Carnegie Re-Opening

The Carnegie Historic Library officially reopened to the public on November 6th. New days and hours are in effect. The museum will be open Thursday through Monday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The research room will be available on Thursday or by appointment. All COVID-19 restrictions will be in place. Masks will be required and will be available at the Carnegie if needed. All surfaces will be routinely wiped and sanitized. Hand Sanitizer will be available. Social distancing will be in effect; family groups will be allowed to enter together. Several new exhibits are on display as well as our permanent displays and the ever popular case from the Hiner Group of metal detectors. Please come down and visit soon. The Historical Society is always seeking docents and volunteers for the Carnegie. If you are interested, please call the Carnegie during hours of operation at (805) 238-4996.


It has always been the goal of the Historical Society to increase the number of visitors to our Museum inside the Carnegie Library building in order to promote the history of the Paso Robles Area.

This mission has been accomplished through our many exhibits, research, and educational programs. The onset of COVID-19 required us to rethink our priorities. With the mandated shut down required by the pandemic and the resulting loss of income revenue, several cost cutting measures were implemented, one of which was giving up our off-site storage unit and temporarily relocating those items to our gift shop area.

With this in mind Jan, Nancy and Chris organized our participation in the ‘Krazy Daze’ sale, assisted by Dodie (Chris’s husband), Roni, Sheila and Nicole. In addition to clearing out most of the gift shop space, they brought in $1,600 in much needed revenue. Way to go all! Keeping our re-opening in mind, we discussed using the former gift shop as additional display space for new exhibits and centrally locating a smaller sales venue. Since the Wine History Project of San Luis Obispo has created historical wine exhibits for us the past couple of years, it was suggested we use this area to allow them to expand their contribution into a regular rotating exhibit featuring the historical evolution of the land and people of our area. Talks are currently underway with Libbie Agran, Director of the Wine History Project, about this exciting new collaboration. She has some wonderful ideas to share with us and we look forward to working with her.

We invite all of our members to get more involved. Come in, See our exhibits, Talk with our wonderful Volunteers and Share your thoughts and ideas for where we go in the future! We wish all of our members a very happy and healthy holiday season.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, all holiday events in the downtown have been cancelled. However, the Main Street Association has arranged for Santa to be in the downtown city park during December. All COVID-19 restrictions will be observed. For dates and times for Santa, please visit the Main Street website at

The Vine Street Victorian Christmas Showcase has also been cancelled, but the Vine Street neighbors will be lighting and decorating their homes for the season. So bring your family and enjoy the sights from the comfort of your car or truck.

From the Virginia Petersen Research Library....

One recent and interesting research request asked about Chautauqua in Paso Robles. This was definitely a learning lesson for us, having never heard the term Chautauqua before, but there it was in our ‘Events’ file. Copies of a wonderful brochure and photo. This is what we found out by going through other collections....

Chautauqua was a popular U.S. movement that began in 1874 in western New York as an adult education institution that gave lectures and religious speeches to improve the lives of American adults. By 1913, however, when Paso Robles held its first Chautauqua, the event had changed into a cultural enrichment and entertainment experience. Paso Robles was the first town in San Luis Obispo County to secure a Chautauqua. It remained on the Chautauqua Circuit each Spring from 1913 to 1927. A tent was set up in different parts of town for the visiting presenters and entertainers and tickets were sold to each presentation.

Ralph Bell, in his autobiography, Where My Footsteps Wandered, shared his memories of Chautauqua in 1921... ‘The Ellison-White Chautauqua was held in a big tent on a vacant lot on Oak Street, a few blocks south of the high school. The very first day, the man who rode on a horse all over South America was going to speak and show pictures of what he found... Right away, I could see that this Chautauqua was going to be great.... The next day was a musical one, put on by three girls who called themselves the Liberty Belles of Boston... About the fourth day, there was an electrical show...’ Ralph Bell wrote, “The Chautauqua played a much bigger role in my life..... It enlarged my perspective, showing me how interesting far distant people and events could be. They revealed another world, a big one, not at all connected to our town.”

The Research Library has continued to be in operation on a limited basis during the COVID pandemic due to a number of research requests. The library has quite a wonderful collection of resources to reference in one’s research... historical photographs, maps, oral histories, building and tax records, yearbooks, publications, newspapers, and more. We are an ever-growing archive and welcome any such donations. We will act as the stewards of these items, preserving and protecting them for future generations.

Another photo from our archives with no identifying information. Any ideas where this might be?


Thanks to Robert Tucker for his comments on last month’s mystery photo: “When I was a kid in Paso Robles I went to a quite of few games by the big gas tank at 6th and Pine Streets, the tank sat just east of the now Post Office lot. The entrance into the ball park was right on Spring Street, but there was another entrance at the corner of Park Street and 6th where most of the high school kids went in. I went to Pittsburg Pirates baseball games there. Also at that time Paso Robles High School played their football and baseball games there. My sister Mary was a cheerleader 1934 thru 1936. After the lot was torn up the lot became the spot for carnivals, circus and whatever. I am 92, graduated in 1946, and could tell you many, many years of history of Paso Robles.”


This looks like an old milk can, but it is much lighter in weight and is made of copper (there is green oxidation along the sides of the can). It is 15 inches tall and 8 1/2 inches wide. Owned by Dale Hiner, he found it at a yard sale 30 years ago. The copper in the center portion of the can is hammered, the rest is smooth and there is a cap that fits into the top. Was this a utilitarian object or strictly decorative?: Any ideas/ suggestions?

PRAHS has many treasured items in our archives, library and museum but the most valued and appreciated are our volunteers. Without our volunteers, we cannot share the extraordinary history of our area. Due to the COVID-19 virus, we have been closed since March and during that time due to personal and health concerns, some of our volunteers have decided not to return when we reopen. They will be truly missed for their helpfulness, laughter, knowledge, willingness to help and their dedication. We would like to acknowledge these individuals for their past contributions and with sincere hope that they will return to visit, docent and volunteer when the virus concerns are behind us.

Patty Breckow: Patty worked endless hours with our volunteer, Lee Adinolfi, to categorize and index our Almond Business records and to develop and index a comprehensive collection of local businesses, incorporated the Doris Smith and Reneke files into appropriate files, created resources for city ordinance, blocks & lots and property research. Patty’s local history project outlining the African/ American citizens of the Paso Robles area was displayed many times during Martin King day celebrations and is currently on display at the Carnegie Library. PRAHS’ goal of developing an area timeline has its beginnings in the extensive research Patty provided for the periods of 1850 to 1920. Patty and her husband Dale were major contributors to our fundraising projects. Patty worked as a docent to share her wealth of knowledge and love for Paso Robles and served many years on our Board.

Alison Crosby: Alison has returned to her native home in England. She served as a Board Member, docent and curated the 2019 Richard Arnold display and the Exceptional Women display in 2020. Her artistic eye and creative design style brought a beautiful dimension of style and grace to our displays. Alison assisted in the indexing and organization of our newspaper collection for our scanning and digitization project. Alison was a contributor and supporter to our fundraising efforts and served on our Board for many years.

Gail Embrey: Gail has spent the last 3 years organizing our research records. Her determination and dedication is beyond compare. She will be with us until mid November when she returns to her new home in Santa Rosa. Whenever we needed a extra docent or volunteer, upstairs or down, Gail was always there. She has been a generous supporter to our fundraising efforts.

Arlene Johnson: Arlene volunteered many years as a docent on Saturday mornings where she shared her interest and enthusiasm of our local history with visitors and guests. Arlene had an ability to engage, entertain and inspire our visitors that no doubt brought many back to hear her stories, knowledge and laughter. Arlene also participated in the Education Project going into a 4th grade classroom to talk about our history.

Bob Lata: Bob has served PRAHS in so many ways: he has been a Board Member, docent, organizer and supporter of our fundraising projects and certainly, the leader of our very successful Education Project that brought local history into the elementary schools. Bob was responsible for organizing the Paso Robles History Book which was distributed to local 4th graders.

Sherry O: Sherry has been one of our newest volunteers. She was a docent on Thursday mornings where she learned, and shared our local history with visitors and guests. Her willingness to greet visitors and guide them around our displays was truly amazing.

Karen MacLaurin: Karen has served PRAHS in many ways: she worked as a docent on Fridays, served on the Board, organized and led the Richard Arnold glass plate negative cleaning project, assisted and supported the Royalty Dinner and fundraising projects. With the help of another local organization, Questers, Karen has been instrumental in obtaining additional funding for the purchase of a water & fire proof cabinet for the Richard Arnold glass plates and for funding towards our timeline project.

Lynne Newhouse: Lynne is a Lifetime Member of PRAHS and a tireless supporter. She has been a Friday afternoon docent for many years where she has shared her love and knowledge of our past. She never hesitated to fill in wherever needed. With Lynne’s pioneer family background and far ranging local family history, she has been a wealth of information and resource to our research and library, and has been able to bring our history to life with her stories and experiences. Lynne received the honor of being our 2019 V olunteer of the Y ear . Lynne has been a generous and faithful supporter of PRAHS, Royalty Dinners, and fundraising. Lynne is also a member of the board.

Brent Rogers: Brent will be returning to family and friends in Bakersfield but has promised to assist us with computer problems and questions remotely. We literally would have lost hundreds of dollars without Brent’s computer knowledge and expertise. Brent’s sense of humor, computer skills and especially his patience and tutoring through our computer mazes is greatly appreciated.

Judi Scott Dewing: Judi has taken a break from her awesome job of organizing our newspaper collection, preparing both Phase I and 2 of our scanning and digitalizing our newspapers. While on her break, Judi is gleefully caring for her 2 new grandsons. Congratulations!

We wish all our docents and volunteers the best of health and the happiest of times. We are all anxious to get “back to normal” and hopefully those volunteers and docents who have taken a COVID break will return to PRAHS to visit as we miss all of you.

The Historical Society closed its doors to the public in March in response to the COVID-19 restrictions from the State. During that time several intrepid volunteers have continued to work downstairs on Tuesday and Thursday to maintain records, files, emails, and research requests. In addition, they took a close look at ongoing expenditures at the Carnegie and have taken steps to reduce those expenses. The following are some of their accomplishments.

  1. Reviewed insurance expenses and eliminated unneeded coverage.

  2. Reviewed long-term contracts for copiers and cancelled several contracts.

  3. Cancelled contract for Internet help.

  4. Cancelled the storage unit and brought all items back to the Carnegie.

  5. Completed newspaper indexing for Phase 2 and prepared items for shipment to BMI. No further action will be taken until shutdown is over.

  6. Prepared newspapers from the Pioneer Museum for indexing and storage.

  7. Continued work on the Time Line Project.

  8. Set up Mail Chimp so newsletters and other important correspondence can be sent electronically.

  9. Analyzed computer accounting programs for efficiency and accuracy.

  10. Continued to enter archival documents and pictures in Past Perfect museum program.

  11. Current research requests are being addressed; completed research files are being indexed and filed in research room and prepared for Past Perfect; contacts are being readied for Mail Chimp; new research charges and guidelines were established.

  12. Research team spoke to North County Organization of Realtors via Zoom and sent out letter offering research on historical properties.

  13. Did not rehire outside cleaning staff. All cleaning is being done by Historical Society volunteers.

  14. During our closure any unused electrical items were turned off reducing the electric bill to approximately $250/month from its usual high of approx. $900 during peak weather months.

  15. Completed exhibits and displays for the main floor of the museum.

  16. Made plans for the re-opening of the Carnegie.

  17. Continue to work with Erik Hormann in setting up the Historical Society’s new website.

  18. Continued to write and publish quarterly newsletter.

  19. Received multiple new acquisitions for the museum and archives.

  20. Held a docent meeting.

  21. Provided COVID-19 safety items for visitors and volunteers pending re-opening. Despite the best efforts to cut costs, there remain several areas that need addressing.

The Historical Society would be deeply grateful for any individual or group who would wish to sponsor the following:

  • The PG&E bill for one year or partially: $5,000

  • Digital Reel expenditures for the newspaper collection: $600

  • Cleaning service for the Carnegie for 1 year: $3,000

  • Replace bulbs and clean light fixtures: $500

  • Clean carpets and windows: $1,500

  • Purchase of a new laptop computer for library research and indexing of resources.

Terry Minshull (PRAHS member and Monday docent) recently donated an album that contains photographs from the early 1900s. The content is mainly of the Still family in La Panza. The photos are beautiful and everything is documented! This is such a treas