The Museum Exhibit Committee has been working hard updating the existing Citrus Stand Exhibit. Updates include several framed Citrus labels and a Citrus stand that now includes items that would be sold in a working Citrus stand. Stop by the Monrovia Historical Museum on Sundays and Thursdays from 1:00 - 4:00 pm to see the changes!
Article written by Susie Ling
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
Dr. Martin Luther King’s quote rings as the Monrovia Historical Museum celebrated King’s 90th birthday with a presentation on Robert Kennard (1920-1995) by Jerome Robinson and Gail Kennard on January 20, 2019. Robert Kennard, a 1986 inductee to the American Institute of Architects’ prestigious College of Fellows, graduated from Monrovia High School in 1938. As Robinson writes, “Today the [Kennard Design Group] is the oldest, continuously owned African American architectural firm west of the Mississippi River. Kennard designed over seven hundred buildings and structures – including forty homes.” The more public Kennard legacies include LAX Parking Lot 1, 3, and 4; Carson City Hall; Van Nuys State Office Building, and entrance to the Hollywood Bowl.
Kennard was born in Los Angeles to James, a Pullman Porter, and Marie, a mother who wanted to move closer to the land. In 1924, the family owned a half acre at 533 E. Walnut in Monrovia and raised oranges and other fruit trees. A teacher at Huntington Elementary, Mrs. Savage, encouraged the Kennards and others to challenge the District’s racial segregation practice, and attempt to send their children to Wild Rose Elementary. Robert’s parents would send the 7-year old to Wild Rose each morning; but for weeks, he would be sent home. Robert said in a 1987 LA Times interview, "I had a very supportive family that believed in the value of education. Eventually, my parents took on the entire school district with the support of many of its teachers, and I was allowed to attend classes at a regular non-minority school." Robert was allowed to be the one African American student at Orange Avenue Elementary (now Monroe School). When later asked, Marie said “I wanted you to know the kind of world you were going to grow up in. You might as well learn now; because, don't think that you're going to have it that easy."
At Monrovia High School, Robert got support from certain teachers. The drawing teacher, Roy Eller, was so impressed with Robert that he encouraged him to follow the footsteps of pioneering architect Paul Williams. Said Gail, “After USC Architectural School, my father’s job applications were all rejected because he was ‘colored’. But Curtis Chambers saw my father’s talent and hired him.” Gail, now president of Kennard Design Group, added, “My father was mentored and he pledged to mentor others.” After he started his own practice in 1957, Kennard went out of his way to help women, immigrants, and other young architects get their start. “He would speak at Career Days at universities and even elementary schools. He was not wealthy but he always made donations.”
Jerome Robinson said, “[In those days,] it was hard for African Americans to get into acting and architecture, perhaps because in these fields, you can reach immortality.” Robinson, whose own mother was at the Museum to support his presentation, said, “Perhaps the best testimonial to Robert are his three children.” Gail’s sister, Lydia, is a member of USC Board of Trustees. Their brother, William, was U.S. ambassador to the European Union under the Obama administration.
Gail Kennard said, “My dad was mentored by his mother and a handful of teachers. And he paid it forward. We need to also do all the good we can.”
Board members have been busy putting together the finishing touches to the new Pacific Electric exhibit. Stop by to learn about the history of the Red Car from yesteryear. Exhibit includes a mom and child waiting for the train, authentic railroad rails, miscellaneous Pacific Electric artifacts and a TV that plays a DVD of the history of the Pacific Electric.
February 6 and 9 brought the Wildrose Elementary School 3rd grade classes to the museum for their annual tour. This year’s visit was a little different as the Gabrielino tribal archaeologist, Dr. Gary Stickel, gave a slide presentation. He pointed out locations of villages, shared pictorial representations of animals meaningful to the tribe, and fielded MANY questions from the students. His visit was truly interesting and MHM Board members also learned a lot!
On Saturday, January 13th, 20 members of the San Gabriel Valley Model A Ford Club visited the Monrovia Historical Museum for a tour. Members of the organizations brought along several cars that dated from 1928 - 1931. The Club began in 1958 and will be celebrating their 60th anniversary this year.
Board members are busy designing a Pacific Electric exhibit in the east wing of the Museum. Items on display will include magazines, photographs, maps, suitcases and more! The Museum is looking for any items related to the Pacific Electric Railway and will welcome any donated artifacts. An update will be posted on this blog once the exhibit is completed.
Learn about the art of quilting
The Monrovia Historic Preservation Group and the Monrovia Historical Museum are co-sponsoring an event about quilting to be presented by local business Cat’s Quilting Corner, located at 505 S. Myrtle Avenue. The quilting shop’s owner, Cat Knudtson and her mother, Dorine Nieuwenhuijis, will be sharing their many years of experience in the art of making a quilt.
The event is being held by MOHPG in conjunction with the Monrovia Historical Museum, which is also the location of the presentation. It will be held on Sunday, November 19, starting at 2 pm. (The museum is open from 1-4 pm.)
Attendees are encouraged to bring in heirloom quilts to be evaluated. Depending on the quilt, the mother-daughter team may be able to determine the age of the quilt, how it was made, and possibly its value.
The public is invited and refreshments will be served.
We have redesigned our Monrovia Airport "Flying Field" exhibit by providing more pictures and artifacts. Come by and read about the history of the airport and its connection to the McDonald's Restaurant of today and the Laurel and Hardy of yesterday!
Stop by to see our new doll exhibit! The Museum has an extensive doll collection that once belonged to Lucia Cromwell who was a teacher at Mayflower Elementary School in Monrovia, California from 1926-1962. During this time, she collected well over 600 dolls from around the world that she used as visual aids to teach her students about history and the diversity of various world cultures. Our display showcases twelve of the presidential dolls with their wives and also the dolls highlighted in the Doll Tales book sold in our Gift Shop.