About MHAA

History of the Monterey History and Art Association

Mission: The Monterey History and Art Association…..sharing the histories and the diverse legacies of people, stories, and places that continue to shape Monterey.

“A museum is not about its collections, but about the conversations it holds with its constituents”

From its founding in 1931, the Monterey History & Art Association’s primary mission has been to help preserve the irreplaceable reminders of Monterey’s colorful heritage. Over the past seven decades, the Association has worked closely with the City of Monterey, the California Department of Parks and Recreation, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and other agencies. As a result, more old adobes have been preserved and restored in Monterey than anywhere else in California.

The Association instituted Monterey’s historic landmark program and created the Path of History which guides visitors to historic sites in old Monterey. It possesses extensive collections of furnishings, paintings, photographs, costumes, books, manuscripts, and other artifacts, and is the parent organization of the following Monterey institutions:

  • The Stanton Center
  • Casa Serrano
  • Mayo Hayes O’Donnell Library
  • Doud House

The Association has been a guiding force in Monterey’s vital historic stewardship. The guarding of Monterey’s precious community assets and the preservation and presentation of its historical heritage for future enjoyment has been made possible by citizens who care and give generously of their time and resources.

“It is beyond contradiction that every important historical event in California from 1770 to 1848 began or ended in Monterey, and that the buildings associated with these events are the greatest of Monterey’s tangible assets. Monterey’s historical background, its old buildings, and its artistic setting are unique among all the states of the West, and it is not only its civic duty, but also its civic advantage, to remember that background,to preserve its old buildings, and to build with its historical past in mind.”

Colonel Roger S. Fitch, first President and distinguished holder of that office for 17 years, thus expressed — a little over-enthusiastically, perhaps, but nonetheless sincerely — the motivation and prime objective of the founding members of the Monterey History and Art Association.

Three committees formed the basic structure of the Association — Art, Architecture and History— under the chairmanship respectively of Miss E. Charlton Fortune, Mr. W.O. Raiguel, and Mrs. Laura Bride Powers. By the end of its first year of existence the Association was able to report that, in cooperation with the State Department of Parks, considerable progress had been made in repairs to the building and grounds of the First Theater. In addition,”the Custom House has been sympathetically restored, with proper facilities for keeping of the historic relics on exhibition there.”

Mrs. Powers’ committee also presented a list of 20 historic sites meriting permanent markers During the following year the Association, in cooperation with the Monterey Chamber of Commerce, listed and registered with the Department of Natural Resources, Monterey’s most important landmarks, leading to the development of the Path of History described elsewhere in this book.

In 1934, the Association cooperated with the State Department of Parks to preserve the first French Consulate, which was moved to El Estero Park and now serves as the Visitor Center. Much later, the establishment of the Allen Knight Maritime Museum gave recognition to Monterey’s whaling operations of the early days, its importance as the principal port on the west coast until the mid-19th century, and its fishing industry, which continues to add revenue and color to the waterfront scene.

From its inception, the Association has operated on a broad scale, bringing together men and women of sound knowledge in many fields, intellect, talent, imagination and enthusiasm. Their contributions of time, effort and financial aid — all required in generous measure — have accounted in great part for what remains in the portrayal of Monterey’s history today.

To preserve Monterey’s unique heritage, the same drive and dedication will be required from those leaders who rise to meet today’s challenges.

from the Monterey History and Art Association 75th Anniversary book