South Pasadena Museum Restoration is in Full Swing

South Pasadena Preservation Foundation & City team up to restore our museum

PHOTO: Lawrence McGrail | President South Pasadena Preservation Foundation

Origin of the Museum

After undergoing it’s own preservation and restoration. The South Pasadena Historical Museum, also known as the Meridian Iron Works Museum, was first leased to the South Pasadena Preservation Foundation by the city in 1986. Since that time, the South Pasadena Preservation Foundation has maintained the building as a repository for an eclectic and ever expanding collection of artifacts relating mostly to South Pasadena’s history and culture. With limited resources from a volunteer organization, the Preservation Foundation has managed to keep the museum open for school groups and limited public hours, with little attention to the curatorial aspects so critical to the optimization of this community resource.


The Building’s History

 Contrary to popular belief, the “Meridian Iron Works” building never housed an iron works. Our earliest record of the building and it’s use is illustrated in Jane Apostle’s “South Pasadena 1888-1988, A Centennial History.” In that work, Ms. Apostle has reproduced an interior photograph of the building when it was the mercantile/grocery of Aaron F. McReynolds ca. 1890.  It is said the building also served at some time as a hotel and a house of ill repute…not necessarily a far fetched speculation considering it’s proximity to the former rail station. We do know that prior to WWII, there was a school for Japanese language speakers to learn English, and that following the war, the Meridian Iron Works used the building as a front office (the actual iron works were housed to the rear of the building). For the last 30 years of it’s nearly 120 year history, this last surviving example of a false front commercial building in South Pasadena has been known as the Meridian Iron Works Museum.

Our Vision for the Museum

In 2014, as the threat from the development of the 710 freeway corridor diminished and the South Pasadena Preservation Foundation began to relax its dedicated purpose in the face of that issue, it was decided by the Board of Directors to make the museum a priority in its focus going forward. Not only is the museum a critically important element in the preservation of the artifact based cultural history of our community, but the museum represents an undeveloped educational resource for our schools and an important tool in reaching out to the broader concerns of cultural and historical heritage.

It is the Foundation’s vision to catalog, preserve and transform the museum’s collection of artifacts and ephemera into a well archived and curated display of local history in an engaging, entertaining, and educational resource that will serve our schools and community as an important connection to the cultural history of our community and region, a functional archive for historical research, and an encouraging venue for the continued acquisition of materials and artifacts related to the history of South Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley.

We envision the renewed museum with an important and ongoing commitment to engaging the community with special displays, scheduled docent tours for the elementary schools, and accessible archives for ongoing historical research. We envision providing visitors to the community with a rich visual insight into the unique place South Pasadena occupies in Southern California history, and the community with a unique venue for special events.

In addition, we hope to help bridge the gap between museum related expense and revenue in a small museum store that will offer materials of both  an historical and a gift/souvenir orientation.

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