2010 Riverside Ave.
Paso Robles, CA

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

Contact Us

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 (above), their daughter Ronda, and friend Jean Campbell.

Our grateful appreciation to all

Flying Machine

From Our Board President - July 2013

The beginning of summer, 2013!  How can that be already?  There is a lot going on at YOUR Pioneer Museum so let’s just jump right in and get down to it, shall we? 

   Pioneer Pearls, our significant fundraiser-dinner-dance at the end of April was a success from every angle.  We sold out the room with beautifully adorned ladies and gentlemen dressed to the 9’s. Food, beverages, the dance band and camaraderie made it a special night. Many of our City leaders “were in the house” and 17-year-old, Sophia Emmons, who sang the opening patriotic songs, was beyond fantastic! 

   Women’s Day in March attracted a few hundred visitors. A DVD of the ladies’ reenactments is for sale in the gift shop. The Santa Lucia Rockhounds Show in May also proved to be a great success for them and the crowds that packed our halls brought many new visitors through our front doors  

   From a construction view, the long-awaited Blacksmith Shop is a hit. Filled with so many local items from days gone by, both our younger and ‘more senior’ visitors get a real glimpse as to what that era’s labors entailed.  I think that there must have been about 30 volunteers who made it all happen!  Up above, on Main Street--Paso Style, the Smith Store project has completely changed the way that display area looks as compared to just a couple years ago.  Ideas flowed and the Construction Crew was up to the task!  Even the old bicycles were researched and come to find out, we have some beauties.  This has been the grandest project tackled at the Museum and while not finished yet, the hall does take your breath away when you first see it. 

   As our reputation grows, so does the information increase about some of the artifacts for which we had limited information.  For example, we found that some of the beautiful cabinets in the primary hall are over 100 years old and came from gem shows near Palm Springs.  The  grandnephew  of  Othor Still wandered  in and has  since  provided  both  photos  and  additional family history of the man himself. Woodworking tools were donated that were saved  in the 1906  San Francisco earthquake and were then used in Paso!  Photos and news clippings are regularly appearing from our days gone by.  

   The future?  Sometimes it seems more than we can think about but it is exciting!  Soon, the floor in the library alcove will be re-done in an effort to minimize dust. The big roll-up door will also be getting a facelift. Very importantly, we are taking positive steps to concentrate on maintenance of YOUR Museum.  Stepping back from the bigger projects a bit, a cadre of little things that you might not notice, are ongoing to make your visiting experience even more meaningful—such as signage improvements, improved inventory data on objects and improvements in preservation and storage of artifacts.

   Lastly is the Quasquicentennial--the 125th celebration of Paso Robles as an incorporated city--will be all of 2014.  Pioneer Museum is teaming up with the Historical Society, the Friends of the Library and the City Committee to produce unique memories for our children for their future. A calendar featuring 125 years of Paso memories, a Recipe Book from as far back as we can find recipes, custom shirts and hats, are all part of the celebration that will go with the fireworks and birthday party in March. Events scheduled at Pioneer Museum for 2014 are going to be 125th themed. There’ll even be a 12.5-mile run to benefit the museum and co-sponsor, Lillian Larsen School in San Miguel.

   Yes, it’s a busy place and it continues to be so be-cause of your donations, constructive thoughts and kudos for jobs well done. We can never tell you enough how much all of that means to us!  Please keep it up!

   I’m out of space so until, the next time, Thank You and may God Bless you and your families!                              

Chuck Desmond--Board President


From Our Board President - December 2012

A very warm hello to you wonderful sponsors, patrons, donors and visitors of YOUR Pioneer Museum. Since our last newsletter, things continue to be happening at warp speed. Following that verbal set-up, please don’t miss the Star Wars display at the front entrance. Loaned by an avid local collector, this display will surely put a smile on young and old alike.  

   Due to so many folks asking about Pioneer Pearls, our elegant dinner-dance fundraiser, I am pleased to say that we’re hosting it again. Friday, April 26, is the date and the Paso Robles Inn is the venue. Three tables of eight were spoken for even before the date was set!  Again, the ticket price of $100 per person will include the meal, all the beverages, and live music. Our goal is 200 people and based on requests, we’ll sell out. Don’t wait to order your table. We plan to make it a fantastic party for you!

    For those who visit regularly, you’ve seen the tremendous progress on the Smith Sporting Goods display. By Feb.1st, it should be done. A Boy Scout, Alex Cushing doing his Eagle Project, has created a wonderful and historical look at the Paso Fire Department. Very well done with photos, and a clear timeline of the PFD. Check this out.

   Approaching the calendar year’s end, here are a few pieces of important information. #1: As always, we are fiscally responsible with your donated funds. We guard them like diamonds and stick to our budgeted line items. #2: The Paso Robles Museum Foundation is making progress. The needed documents are prepared and in the hands of the legal department to insure our filings are done correctly. April remains the deadline for the three entities to sign the papers and begin the path to our own destiny. #3: Space issues remain at the top of the list.

   Working closely with the City on some of their possible spaces, we might at long last, have a solution for some of our needs. Keep your fingers crossed!

   As you do holiday shopping, please remember us. We need a couple computers that are current. Perhaps the ones you are replacing at home or office might be perfect for us! You will soon be able to donate via our website or use your checkbook right now and send in the attached Friends form. We wish you an excellent holiday season that is full of promise, safety and unlimited love. Thank you from all of us and may God bless you.

~ Chuck Desmond ~


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 Now 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