SP Historical Society asks Council for use of former fire station for archives

March 23, 2007
Santa Paula City Council

Turning a former county fire station into the home base for the voluminous archives held by the Santa Paula Historical Society (SPHS) will be explored further, the Council decided at the March 12 meeting.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesTurning a former county fire station into the home base for the voluminous archives held by the Santa Paula Historical Society (SPHS) will be explored further, the Council decided at the March 12 meeting. SPHS President Mary Alice Orcutt Henderson wrote the city in January asking that the society be permitted to use the former fire station - on the corner of 8th and Santa Barbara streets - as a “permanent location” to continue to “preserve, protect and perpetuate the history of Santa Paula.”Since the society had to move from its longtime storage facility, much of its collection of memorabilia, books, documents, art books, clothing, photographs and other items have been stored in the old Fumitorium. More valuable and sensitive materials are stored on the second story of the Santa Paula California Oil Museum.City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz told the Council that the former fire station is being used for city storage, and that attempts to utilize it for other purposes have been hampered by upgrade cost issues.“In a way, we would like to make it our home base” for the archives, Henderson told the Council. “We have accumulated a tremendous amount of items,” and the society no longer has an area that can be used for research purposes, an ever-growing request.Mike Shore said that the SPHS has twice-yearly exhibits at the museum, and “the materials we possess are linked to the history of Santa Paula” and are used in the displays, including some staged by Santa Paula High School students. Although the archives were well organized, “We had a few days to vacate the premises” used for storage by the society for years, but the fire station would “provide us with a very good space.”
Angela Dominguez noted that the society also does Santa Paula Art Collection restorations, and “We would fix that place up” if allowed to use the building.“You’re breaking my heart” with a request that does not reflect his own vision for the building, said Mayor Ray Luna, who wants the structure to eventually house a fire department museum. “You want permanent... if you asked for temporary” the issue would not present a conflict, he noted.Bobkiewicz noted that no formal talks have been held, but that any agreement would be for a “fixed period of time... the cost of improvements to reach a habitable state again” would be the responsibility of the society. The city would also have to find alternate storage, but “I wouldn’t want that to be a huge concern for the Council.”Councilman Dr. Gabino Aguirre asked about the archives, and Henderson said that there are about 3,000 photographs, books and records of early city history, agricultural implements, transcribed oral histories and “numerous costumes... it’s an incredible collection. I think you would be amazed.”“I think it could be a wonderful building for the society,” but the structure does not seem large enough, said Councilman Ralph Fernandez, who noted that “I do have concerns” over city costs. Another concern is that “other groups could come to us and ask why can’t we” use a city building, also at nominal cost. “I would like to do some research on what kind of deal” would be made for building repairs “to offset some of the rent, see where the economics of it all works out....”Henderson said that if Luna starts a collection for a future fire museum, the society would store and catalogue the items. “I’m real passionate about archives and museums,” but the building could possibly also be needed for storing emergency supplies, said Luna, who voted against bringing a lease agreement back to the Council.

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