July 13, 2010 > Union City Historical Museum
Union City Historical Museum
By Suzanne Ortt
Photos By courtesy of Myrla Raymundo
Local residents often do not take advantage of nearby attractions until visitors come to town. But play tourist for a day and visit the Union City Historical Museum. You will be glad you did.
Located in an old fire station at 3841 Smith Street, visitors have a chance to meet Myrla Raymundo, a genial dynamo, who founded the museum in 1997. Raymundo loves museums and Union City history. She moved to Union City in 1971 and found that no local museum existed. Wanting a place to showcase artifacts of the city's past, she began collecting material.
Initially, exhibits were displayed in businesses, then shown in the local library. Eventually Raymundo approached the city council regarding permanent housing for a museum and after many meetings and much paperwork, the city offered a $6,000/year grant and five-year lease on a building that housed a fire station that closed in 1984 for $1 a month. The Union City Historical Museum had a grand opening February 24, 2001.
Regretfully, due to city budget constraints, the grant has been withdrawn this year. Raymundo and the board now have their own budget constraints. Their goal is to find new funding; casino trips and garage sales are being organized as fundraisers. (Check with the museum for future event dates.)
Filled with historical artifacts and documents, the museum is divided into three components: artifacts and settler histories; oral histories; and historical preservation, focused on old buildings (Union City has 13), photographs, and official descriptions from the Alameda County Recorder's Office.
Displays of local history, documents, and old photos are plentiful. Two early employers: Holly Sugar Beet Factory (1870s - 1969) and Pacific State Steel Company (closed 1977) are fully documented.
Displays of early pioneers and buildings include the Spanish Costanoans who changed much of the existing habitat and culture. More early residents arrived, among them Ebenezer H. Dyer, Capt. Richard Barron, Ezra Decoto, Capt. Marston, John Horner, and Henry Smith. Present street names reflect these beginnings.
Key farmers in Alvarado area were the Wah Sing Cheng family. Family photos and descriptions show their farm and the family's history.
Learn about the steamer "Union" and its impact on the area; possibly the source of Union City's name. Alvarado, the site of the first county court house in 1853, and Decoto, another early settlement, have their share of history.
Glimpse life from the 1920s and 30s with vintage appliances from 1923, including a kitchen stove and refrigerator. Equally interesting are an early telephone and old irons. Local residents donated these artifacts and many more. Memorabilia from high school students dates back to 1934.
One corner is devoted to the August 24, 1951 plane crash of United Airlines flight #615, in Decoto near Tolman Peak, south of Garin Park. The area was foggy and probable cause was pilot error. Fatalities numbered 50.
Shelves are full of binders with newspaper clippings on the incorporation of Union City, early churches, writings from elementary school students, and more. Presentations (including slide shows) are available for researchers, college students, and New Haven Unified students.
A board of directors serves the museum, meeting quarterly to deal with plans and discuss business matters. Volunteers are vital, with several staffing the museum alongside Raymundo and her husband, Ligfinio "Ray" Raymundo. Four Logan High School students work on Saturdays to keep folders on Union City news up-to-date. Two students, Amrit Kullar and Manvinder Toors, aid Raymundo on Thursdays and Fridays, greeting visitors, updating the files, and making posters. They also join the Saturday crew. Additionally, the museum website is maintained through citizen involvement.
The Union City Historical museum's needs your help. Community support and membership can make sure it will remain open. Visit www.unioncitymuseum.com to see how you can participate.
Union City History Museum
Open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday
10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
3841 Smith Street, Union City