News

City museum plan is history

City officials have received a letter from the Mountain View Historical Association that axes the city's plans to put a history museum in the back of the Cuesta Annex.

Citing fundraising difficulties, the MVHA has ended an agreement with the city that required it to meet certain fundraising milestones for a museum. Its location was controversial: the rear portion of the 12-acre Cuesta Annex, an undeveloped piece of open space next to Cuesta Park that many would like to remain untouched.

"It doesn't mean we won't continue to look at a way to put together a museum in the future or maybe finding a building that can be changed into a museum," said Pat Figueroa, former mayor and MVHA president.

The announcement was met with cheers from the audience at Tuesday's City Council meeting, which was packed with people speaking on behalf of preserving the Cuesta Annex from plans to build a flood basin there.

"I'm disappointed," said council member Tom Means. "It would have been nice to have a history museum. Each town in the area has done one. It's nice to have something in your town that reflects where you came from."

In the letter, Figueroa said the move was spurred by the council's decision in October to not allow developer Roger Burnell to move the 1880s-era Pearson house on Villa Street to the museum site and restore it on his own dime. The value of the house, as well as funds that had been arranged to cover its operation, would have met the MVHA's first fundraising goal, along with a "significant match donation towards a primary museum," Figueroa said.

Council members, almost all of whom are members of the Historical Association, cited community opposition to the Pearson house plan and lack of community support in their decision. That was despite the "win-win-win" nature of the plan, as Burnell described it, to preserve one of the city's oldest homes, allow him to develop a 20,000-square-foot office building on the "blighted" site where the house now sits at 902 Villa St. and provide the History Association with a restored house to go with its museum.

"I did not hear from the community that they wanted this house there," said council member Laura Macias, explaining her vote against the proposal in the closed session meeting.

Council members also predicted that the museum plan would suffer as a result of their decision, with council member Inks noting that the MVHA was "kind of in a bind" in meeting its fundraising goal.

"It is certainly not unusual for a historical association to want to find a location in which to preserve historical items," Figueroa said, adding that it's been a goal of the Association for decades. "In our case we've been very fortunate to have the Pioneer room at the library. So we haven't had to make it as urgent as other cities might have."

As for what's next, Figueroa said the MVHA only meets quarterly and hasn't decided. "We haven't taken the time to really reflect what the next step is going to be. There is no need to rush into anything at this point in time."

In the meantime, the MVHA runs the city history room in the Mountain View library and continues to receive donated historical items for a future museum, mostly stored in a large shipping container. The MVHA has also launched a Facebook page, facebook.com/MVHistory. Users can find historical photos regularly posted and discussed.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Alexandra
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jan 19, 2012 at 2:20 pm

I haven't heard anyone who is against the concept of a museum. People were just against putting a musuem in the annex.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Honor Spitz
a resident of another community
on Jan 19, 2012 at 3:16 pm

I hope that the day is not far off when Mountain View will be able to have its own museum in which to display and preserve its many wonderful artifacts and collections that reflect the city's rich history. The History Center on the 2nd. floor of the Mtn. View Library is a little treasure trove of information and materials, but a larger space in which to showcase more items and to host various functions would seem like a fitting tribute to those who came before us.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ned
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 19, 2012 at 6:00 pm

"I did not hear from the community that they wanted this house there," said council member Laura Macias."

I'd like to know the criteria by which Macias ever hears from the community.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jeremy Haste
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 19, 2012 at 8:47 pm

This is great news! The plan Roger Burnell has to build an office building next to Chez TJ is terrible.

Pat Figueroa if you're reading this please consider turning the Pearson house at 902 Villa into the museum. Tear out all that concrete and put in some grass and restore the house!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike Laursen
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jan 19, 2012 at 9:35 pm

Why not pool the resources of all the city museums in the Valley of Heart's Delight and put together one museum for the whole valley?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by kathy
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jan 19, 2012 at 9:55 pm

Regional history museums make a lot more sense. With that said, if there were extensive fundraising efforts by MVHA it is news to me, have they had fundraising events?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nick Perry
a resident of another community
on Jan 20, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Kathy, from what I understand, the Historical Association's museum committee didn't have enough time/man-power to simultaneously work on the complex Pearson House relocation deal and also initiate a massive community-based fundraising drive in the midst of a major recession. So, they focused on the Pearson House as Phase I of the museum and the donation that would have come with it as meeting the MOU milestone. With that starter seed secured, community fundraising would have been the next phase. It was a calculated risk, and it fell through.

That said, a set back like this is also an opportunity for a new start. This is a creative, forward-thinking community, and I'm confident that we can eventually come up with a new plan and location for a museum that showcases and celebrates Mountain View's unique role in history. I encourage anyone with an interest in fulfilling that goal to check out the MVHA website at www.mountainviewhistorical.org and the facebook page mentioned in the article, www.facebook.com/MVHistory and consider joining the Association.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by W-Park Dude
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jan 21, 2012 at 10:07 am

Thankfully sanity took over. This would have been nothing but a money pit. I've been around Mountain View my whole life and want to live nowhere else, but truth be told, our so called rich history doesn't call for a place at the Annex that would quickly almost be devoid of visitors. When the Computer History Museum, near Google, Microsoft, and the like has trouble garnering paid customers and has to resort to events,i.e. weddings, parties, social club special speakers, etc., to barely stay out of the red (if that), what makes people think visitors are going to come back more than once, if ever visiting at all, to view MV's rich history? Maybe these artifacts and relics can be fit into a modest space at City Hall or another city facility. With all due respect, it just wasn't fiscally sound.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Catherine
a resident of Willowgate
on Feb 2, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Maybe someone could restore the old burned out A&W or the Cottage on Moffett Blvd and put the history museum there. #Eyesores.


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