, petitions were presented to the city council to keep the building as a historical museum. It reopened in 1975 to offer exhibits, tours and shows.
The museum is run by a board of trustees that meets once a month.
“The maintenance of this building is a big challenge,” said board president Wyleen Luoma. “We’re trying to work collaboratively with other nonprofits around town and let them know we are open.”
Through its many exhibits, open house events, tours and shows, Dickerson stays busy prepping for upcoming events and hosting its tours.
The board and Dickerson are in charge of coming up with ways to maintain the museum to preserve artifacts, historical materials, documents and records that pertain to Hanford and Kings County.
“If no one knows we're here, it doesn't matter what beautiful things we have. We have to let our community know that this building is a Carnegie Museum and everybody is welcome here,” Luoma said.
Another challenge Luoma hopes to tackle is to help with the homeless in downtown.
Luoma hopes to bring some ideas to the board and partner with some of the businesses in the downtown area. One plan is to help homeless individuals find access to water especially on hot summer days.
‘We’re trying to figure out ways to keep the spirit of the Carnegie open with regard to our homeless folk while at the same time protecting and serving everything that is on these premises," Luoma said. "It is really a challenge."
Tours are offered throughout the year and include “Step Back in Time,” “Hanford’s Beginnings,” “Turn of the Century” and “Historical Museums and Art." These tours offer a glimpse of Hanford’s oldest buildings and special attractions, such as Superior Dairy.
Events include open mic nights and live band performances once a month.
Scheduled activities include The Porterville Ghost Society, Sep. 2; an Elvis Presley event on Sept. 3 with a dinner starting at 6 p.m. and a performance by an Elvis impersonator at 7 p.m.; and on Sep. 17 Reptile Ron will perform two shows at 1 and 3 p.m.