The Garden Grove Historical Society owns and maintains an impressive museum snugly tucked in amongst modern track housing communities. The Stanley Ranch Museum & Historical Village consists of a 2-acre plot packed with 17 historic buildings, some replicas and others original. Each building is uniquely themed with accompanying artifacts. Many of these structures and relics date back to the 19th century.
The city of Garden Grove is home to a fair amount of early 20th century dwellings, not to mention the many historic homes throughout the rest of Orange County.
Grant, a local history teacher and volunteer for the museum, led the tour during my recent visit. His extensive knowledge of historical practices and artifacts is truly singular.
The tour started in the beautiful Ware-Stanley house, which was built in 1891 by Edward G. Ware. The porch was restored to its original state, complete with its charming gingerbread trim, after having been a bathroom for much of the 1900s. The house was passed on through the generations. It’s most noted occupant and owner was Agnes Ware Stanley. Agnes was well known for being a highly educated woman for the times. The home is filled with many of the family’s belongings.
Grant led us through the home, describing the daily activities and hobbies of the former residents. He would periodically present the tour group with guessing games in which he would introduce an object and ask us to guess its function. For example, Grant showed off a hot-coal-heated foot warmer and a vacuum cleaner in which the user pumps the handle to produce suction at the base. Grant also showed us a nifty “refrigerator” with lazy Susan shelving. The antique fridge even features a spigot on its side to pour cold water melted from the ice blocks in the icebox. My favorite part of the tour had to be when Grant played a Beatles song on the pump organ in the dining room for us. I was so impressed with not only Grant’s excellent playing, but also that the 124-year-old organ can still play, and so beautifully, too.
Another impressive building is the Fire Station, a replica of the station originally located on Garden Grove Boulevard. The station is a one-story building with a garage, office, and accommodations for the firemen. The building displays old firemen suits, outmoded fire control artifacts, and an original fire hose, which is slung within a small tower, as it would have been for drying.
The Fire Station provides shelter for a magnificent 1926 La France fire truck. The Garden Grove Fireman’s Association maintains the truck, which is still drivable to this day. Grant explained that since the fire truck is still registered as such, only firemen may drive the vehicle. We did get the pleasure of hearing its horn, which Grant demonstrated for the group.
The Disney Garage is likely the most famous structure on the property, particularly with Disney fans. The one-car garage sat behind the home of Walt Disney’s uncle and was the first workplace where Disney practiced animation starting back in 1923. A group called the “Friends of Walt Disney” donated the garage to the Garden Grove Historical Society in 1984. The society was the only group contacted by the Friends of Walt Disney that would accept the garage and keep it permanently on display. The Garage was delivered to the site and assembled there. It came with nothing but it’s boards and beams but is now filled with a collection of Disney memorabilia and animation-related apparatuses, including an antique film projector. Grant did show us one discovery – etched writing on an inner door with a list of quantities of various fruits and preserves.
The Barber Shop and Electric Shoe Shop structure features a collection of barber tools and electric shoe manufacturing machinery used by the former owners of the building. The building also displays the dental equipment and medical devices, including a few items belonging to Garden Grove’s long time physician Dr. Violette.
Other buildings visited along a tour include the General Store, Schoolhouse, Post Office, Schnitger House and Emerson Hall.
Touring the Stanley Ranch Museum and Historical Village was a fun learning experience. A special thank you to Grant for an exceptional tour of the grounds and to the Garden Grove Historical Society for maintaining such a great collection of historical artifacts and structures. It never ceases to amaze me how much Orange County cherishes its historical sites and neighborhoods.
The Stanley Ranch Museum & Historical Village
12174 Euclid St.
Garden Grove, CA 92840
Tours are held at 1:30pm every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month. The tour lasts 1-2 hours. The suggested donation is $5 per adult and $1 per student (up to the age of 18). For more information, visit the Stanley Ranch Museum website or call the Garden Grove Historical Society at 714.530.8871.