The first community celebration of San Luis Obispo County’s rich and complex history was a one-week exhibit held in February, 1950, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of California’s statehood and the creation of San Luis Obispo County. Called the Centurama and housed in the Telephone Building at the corner of Morro and Mill Streets, the collection of documents and artifacts drew thousands of viewers. The exhibit had no budget and was entirely the work of volunteers.
The founding of a permanent County Historical Society in February, 1953 resulted from the desire of Paul Dallidet, the last surviving son of pioneer French settler and vintner Pierre Hypolite Dallidet, to preserve the adobe that his father had built in the 1830s and in which he still lived. Paul agreed to gift the property to a non-profit historical society, to be created, with the understanding that he would be allowed to live there until his death.
The Society still had no place to make its collections of historic artifacts and documents accessible to the public until 1956, when it arranged to lease San Luis Obispo’s 1905 Carnegie Library building from the County for its Historical Museum, a facility that it still occupies.
With Paul Dallidet’s passing in 1958 the Dallidet Adobe and Gardens became available as museum space. Because the Dallidet family had occupied the property continuously, the original furnishings, library and works of art were still in place, and it has become a wonderful resource for researchers as well as a living museum. Over the years our many dedicated Dallidet volunteers have renovated and improved the gardens, which can now be rented by the general public for wedding receptions and other social events.
Heavy rains seriously damaged the County Museum in 1995, and the Society had to vacate the building during a major retrofit from 1998 to 2001. The renovation also created a spacious public research room and archive downstairs, which has greatly facilitated the building’s role as a research facility. As early as 1991 a committee identified the need for additional museum space to house our exhibits and collections, and this expansion remains an important goal for the Society.
The organization recently voted to change our name to the History Center of San Luis Obispo County in an effort to be more accessible to the public.
The History Center could not function without its many docents and volunteers: some greet our guests and interpret the exhibits, others assist members and visitors with research requests, and still others serve on the committees that enable the Center to carry out its mission of promoting the understanding and appreciation of San Luis Obispo County’s historical and cultural heritage.