New Visalia museum planned for downtown historic district
Visalia was founded 167 years ago and is the oldest community in the San Joaquin Valley.
It’s surprising to some that the city doesn’t have a museum dedicated to its rich history. There is, of course, a museum at Mooney Grove Park but the focus at the museum is the Tulare County history and farm labor.
Visalia Heritage Inc. may have an answer.
Property owners Ernie and Liss Crotty may convert an 1883-built home in the historic district of the city into a public museum for Visalia.
President of Visalia Heritage and local architect Michael Kreps says the home the Crotty’s own at 617 N. Encina Ave., a Queen Anne-style Victorian, has been well preserved and “is in very good shape.”
This week, after several months of meetings, Ernie Crotty says they will meet with city planning staff for the first time to gauge what hurdles they may expect if the idea moves forward.
Since then, Crotty has made it his life’s work to restore the home.
Now over 70, Ernie says he wonders about the home’s future and has talked to friends about the idea of doing something like what preservationists have accomplished with the old Fox Theater through community effort.
“I did not want to think about someone coming along buying it and turning it into an Airbnb or something,” he said.
Crotty says he would love to simply donate the home for a museum but say he wants to move nearby and that will cost money.
“My general idea I have talked about is to donate about half the value and the furnishings and hope with a group effort, we can raise the funds and come up with enough interest to move forward,” he said.
He wants to open the home to the public and offer tours.
“It was originally the Stevens house (A Visalia merchant before the turn of the century) and it is one of the oldest in Visalia,” Kreps said.
The house had the town’s first gas generator to light up the place before there was electricity.
Visalia Heritage and the Crottys already have a collection of items that could be put on display and with word spreading about such a museum dedicated to Visalia history, there would be plenty more.
Well-known Visalia historian Terry Ommen is on board with the project as well.
The museum would be located in the heart of the 50 home historic district just north of Downtown Visalia, a few blocks north of Fox Theater. The Visalia Chamber of Commerce offers a self-guided walking tour of the district with descriptions of 29 homes in the area.
The district was established in 1979.