This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Burbank Historical
Society, which has experienced tremendous growth since it was founded
by a small group of citizens. Their vision, dedication and hard work
ensured that Burbank’s history, which spans more than 100 years, was
saved and protected for future generations.
Founded in 1973 by Mary Jane Strickland, the Burbank Historical
Society started out as a concerned group of citizens who felt
Burbank’s history was slowly disappearing and would be lost forever
if action was not taken to save it. As a lifelong Burbank resident,
city employee and spirited leader, Strickland organized volunteers to
take up the cause of saving Burbank’s rich history.
It quickly became apparent that the small group of citizens who
founded the society needed a more formal structure. The group
incorporated as a nonprofit in 1975, and a board of directors was
created. This gave the society an organization and structure while at
the same time increasing the potential for donations, since now they
were now tax deductible.
Two years later, the historical society successfully purchased and
relocated the Mentzer House to George Izay Park. Built in 1887, the
Mentzer House was constructed by the Providencia Land, Water and
Development Company as a development project in the late 19th
century. After successfully moving the house, the society undertook a
three-year project to restore the house to its original appearance.
The house now serves as the centerpiece of the museum complex and is
instantly recognized by the tens of thousands of people who pass by
when driving along Olive Avenue.
The Burbank Historical Society caught the eye of one particularly
important donor. Gordon R. Howard and his wife, Mary, had a deep
appreciation for Burbank’s rich history and championed the cause of
the society. His generous contribution paved the way for the
construction of the museum that bears his name. The museum complex,
built on city-owned property at George Izay Park, houses more than
100 years of Burbank History in the form of documents, exhibits,
photographs, maps, automobiles and clothing. Volunteers work
tirelessly at the museum to archive and catalog the vast collection
so that it is readily available to residents, developers and
Not surprisingly, the Burbank Historical Society’s collection has
outgrown its home at the Gordon R. Howard Museum. Dedicated more than
ever to protect and enhance the city’s history, society leaders went
on an ambitious drive to raise money to fund the museum’s expansion.
The 7,000 square-foot addition will have new interactive exhibits
including those from the Walt Disney Company and Warner Bros. -- both
Burbank-based studios The newly expanded Gordon R. Howard Museum will
open again in mid-October on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Whether
you have never been to the museum complex or have been there several
times, there will be something new to see and learn.
After more than three decades, the Burbank Historical Society
continues to grow beyond the expectations and dreams of those people
who founded it. Countless people, including thousands of school
children, visit the Gordon R. Howard Museum and the Mentzer House
each year. The accomplishments of the Burbank Historical Society make
it an invaluable organization and community resource. The biggest
benefactors of the Burbank Historical Society will be future
generations of Burbankers who will be able to learn and experience
Burbank’s rich past.
* CRAIG BULLOCK is the chairman of the Burbank Heritage
Commission. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.