SMCHA History

The history of SMCHA

"Finally, a history lesson the whole family will'll find enough interactive kiosks, video cameras, microphones, and learning-lab gadgets to keep a generation raised on video games alert and engrossed."

San Francisco Magazine
The Best of the Bay Area: The Obsession Edition




Roscoe Wyatt, manager of the San Mateo County Chamber of Commerce in the 1930s, believed that promoting the colorful stories and characters of the county’s past would attract people to the county. His promotional efforts included the creation of the San Mateo County Historical Association (SMCHA) in 1935.

Dr. Frank Stanger, a history instructor at San Mateo Junior College (today’s College of San Mateo), developed a mission for SMCHA. His goals were preserving the county’s historical sites, developing an archives for the county’s history and creating a museum dedicated to preserving reminders of the county’s past.


First Museum

The SMCHA sought a partnership with the San Mateo Junior College. In January 1941, the San Mateo County Historical Museum (today the San Mateo County History Museum) opened in a small classroom at the College. Items on display included a map of the Indian shellmounds and a Mexican era millstone. In the same year, Stanger started La Peninsula, the SMCHA’s scholarly journal.


1949 - 1963

Expanded Museum

The museum expanded in size in 1949, 1956 and 1963. In 1961, six docents were trained by Dr. Stanger to give tours. In the first year, the group led 99 classes totaling 2,901 students through the museum.


Historic Sites

After the passage of California’s Proposition 13 (1978), the County Park system had trouble continuing the operation of the Woodside Store and the Sanchez Adobe. The SMCHA agreed to operate the two sites. Over the years, the SMCHA developed interactive school programs at both locations.



Museum Moves

In 1998, the History Museum had the opportunity to move into the Old County Courthouse in Redwood City. It opened to the public in its new location on February 6, 1999. The History Museum has developed exhibits where you can explore the county’s rich and colorful history.


Today, the old courthouse is home to the San Mateo County History Museum. The museum is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.