Council asked to consider transfer of Oil Museum to new foundation

February 05, 2016
Santa Paula News

The Santa Paula City Council heard about the concept to transfer the California Oil Museum from the city to a new nonprofit foundation.

The council heard of the plan at the February 1 meeting from Jeanne Orcutt, the former longtime executive director of the historic museum, located at the corner of 10th and East Main streets.

The concept said Orcutt, is to transfer the museum “from the city to the foundation,” headed by President Mary Alice Orcutt Henderson.

Henderson and other board members of the newly formed California Oil Museum Foundation were in the audience at Monday’s meeting.

Orcutt noted the museum was opened in 1950 by Union Oil — later Unocal — which in 1990 spent more than $2 million in renovating the building and adding the room that now houses a vintage working oil pump. 

The remodel included “High-quality exhibitions and a complete restoration,” including the former second floor business offices where the incorporation of Union Oil was signed in 1890.

In the mid-1990s “Unocal decided they no longer wanted to run a museum,” and the city stepped in leasing the building at a minimal price and continuing the museum operation.

Now owned by Chevron, Orcutt told the council the funding for the operation is covered by fees and admissions, about two-thirds of the operating cost, with the balance covered by the city’s former Redevelopment Agency.

“Then, two years ago RDA stopped,” when the state of California discontinued the program. 

Orcutt said meetings with Henderson and others started at about the same time to ensure the museum would continue to operate.

The foundation has received its nonprofit status and a board selected. Orcutt said “by moving the operation to a nonprofit charitable organization we believe fundraising efforts will be greatly improved…we feel confident in this endeavor,” and she asked the council agenize the issue so the transfer can be addressed.

The museum, a National Register recognized building, was completed in 1890 by the Hardison & Stewart Oil Company, that later that year merged with three other oil companies to form Union Oil. The subsidiary Santa Paula Hardware Company was located on the first floor. 

The structure remained Union Oil’s headquarters until relocating in Los Angeles during the early 1900s. 

The museum has an array of permanent exhibits and memorabilia that deal with oil and the industry as well as new displays throughout the year that focus on science, technology, art, local history and transportation. 

More that 12,000 people visit the museum each year including students that take advantage of its many educational programs.

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