In 1969, retired accountant Beth Stebbins, and retired librarian Dorothy Bear, both from Palm Springs, settled in Mendocino. Bear was a fine photographer and soon became interested in the architecture and old buildings around town. Both women were surprised to discover that no one had taken an interest in the town’s rich and unique history. So they took on the job to begin historical research. In 1973 they established the Mendocino Historical Research, Inc. Soon after official incorporation, they began to publish books and collect photographs of the town, residents and a wide variety of cultural artifacts. The acquisition of the Kelley House for an organizational headquarters began in earnest a year later. Through community engagement, energetic fundraising (and some general arm twisting), the restoration of the 114 year old building was eventually completed.
Today the Kelley House Museum continues to support the community with its dedication to collecting, preserving and sharing the rich history of the Mendocino coast.
The Kelley House Museum has been a non-profit organization since its inception. Its core mission remains that of preserving local history while standing as a guardian of the irreplaceable cultural environment and architecture of this unique place. The Kelley House Museum and Historical Research Facility are supported entirely by donations, and do not receive government funding of any sort.