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8 Oroville Museums to Explore

With more muse­ums per capi­ta than Sacra­men­to, Oroville is a sur­pris­ing under-the-radar muse­um destination.


His­to­ry buffs in par­tic­u­lar will find Oroville a worth­while des­ti­na­tion with its five his­to­ry-focused muse­ums, all of which are just a few blocks from each other.

Pio­neer His­to­ry Museum

A trip to the Pio­neer His­to­ry Muse­um, man­aged by the City of Oroville and housed in an over­sized repli­ca of a 49er’s cab­in, feels like a step back into the Gold Rush era. While it doesn’t look like it from the out­side, 6,000 square feet of his­toric trea­sures from the mid-1800s to the 1920s await vis­i­tors. From the orig­i­nal Ore­gon City School organ to a doll from the Don­ner Par­ty to dis­plays on the muse­um-found­ing pio­neer fam­i­lies, a tour paints a vivid pic­ture of the lives of ear­ly Cal­i­for­nia settlers.

C.F. Lott Home

Anoth­er city muse­um and his­toric build­ing to explore is the C.F. Lott Home, a Vic­to­ri­an revival-style struc­ture built in 1856 by Judge” Lott, a gold-rush pio­neer who helped form California’s gov­ern­ment. A tour of the house — brought to life by docents clad in peri­od cos­tumes — reveals sto­ries of the Lott fam­i­ly, their impor­tance to ear­ly Cal­i­for­nia, and the love between Lott’s daugh­ter, Cor­nelia, and Jesse Sank. Their love lives on with the home’s loca­tion in beau­ti­ful Sank Park, per­fect for a leisure­ly stroll.

Oroville Chi­nese Temple

For a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive on Cal­i­for­nia pio­neer his­to­ry, head to the Oroville Chi­nese Tem­ple. This now-Cal­i­for­nia land­mark was built in 1863 to serve the largest com­mu­ni­ty of Chi­nese north of Sacra­men­to and high­lights this group’s con­tri­bu­tion to the area. The city-owned muse­um also has an exten­sive tapes­try dis­play, a col­lec­tion of Chi­nese and Amer­i­can cos­tumes, and more.

Butte Coun­ty His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety Muse­um & Ehmann Home

At the Butte Coun­ty His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety (BCHS) Muse­um , learn about Butte Coun­ty’s his­to­ry from the ear­ly min­ing days to present time through both per­ma­nent and rotat­ing dis­plays and get all your ques­tions answered by its knowl­edge­able docents. Also man­aged by the BCHS, the near­by Ehmann Home show­cas­es Oroville’s role in the ripe olive indus­try at the house that olives built.” Fre­da Ehmann per­fect­ed a cur­ing process for ripe olives at the turn of the 20th cen­tu­ry, which in turn launched California’s olive indus­try. Her 1911 home stands tes­ta­ment to her and the indus­try she helped shape.

Nature & Outdoors

Out­door enthu­si­asts will also find muse­ums to enjoy

Feath­er Riv­er Nature Center

The city-man­aged Feath­er Riv­er Nature Cen­ter sits right on the Feath­er Riv­er at the for­mer site of a Maidu fish­ing vil­lage. The Bath House, which pro­vid­ed facil­i­ties for swim­mers and sun­bathers in the 1930s, today pro­vides nature edu­ca­tion pro­gram­ming and exhibits por­tray­ing local wildlife, while the Nature Cen­ter grounds are home to var­i­ous native plants, trees and animals.

Lake Oroville Vis­i­tor Center

Though away from the cen­tral down­town area of the rest of the muse­ums, a dri­ve to the Lake Oroville Vis­i­tor Cen­ter is worth a trip of its own. Man­aged by the Depart­ment of Water Resources, the vis­i­tor cen­ter over­looks both the lake and the dam and fea­tures inter­pre­tive dis­plays, an audio-video room, and more. Per­haps most fun is its 47-foot view­ing tow­er, where you can take in 360-degree views of the lake and dam through high-pow­ered telescopes.


Explore unique­ly Oroville museums

Bolt’s Antique Tool Museum

Final­ly, an explo­ration of Oroville’s muse­ums wouldn’t be com­plete with­out the one-of-a-kind Bolt’s Antique Tool Muse­um. With over 12,000 hand tools on dis­play, it’s the only known muse­um of its kind in the world. Don’t hes­i­tate to chat with its City of Oroville muse­um docents, who will tell you more than you ever need­ed to know about the collection!

Oroville State Theatre

Add to your muse­um day by catch­ing a show at the his­toric Oroville State The­atre, which, while not tech­ni­cal­ly a muse­um, has its own rich his­to­ry worth dis­cov­er­ing. Con­struct­ed in 1927 from a design by renowned archi­tect Tim­o­thy Pfluger, the State The­atre has been under­go­ing ren­o­va­tions by the State The­atre Arts Guild (STAGE), the non-prof­it that owns the the­atre, to return it to its 1920s glo­ry. The ren­o­va­tions include paint restora­tions, instal­la­tion of a mod­ern-yet-vin­tage mar­quee, and restora­tions to an authen­tic Wurl­itzer pipe organ.

Whether you’ve held mem­ber­ships for years or are a first-time vis­i­tor, come dis­cov­er for your­self the his­to­ry and cul­ture on dis­play at Oroville’s museums.

This sto­ry was orig­i­nal­ly writ­ten by Explore Butte Coun­ty for Upgrad­ed Living’s June 2021 issue.