Blast from the Past: Chico History Museum

All of Chico’s wild and wonderful history in one former library

If you live in Chico, you’ve probably passed by the Chico History Museum.

It sits downtown on the corner of Salem and 2nd Streets, adjacent to the California State University campus and across from Madison Bear Garden. You may even have popped in for a visit a time or two. While the museum has been a fixture in Chico for over a century, many people aren’t aware of its unique history.

It began its life as the Andrew Carnegie Library in 1904.

This distinctive building was constructed in the Romanesque architecture style, and later remodeled in 1931 to Mediterranean Revival style. When a new library was built in 1981, the building was leased to the Chico History Association.

In 1986, the Chico History Museum opened its doors for its first exhibit. 

Since then, the museum has been dedicated to telling Chico’s history through permanent collections and ever-changing displays. The Carnegie and McIntyre Galleries have offered unique exhibits appealing to young and old folks alike. The museum has provided learning opportunities from children’s field trips to their onsite classroom. It’s also a gathering place for the community for events as varied as the Chinese Lunar New Year to antique appraisal shows. And tales from long ago are passed down to new generations like the history of the Mechoopda, the Gold Rush, and even spooky cemetery stories. 

Fun fact: Did you know the Chico History Museum is one of the original 142 library buildings built in California through grants from Andrew Carnegie? This poor Scottish immigrant turned wealthy industrialist wanted to give the gift of reading to Californians and donated a $10,000 grant towards the construction of the library so all Chico residents could read there for free. His generous donation back in 1904 has left a lasting legacy for Chico.  

Today, the Chico History Museum still stands as a monument to learning.  Whether you are a grade school, high school, or eternal student, the museum has something for everyone. 

Want to learn more?

Check out the Chico History Museum here or stop by for a visit Thursday-Sunday from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Be sure to follow their Facebook page for some fun blasts from the past!