To preserve and share the history of Morgan Hill, and its environs, to inspire a sense of community.
Morgan Hill Historical Society
The Morgan Hill Historical Society (MHHS) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, non-governmental organization established to collect, conserve, interpret and exhibit artifacts and other items associated with the history of Morgan Hill and its environs. We serve as a repository for archival materials to develop educational interest and promote the preservation of sites, landmarks and other historical objects within the community.
Established in 1971 and incorporated in 1976, the first major project of the Society was to rehabilitate the 1911 Acton House, which was donated to the city for use as a community museum. Forty-one years later the Society owns, operates and maintains the 2.5-acre site known as Villa Mira Monte. The site includes the Morgan Hill Museum (Acton House moved to site), Hiram Morgan Hill House (original site), Centennial History Trail and beautiful Rose Gardens. Villa Mira Monte is the only site in Morgan Hill that is listed on the Registry of National Historic Landmarks. As Morgan Hill's "Central Park," it is a major community attraction, a place where our community can celebrate its past.
MHHS & City of Morgan Hill Partnership
A community effort to develop, preserve and maintain Villa Mira Monte.
A major MHHS effort this year is defining a partnership with the City of Morgan Hill to provide funding for the development, preservation and capital maintenance for Villa Mira Monte (VMM). In most cities, historical homes are owned, maintained and funded by the cities where they reside, often operated by volunteer groups such as historical societies. In our case, MHHS holds title to our National Registered Landmark and has assumed much of the financial responsibility for the past 23 years.
A year ago the board decided that it was time to approach the City with a request to establish a partnership for funding – so our entire community can support the development, preservation and capital maintenance for this landmark through its City government.
Vice-president, Jean Haneke, and I decided to attend City Council, Parks and Rec Commission and Planning Commission meetings, as well as Budget and Planning Worships, Work Sessions and Stakeholder meetings to elevate awareness of MHHS and VMM, to promote our positions and define the partnership. Other board members attend as able.
Ideal timing ... The City General Plan and department Master Plans are being updated for governing direction through year 2035 (a state mandate). The General Plan sets Council priorities for the next 20 years. City department master plans are integrated into the General Plan and set their priorities for the next 20 years. The Department of Community Services (DCS) Master Plan sets direction and funding priorities for community Bikeways, Trails, Parks, and Recreation (BTPR). The MHHS/City Partnership will reside in this department, thus the importance of being engaged in this process to ensure MHHS is represented in setting direction, defining the partnership and funding plan priorities.
Working through the planning process with Chris Ghione, DCS Director, the BTPR Stakeholders Group, and the Parks and Rec Commission, VMM has been designated as a top funding priority. The City Council, who has all singly voiced support, is postponing a vote until the DCS Master Plan is complete in August/September. This is after the Council approves the General Budget, but Council has decided to hold off on funding decisions until they receive the final DCS Master Plan prioritizing all BTPF projects. Things look positive, but until a Council vote, we will continue to be present and engaged in the process to impact the funding decisions for VMM.
On behalf of MHHS, thank you to our members, who have sent letters and emails in support of this effort. If you’d still like to help, it’s not too late; send your letters or emails to either our MHHS PO Box or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, I want to extend appreciation to our City officials, staff and commissioners. Engaging in this process has given me a much deeper appreciation for what they do for our community.
Written by Kathy Sullivan
Bay Area Historic House Museums visit Villa Mira Monte
The Morgan Hill Historical Society (MHHS) started off the New Year with a BAHHM! That is to say, on January 9th, the Bay Area Historic House Museum organization, BAHHM, conducted its first quarterly meeting at Villa Mira Monte (VMM), owned and operated by the Morgan Hill Historical Society. Despite the rain, BAHHM members from twelve distinct “house” museums honored the invitation and drove to Morgan Hill to get a look at Villa Mira Monte, the newest member of the group. Villa Mira Monte offers not only the Morgan Hill House (a Nationally Registered Historic Landmark), but also a 1911 farm house that houses the Morgan Hill Museum, and the Centennial History Trail.
Following a brief BAHHM business meeting, Kathy Chavez Napoli presented the latest “Trunk Show” program that the Morgan Hill Historical Society is offering third grade classrooms before they come to VMM on a field trip. The children currently have so much to absorb while they are on their field trip that this new program takes a bit of history into the classroom. It gives them a few tools to become “History Detectives” and explore their own history as well as the history of Morgan Hill. Between baking and enjoying tea and cakes in the Morgan Hill House, exploring the Centennial History Trail and touring the museum, there is not much time to present the history of the local Native Americans that originally occupied the land. The new classroom program allows the students an opportunity for hands on exploration of nuts, shells, weavings, and other objects the First People utilized over the 10,000 years before they made contact with the Spanish in 1769. Kathy Chavez Napoli, herself a member of the Maidu tribe, feels it is important that children understand that “Native Americans” still exist. By going into the classroom, Kathy gives the students a personal experience and one-on-one involvement in discovering the history that makes up our community. MHHS currently serves 700 to 950 students per year and could host more if we had the volunteers. The other BAHHM sites were so impressed that Mrs. Napoli has received numerous appeals for speaking engagements and requests for advice on how they might setup their own ”Trunk Show” program.
A box lunch catered by Josephine’s and tours of the VMM site rounded out the visit. Like many visitors to Morgan Hill, our guests were surprised to learn that Morgan Hill takes its name from a man – Hiram “Morgan Hill”, and not from the landmark hill which is El Toro, formerly known as Murphy’s Peak. The other house sites learned of the community involvement that MHHS has cultivated and found it inspirational that the home of Diana “Murphy” Hill and Hiram Morgan Hill has been cared for and still survives on its original site due entirely to the efforts of the Morgan Hill Historical Society and its volunteers. Quite a tribute to those individuals that have recognized the importance of local history and a strong recommendation that MHHS should continue to garner city support in providing a sustainable means for securing and preserving the history of Morgan Hill.
In all, the Morgan Hill Historical Society hosted 36 BAHHM members at the VMM site. Those traveling the furthest, 120 miles, represented the Luther Burbank House in Santa Rosa. Other houses in attendance included: Camron-Stanford House from Oakland, Casa Grande-Quicksilver House from San Jose, Harris-Lass House in Santa Clara, Hass- Lilienthal House in San Francisco, John Marsh Stone House in Contra Costa, Johnston House in Half Moon Bay, Meyers House in Alameda, Pardee Home in Oakland, Ravenswood in Livermore, Rengstorff House in Mountain View and Shinn House in Fremont. BAHHM has published a new booklet that features a one page description and useful information on each of the 40 houses participating in the group. Copies of the publication are available for $5.00 at the Morgan Hill Museum, 17860 Monterey Rd., open Fridays 12- 3 and Saturdays 10 – 1. Stop by and see what all the fuss is about!
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