Sarah Lim: Museum Notes

Main Street, Merced County

Stevinson’s Main Street, 1920s. (Courthouse Museum Collection)
Stevinson’s Main Street, 1920s. (Courthouse Museum Collection)

Main Street is where commercial and cultural life combine to define a community and provides a snapshot of American society.

According to Walt Disney, who commented as he was building Main Street, U.S.A. in Disneyland, “Main Street is everyone’s home town…the heartland of America.” Indeed, every town in Merced County has a main street and to every Merced County resident it is home whatever its name is or may have been.

Since you are probably reading this column on one of the most restful weekends of the year, I thought it would be fun for you to match each main street to its town. Some of the names are easy to match with their communities and some are not: Lewis Street (hint: part of Highway 59), Atwater Boulevard, Front Street (hint: by Santa Fe Railroad), 17th Street, Broadway, Sixth Street, Center Street, Third Street (hint: had the last traffic light on Highway 99), Winton Way, Fifth Street, Lander Avenue, and Third Street.

Or you can join the Merced County Historical Society and get the correct matches when you receive your complimentary 2018 calendar which features 12 historic main streets in Merced County.

This free calendar is one of the many benefits of a Historical Society membership. December kicks off our annual membership drive and it is the continuing support of our members that allows the Courthouse Museum to grow and thrive with quality programming all year long. This calendar provides all the important dates for the Museum exhibitions and Historical Society events for 2018.

Here is a look:

From January to the end of February, An Agricultural Centennial will continue to be on display. This exhibit, which opened last August, highlights the accomplishments of Merced County UC Cooperative Extension (Merced County 4-H) and Merced County Farm Bureau’s century of service to our farmers. Come to see how hand-in-hand education has changed the way of farming in Merced County for the last 100 years.

On Feb. 11, Merced County Historical Society will hold its annual membership meeting at the Merced County Board of Supervisors’ Chamber. At the meeting, the past president will be honored, incoming board members will be installed, and awards and grants will be presented. The keynote speaker is Ron Genini of Fresno, author of California: On the Edge of American History (2017). Genini’s book was chosen as “Book of the Week” by the California State Library in Sacramento for the week of November 20-26, 2017.

Our first new exhibit of the year will be about the history of the Yosemite Lumber Company in Merced Falls. Because of the Yosemite Lumber Company, Merced Falls became a powerful industrial center in the early 20th century. Today, since there is nothing left but the crumbling foundation of the plant, Merced Falls is the best-known ghost town in Merced County. At the exhibit opening on March 8, Grey Roberts, a local historian and collector of Merced County memorabilia, will give a PowerPoint presentation entitled, “Merced Falls: Once the Industrial Center of Merced County.”

On March 24, in recognition of Women’s History Month, the American Association of University Women Merced Branch has invited special guest and author Kyle Elizabeth Wood to give a talk at the Courthouse Museum about Tomato Queen Tillie Lewis. Lewis led an extraordinary life from growing up in a New York tenement to becoming one of the first female leaders in the agricultural industry.

April is tea party time. On April 21, a traditional tea party will be held in the historic Superior Courtroom in the Museum. The 2018 tea party theme celebrates the Wild West, “Western Hospitali-tea.” Tickets will be available in March.

On June 28, we will open another new exhibit titled, “Singing California.” From “Falling Water” to “On the Banks of the Old Merced,” we will take a musical journey back in time and enjoy the beautiful artwork of the vintage sheet music overs as well as the enchanting lyrics and melodies of songs that express our love for the Golden State.

Since our First Annual Conference of Merced County Historical Societies last October, we have received positive feedback and much support. As Rocco Bowman, a representative of UC Merced Historical Society at the conference, noted, “I can say from experience that such a gathering is potentially the first step to an even more successful network of local museums, a better historical education for people of all ages, and an invaluable resource to researchers.” A Second annual conference is planned for July. Stay tuned for further details.

This coming year marks the 10th anniversary of Merced Art Hop. To celebrate a decade of public art on Main Street, a new exhibit titled, “A Decade of Art Hopping,” will open at the Courthouse Museum on Oct. 4. This exhibit, developed in collaboration with Art Hop’s cofounders Kevin Hammon and Kimberly Zamora, will showcase how this quarterly downtown Merced event enhances the cultural and commercial life of our growing college town.

Of course, as always, we finish the year with our annual Christmas Tree exhibit which will be celebrated at our annual Open House on Dec. 2. Join us for trees, treats, music, and traditional Courthouse Eggnog. All these exhibits and programs are only made possible with generous donations from our members and community partners. Please become a member of our Museum family today.

The Museum will be closed on New Year’s Eve. From all of us at the Courthouse Museum, we wish you a healthy, prosperous, and happy New Year!

Sarah Lim is museum director for the Merced County Courthouse Museum. She can be reached at