From Dream to Reality:
The Creation of the Groveland Yosemite Gateway Museum
In the 1980s, a group of Big Oak Flat/Groveland area residents who respected the colorful history and the gold rush era appearance of their area and feared it might be lost, decided they needed to do something to make sure that didn't happen. They formed Southern Tuolumne County Historical Society (STCHS), a non-profit, in 1987, "for the express purpose of recording, preserving, protecting and making available for the public benefit the total history of our area". This was to include the natural history of the area also.
Members of the newly formed STCHS organization decided that a museum was needed for this purpose and dedicated their energies to making this dream a reality - a huge undertaking in a tiny town of less than 2000 full-time residents. After finding that all the old buildings that might be used for the museum were too small or needed major structural work, they decided to build a museum "from scratch".
From 1942 to 1945 the sole library for the area was located in the small kitchen pantry of a Main Street home. After 1945 it situated in the damp basement of the community hall. Therefore, STCHS members recognized the need for a new library and they suggested that a Tuolumne County branch library be located in their proposed museum building - a double benefit for the town.
Where would they get the land for this project? Groveland Community Services District (the water company) had the perfect piece of property on Rt. 120 right next to the town park. It wasn't easy, but an agreement was finally reached for use of this land.
But how does such a tiny town pay for such a major construction project? It would only be possible with a lot of dedication, hard work, planning and heartfelt belief that this COULD be done. It was achieved by grants from the Sonora Area Foundation, a public minded organization; fund raising projects such as concerts, picnics, book sales, dinners, speakers and plays; monetary donations from businesses and the people of the area; donations of architectural designs, physical labor, equipment and materials, and legal advice; and memorials. Amazingly, "Charlie-the-Can-Man" and his volunteer crew collected and crushed approximately $50,000 worth of aluminum cans which everyone in the community saved.
The red line on a large wooden thermometer which was placed on the property to show the financial progress toward the ultimate goal, climbed higher and higher. By the time the project was finished close to a million dollars had been committed and spent - all without state or federal funding.
A ground breaking ceremony and celebration took place on November 17, 1999 and the museum was completed in October of 2000. It was officially opened in May, 2001. This wonderful museum continues to be staffed and maintained, still without state or federal funding, to this day by a group of dedicated and caring volunteers.