2010 Riverside Ave.
Paso Robles, CA

Open Thurs. - Sun.
1:00 - 4:00 p.m.
805 239-4556

Contact Us

From Our Board President - July 2015

     What was life like without cell phones or computers? Was life long ago different from today?  These are a few of the questions that are answered through the many children’s tours at the museum.

     After teaching for 37 years, education is still close to my heart. One of the primary goals of the museum is to encourage education and foster an appreciation for all facets of the history of the area. In the past, all students from Bauer Speck Elementary School came to the museum every year because they could walk. It has always been a goal to expand our tours to other schools but transportation was a problem. Through generous donations from the Golden State Classic Car Club and King Oil Tools, this year the museum has been able to offer tours to all third graders or fourth graders in Paso Robles. The donation provided for the bus transportation. 

      Through a group of dedicated tour guides led by Paulette Pahler, students get a real treat when they come to the museum. They can see how life was different long ago. Hand-cranked washing machines, old cars, and ringing the Geneseo school bell are just a few of the favorites.

     One thank-you note I always remember was a fifth grader telling her parents about the telephone operator at the museum. Her parents told her that was where her grandmother worked.

     Our next goal is a hands-on area for children. The museum is a great place for children to learn.

Big Wheel Bicycle Debuts

 Vintage Smith Bicycle

The Big Wheel Bicycle was just unloaded at the Pioneer Museum by Gary Smith (left) and Chuck Desmond.

     Watch for the Museum’s Big Wheel bicycle in the Pioneer Day parade!  It has just been returned to the Museum from the Bay Area where it was restored by a professional bicycle restorer. Our thanks to the Golden State Classic Car Club and many individuals, who provided funds for the project. The Big Wheel bicycle was also known as a "Penny Farthing," named after two British coins—one large and one small in size. Plans are to put the bicycle on a trailer without a rider—that’s the safest way to show it off! With a rider perched high on the front wheel, over the center of gravity, quick stopping could pitch the rider headfirst over the handlebars.

     In 1888, at the age of 17, Clark Sherwood Smith left Creston for Oakland, California, where he worked for three years at a hardware/sporting goods/novelties store where he learned about guns, bicycles, and how to repair just about anything. After three years, Clark returned to Paso Robles on the Big Wheel bicycle, taking four days and losing thirty pounds along the way. 

     For about a year, he dealt in shotgun shells in store space provided in the Lewis and Hardie Hardware Store (wagons, buggies, carts, and implements), located at the northeast corner of 13th and Park Streets in Paso Robles.

     In 1893, after a short time in Cambria at his brother Fred’s bicycle store, Clark returned to Paso and opened Smith’s at 1225 Park Street where the business continued for nearly 100 years. Fred joined Clark in 1896, and the business was known as the Smith Brothers Cyclery and Bicycle Hospital where they rented and repaired bicycles. For years, the Big Wheel bicycle was mounted on the roof of their first store building.


From Our Board President - August 2014

     “Wow! What an amazing place!” We continue to hear that message from the many visitors that come to the museum. Since my father, Vernon Nelson, was on the board many years ago when they only collected wagons or buggies, the museum has continued to change and grow to what it is today. Great things are happening.

     First, the Board of Directors has adopted a two-year strategic plan with goals and objectives for better planning for the Museum’s future. The four goals are:

      Enhance Museum displays with a focus on local Paso Robles area history.

      Enhance preservation techniques to protect the artifacts.

      Encourage public education and foster an appreciation of the local history.

       Develop financial and human resources to assure sustainability.

     Projects have been identified for each goal.  If you would like to see these projects, please contact any board member.
Second, two major display enhancements are happening. Main Street has expanded to the military exhibit. The front façade is being completed. New cases have been built. A new addition has been added for the agriculture exhibit. Plans are underway for the displays in this area.

     Third, the museum has entered into a partnership with the California Barbed Wire Collectors Association to upgrade the Swift Jewell collection, which is considered to be the largest collection of antique barbed wire west of the Rocky Mountains. They will be here on Pioneer Day to answer questions visitors have or appraise any wire. They will also be hosting a Tailgate Swap-Sale-Trade event on the museum grounds on the Sunday following Pioneer Day (October 12th). Watch for more details.

     We are continuing to look for new ideas, new people to help, and new ways for the Museum to grow.            

 Bonnie Nelson

Returning to the Museum: The Flying Machine

This machine was built in Paso Robles, circa 1902, by Elmer T. Bollinger for William Henderson, who owned the first blacksmith shop in Paso Robles. The machine might have changed the course of history, but when the Wright Brothers made their historic 12-second flight in 1903, enthusiasm for this project was dampened. Bollinger’s steam-powered machine was designed to be the propulsion system for some type of a flying machine. This scale model never flew.

The 16 paddles were contra-rotating to create lift. Plans were to have a propeller at each end—one to push and one to pull.

Later on (from 1935 to 1951), Bollinger became the Paso Robles postmaster, retiring reluctantly (due to regulations) at age 70. Bollinger also repaired clocks, until failing eyesight forced him to quit. He died in 1971, at 92 years of age.

The Flying Machine was donated many years ago by Mrs. Bollinger. After 100+ years, it was needing restoration, a job that the Estrella Warbird Museum volunteered to do. Hours and hours of careful work was accomplished by Ron and Jackie Brooks (below), their daughter Ronda, and friend Jean Campbell.

Our grateful appreciation to all

Flying Machine


CAP Grant

   On June 4 and 5, the Museum Board spent two days with two professional assessors looking at the museum’s collection of artifacts and the historic schoolhouse. This was made possible through a grant from the Conservation Assessment Program (CAP). The museum was allocated $7,190 for salaries and expenses for these professionals.

   John Griswold of the Griswold Conservation Associate gave us advice on care of the wide variety of artifacts at the museum. He evaluated the current collection care policies and appropriate improvements that could be made. He gave us valuable in-formation on how to take care of what we have. John also looked at how we can improve the metal buildings that house the museum. The museum will receive a written report that can be used for long and short planning.

   Peyton Hall of the Historic Resources Group spent two days doing the assessment on the Geneseo schoolhouse. He gave us recommendations on how to preserve the building, which was built in the 1880s. 

   The Pioneer Museum continues to grow and expand. Our goal is to make sure the artifacts are properly cared for so that in 50 years they will still be in good condition. With an all-volunteer staff being able to have two museum professionals work with us was a valuable asset.

~ Bonnie Nelson, Vice-president ~

We're On Facebook!

  The Pioneer Museum has progressed into the current era of social media, and is proud to announce that we now have a Facebook page! Facebook serves as a way to promote the museum through this popular source of online communication. On our Facebook page you can see pictures of the inside of the museum and museum grounds, as well as find out about current and upcoming Pioneer Museum events.

   You can easily go to the museum's Facebook page by logging on to your Facebook page and do a search for Paso Robles Pioneer Museum. If you don't have a Facebook page, you can "Google" the Paso Robles Pioneer Museum and find our Facebook link there. Once you are on our page, be sure to "like it," so we will know you visited our page.

~ Cheryl  Carnevali ~


The Museum's Roof

  As you can most likely surmise, the Museum was built in stages over the last 40 years. Things wear out in life and this time, it is the museum’s roof. At approximately 12,000 sq. ft. of roof, it is old, the skylights are beginning to fail and we have had many leaks that have been patched. But that is not a cure-all solution—unfortunately. Paso’s unique temperatures and winds have caused us to absolutely need to replace the entire roof. This project is way at the top of the infrastructure list.

  Multiple contractors with multiple proposals and ideas have been brought in for consultation, brainstorming and proposals. It is not an easy fix and therefore it is not an in-expensive one either. However, we are now confident in knowing what needs to be done. To do the project the right way, the tasks are: remove and replace all the metal with new sheeting, replace all the skylights and eliminate a few, remove the cupolas, cut off all the protruding poles and cap them, re-flash everything to sustain against the winds and rain, and add more insulation in selected areas.

  We Need Your Help! The City of Paso is requiring stringent requirements and to meet them, we need $115,000. Yes, a huge gulp but together with everyone’s help, we can get there. Please do what you can to dig deep and know that your donations are going directly to protect the history of your community. Please send a check now, as it would be magnificent to do this in November! Thank you and of course, acknowledgments of your donations and mountains of thanks will be administered promptly for you and your tax records.



The Geneseo Schoolhouse Dedication
October 8, 2005

After the 2005 Pioneer Day parade, 
the Paso Robles Pioneer Museum hosted its annual
Open House. This tradition was started in 1975
when the first building  was constructed on the
Museum grounds. A large number of activities took
place, including lots of hands-on things for kids to
enjoy, like Buckaroo branding, roping and an archeological

At 2 p.m. the restored Geneseo Schoolhouse
was dedicated. Please click on the picture to see
some photos and commentary of this wonderful event.

Click here to see Dedication Ceremony and other Museum activities


Old Jerkline Team

Spotlight on Keith Tarwater

The jerk-line team (above), a pencil drawing, by Keith Tarwater appears in the museum’s 1998 publication, 
The Pioneer Pages.
  Keith, a native of San Luis Obispo County, has always been interested in drawing and 
painting. After serving in the U.S. Air Force, Keith worked 
for the City of Paso Robles, beginning in the street department and ending up in the police department. 
He retired after 30+ years with the City. He volunteers 
as a docent at the museum, served on the board of 
directors and helps when and where needed.



The Pioneer Museum has copies of the 32-page 
booklets, The Pioneer Pages, which were published from 
1998 through 2002. They are available for $5 each (plus postage and handling). Each issue contains a variety 
of articles about Paso Robles area history, including agriculture, blacksmiths, bridges, churches, charcoal industry, outlaws, roads, telephones.

For more information on The Pioneer Pages click on
 Gift Shop link.

  Geneseo School House Bohlin Silver Saddle  Vintage Buckboards Cletrac Tractor


The Old Geezer