The original “Old Town Temecula Museum” was founded in 1985 by Sam Hasson, Nancy (Hicks) Maurice, and Tony Tobin. The first artifacts exhibited in the museum came from the personal collection of Tony Tobin, and from a collection of objects and exhibits purchased from John Bianchi’s former Frontier Historical Center in Temecula. The KACOR Development Company and Overland Bank contributed $20,000 for the purchase of local objects in the Bianchi collection when it was sold in 1985.
The Temecula Museum opened in its Butterfield Square location in Old Town in November 1985. In 1987 the museum moved to larger quarters at 28690 Front Street. In July 1991 the museum paid rent for the first time upon relocating to an even larger space at 21950 Main Street.
In 1993 Temecula Redevelopment Agency funds were allocated for the construction of a new museum and the renovation of the former St. Catherine’s Catholic Church. The chapel reopened in April 1998 and operates a wedding chapel through a collaboration between the Temecula Museum Foundation and the City of Temecula. Construction on the present museum building started in November 1996 and was completed in mid 1999.
Temecula Valley Museum vision statement:
The Temecula Valley Museum will be a high quality museum that thoroughly and accurately portrays the stories of the Temecula Valley’s past and present through dynamic, fun, and exciting exhibits appealing to both local family audiences and tourists. The museum will be known as a Temecula destination and a cultural/social center for Temecula Valley residents.
(Museum Exhibit Design Committee, December 1998)
Over the nearly 40 years they traveled the country, Tony Tobin and his wife Mildred developed a passion for collecting historical objects. Tobin noted that when his children were young they frequently asked questions about life when he was a boy. He felt that through preserving early household, farming, and other artifacts, these items could be used to help younger generations understand what life was like in the early 20th century.
For a number of years Tobin maintained an exhibit of historical objects and old western building facades at the Woodchuck RV Resort he and Mildred ran from 1956 to 1977. As the collection grew Tobin continued to add more material, he envisioned opening a museum to display his collections. The dream was realized in 1985 when he, along with Sam Hasson and Nancy Maurice, formed a museum committee and secured a space for the collections. Additional donations were and continue to be made by people in the community. The museum lobby has been named in honor of Tony and Mildred Tobin.