Doctors House shows good health in report

The Doctors House Museum in Brand Park has seen a steady increase in visitors since 2009, added a new vintage clothing curator and will bring back some successful events from the past, according to a new report about the museum — the first compiled in four years.

The number of annual visitors rose from 1,585 in 2009 to 2,678 in 2012, but dipped slightly to 2,411 last year, said Assistant Museum Director Peter Rusch during a meeting of the Parks, Recreation and Community Services Commission on Monday.

The decline was mainly because the Victorian Easter Egg Hunt and an event called Beneath the Veil held around Halloween — both initiated two years ago — didn’t take place last year, but they will return this year, he said.

“We’re still at a higher level (of visitors) than in previous years,” Rusch said.

The egg hunt will take place on April 13, while a date has not been set yet for Beneath the Veil, an exhibit about how “the Victorians treated death and mourning,” Rusch said.

A kiosk was installed outside the Doctors House Museum around the last time a report was released about the home, bearing historical tidbits about the site at 1601 W. Mountain St. that’s proven successful in generating interest, Rusch said.

“The main problem was the hikers going by the Doctors House thought it was Mr. (Leslie C.) Brand’s house and so we wanted them to know something about the house and pique their interest,” he said.

The Doctors House is a Queen Anne-Eastlake-style home built around 1888 that’s been a museum for the past four decades. It was home to four doctors in succession through the mid-1910s.

Another notable resident of the home was silent-screen star Nell Shipman.

The city purchased the property for $1 from Larry Sade and Associates in the late 1970s and it was fully restored by 1984.

Now, it’s staffed by a team of 17 docents who give Sunday afternoon tours to the public and occasional private tours for retirement-home residents as well as elementary-school children.

Rusch said the newest addition to the staff was Ruth Ellen Billion, who is the museum’s first vintage clothing curator.

“A lot of people don’t realize that we have hundreds of pieces of clothing in our closets and we’re going to have them put on display,” he said.

Near the end of his presentation, Rusch said museum officials have documented a series of short-term and long-term restoration efforts that need to be addressed to maintain the 126-year-old property.

One of the more difficult projects will be to repair the thinning floorboards that will require input from a professional historical preservationist, Rusch said.

On the other hand, replacing dead rose bushes and touching up the landscaping shouldn’t prove too difficult and will all be done with the goal of drawing in more visitors, he said.

“These are all easy things to do,” Rusch said. “We just need to make the parks department aware.”


Follow Arin Mikailian on Twitter: @ArinMikailian.


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