Patrick Ranch Museum in Durham
By Al Rocca
Cultivating the Past
Story and Photos by Al Rocca
JUST ASK ANYBODY in the Chico area, “What’s the best place to see and hear about Northern California agricultural history?” and the answer is invariably the Patrick Ranch Museum. The ranch, a few miles south of Chico, originally comprised more than 600 acres of almonds and walnuts, Butte County’s two leading crops. In 1958, William and Hester Patrick decided to live on the property, which had been in the family for a number of years. The Patricks built up the property, turning it into one of the most productive ranches in the vicinity. With William’s death in 1981, family members split up the land, leaving 29 acres to Hester. She later donated the estate to the Far West Heritage Association.
Today, the ranch museum includes the 1877 Glenwood Farmhouse, Visitor Center and Gift Shop. The farmhouse has undergone major renovation, and people taking the tour can see Hester Patrick’s antique furniture and numerous period artifacts. Renovators made careful selections, duplicating appropriate wallpaper, throw rugs, windows and doorframes. The kitchen layout of cook stove, pantry, cooking utensils and table arrangements all provide an idea of what it must have been like to prepare food on a working ranch.
The well-manicured grounds invite guests to explore the large two-story home. A wide, prominent front porch is perfect to relax and scan the ranch. Today, the grassy area in front of the home is the site of local weddings and other events. One interesting environmental aspect is the use of an underground geothermal heating and cooling system. Large-diameter pipes bring 65-degree air from a nearby field, and a retrofitted ducting system distributes the cool air throughout both the ground floor and upstairs bedrooms.
A separate building contains the agricultural exhibits. Museum docents change these displays regularly and offer informative views of local almond and walnut production photos, historic tools and written documents. Collections include nutcrackers, knives, hammers, cameras, dishes, quilts, pottery, cowbells and all sorts of farm tools. Housed in the same building is the Gift Shop. Almost exclusively stocked with handcrafted products created by local artisans, items purchased here help keep the museum operating and the grounds maintained.
Local docents greet visitors and answer any questions they might have. Expansion plans include construction of a Vintage Iron exhibit barn, a blacksmith shop, large bee museum and learning center. The complex of exhibits will focus on “teaching the history, habits, habitats and a love of bees.” Plans call for a working observation hive to allow visitors an up-close look at the queen bee, drones and workers. Another part of the building will display beekeeping equipment. Interactive learning centers will let young and old explore the world of bees.
The museum is open most Saturdays and Sundays. A wide variety of public events are held throughout the year, including the California Nut Festival in spring, annual Country Faire and Threshing Bee in June, annual ice cream social in August and Autumnfest in October. •
Historic Patrick Ranch Museum • 10381 Midway, Chico
(530) 342-4359 • www.patrickranchmuseum.org