The purpose of the History Guild is to serve the community by maintaining a history museum and preserving, displaying and sharing the history of Daly City and its environs.
The History of Our Organization
The History Guild of Daly City/Colma was established as a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization in 1983 and has preserved documents and artifacts and inspired public interest in local history for more than three decades. The Guild newsletter, The Tattler, has been continuously published since 1983. Our popular public history evenings are presented for free five times a year. All Guild programs and operation of our Daly City History Museum are provided by volunteers.
The Guild first opened the Mini-Museum in 1992 in the basement of the Serramonte Library. By 1994 the collection had outgrown the tiny space and the Guild, led by City Historians Bunny and Ken Gillespie, first requested a full-sized Daly City Museum and proposed the John Daly Library as a possible site. In 2002 a plan to expand the Mini-Museum as part of an overall renovation of the Serramonte Library was put on hold indefinitely. When plans were underway in 2005 to move the John Daly branch library to the new War Memorial Building under construction, the Guild renewed its lobbying efforts to secure the vacant library and create a full-sized, permanent museum in time for the 100th Anniversary of Daly City in 2011. In February of 2008 the Guild reached an agreement with Daly City to lease the old John Daly Library building for 20+ years for $1 a year as a private, non-profit, local history museum.
The City of Daly City had installed a new roof while the building was still in use as a library, but over eight decades of use had taken its toll and the reuse of this venerable structure as a community museum required extensive renovations. It took a year and hundreds of volunteer hours to renovate and improve the building for a grand public opening on March 15, 2009. An astounding 300 people from the community and from historical organizations across the county attended the event which was covered extensively by the local media. To date, renovations have been paid entirely by the Guild from private donations and include extensive electrical upgrades and new lighting, new sustainably-grown oak flooring, special low-emission blinds that protect the interior of the museum from UV damage, new banisters, interior and exterior painting, bathroom and plumbing repairs, creation of an archive/workshop area, and installation of a gas-burning fireplace heating system that replicates an earlier wood burning fireplace. Our Daly City History Museum is a work in progress; we continue to expand and improve our exhibits and collections, professionally develop and equip the museum, and further enhance the building.
The History of the Old John Daly Library Building
Our vintage building is located near the original site of the John Daly dairy farm where refugees fled after the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire. Refugees first camped on the dairy pastures and then built more permanent structures when Daly subdivided and sold lots to the refugees. A village known as Vista Grande grew around the area that had been known as "Daly's Hill" and later became Daly City in 1911.
After finding temporary quarters in a local meat market and the living room of the Mayor, in 1920 a 25' x 25' wood frame library building was built. In 1938 the original 1920s vintage one-room building was moved back against the old quarry when the library was expanded with a front addition in Art Deco style. The John Daly Library was the only library in Daly City for over 41 years. It combines two structures into two adjoining great rooms with a combined space of 2,400 sq. feet. Its historic ties with two founding fathers of Daly City who donated the land and buildings, dairyman John D. Daly, and early entrepreneur John William Marchbank, and its location at the birthplace of Daly City make it a unique site. This building is the only historic structure owned by the city and the History Guild has been very careful to preserve the historic character of the building while making judicious improvements for reuse as a museum.
The museum is in close proximity to a number of privately owned historic buildings including the Masonic Temple, the old Bank of Italy (now occupied by St. Vincent DePaul Thrift Store), Top of the Hill Beauty School (formerly Milos Market), 6626 Mission Street (early Council Chambers), the John Marchbank Home (at 3317 San Jose), to mention a few. A free, self-guided walking tour pamphlet of historic Daly City sites is available at the museum.
Photo banner, left to right: 1892 Streetcar (Top of the Hill), Pokets Saloon, Robert Thorton playing fiddle. Chandler Collection, History Guild of Daly City/Colma