Hanford's Carnegie Museum unveils restored orginal wood floors

The restored floors of one of downtown Hanford’s most iconic and beloved buildings were unveiled at a unique open house. About 50 individuals, including many of those whose financial generosity made the restoration possible, attended the Carnegie Museum of Kings County event.

“I’m very appreciative of the team working to upgrade the building so that it is preserved for our pleasure now and in future years,” said Jan Sharp, whose family, the Cacklers, arrived in Hanford in 1900. “It helps our community get excited about those who have come before us and helps us all appreciate the variety of cultures in Kings County.”

Sharp and her children Diane, Bob and Bill are among the more than 100 financial sponsors and donors who contributed to the restoration of the museum’s original 1905 wood floors. A year-long fundraising campaign began during the museum’s 2023 exhibition showcasing the county’s Portuguese community. The campaign, initiated by curator Kathi Mendes-Gulley, was so successful that the museum was also able to refinish its front and back doors and repaint the interior of its main and north galleries, audio visual room and office.

“These improvements will enhance visitors’ experience at the museum in several ways, including providing a cleaner, brighter museum to view our exhibitions,” said Jack Schwartz, the Carnegie Museum board president.

Restoration of the floors was the first of several capital improvement initiatives identified by the museum. Schwartz said future projects include providing ADA accessibility, installing a new HVAC system, and retrofitting the building to make it safer and less likely to be damaged during an earthquake. New glazing of the exterior windows and new landscaping are also on the list of projects, which Schwartz says will cost more than $2 million to complete. 

Schwartz said the museum is working with the City of Hanford, which owns the museum building, in pursuit of federal, state, and private grants to help fund the projects. The museum will also continue to seek private donations.

Preserving historic buildings has been a priority for many in Hanford after the local high school, an elegant structure built in 1921, was demolished in 1975 because it did not meet earthquake and education codes.

 Wilma Humason remembers sitting in the car with her husband and children, watching the building come down.

“It struck us as so sad and wasteful,” the longstanding Hanford resident and businesswoman said. “We decided to try to preserve our buildings in downtown Hanford.” 

When the Carnegie building was slated to be torn down and made into a huge parking lot a few years later, Humason and her late husband Dan, a businessman, joined forces with others in the community to stop the demolition. 

“Dan and I joined Camille Wing, Martha Bentley and Louise Shelton to save it and we were successful,” she recalled. “We then joined the National Trust for Historic Preservation and learned many ways to encourage the public to value their history.”

Humason and her son Danny remain strong supporters of the museum.