- Category: About Us
It was a sad day in the mid 1960s when the historic old building was run down and dilapidated. A permit to demolish it and put up some new apartment buildings was requested. And the community of Wilmington was put on alert. A local treasure was about to be lost.
In 1966, the Society for Preservation of Drum Barracks was formed. People like Joan Lorenzen, Walter Holstein, John Holland, Felix Schmidt, Katy Papadakis and many more put in hours of time and effort, figuring out ways to save the old barracks building. Joan and Fred Lorenzen, along with their daughter Marga Jean Lorenzen Martin who was the official “Miss Drum Barracks,” were major fund raisers and forces in the creation and growth of the museum.
In 1968, the State of California purchased the building and grounds. Years went by and nothing was happening to improve the site. Again, the Wilmington community rallied, and worked with the City of Los Angeles to secure funding and support. In 1974, a thirty-year lease was signed by the City of los Angeles with the State of California. In that lease the City agreed to restore the building and grounds and open it as a public museum.
Fundraising continued and in 1976 and 1977, the work began. A massive restoration of the site took place with every effort made to retain as much as possible of the original building. Today, the results of that impressive historical effort reveal a structure with original floors, door and window frames and twin staircases. Every original piece of the building was retained, if possible. The walls, with plaster long past saving, were hand re-plastered to continue that historical accuracy. The building was brought up to code requirements and could be used by the public. Now the work of creating a museum began.
In 1965 the site was recommissioned and rededicated. In the 1970s it was opened for tours by appointment, and in September of 1987, it was opened to the public as a City of Los Angeles museum, the Drum Barracks Civil War Museum. Marge O’Brien was the first director. She began to organize the artifacts on hand and to locate and obtain those that would add to the new museum.
The group that was formed by the Wilmington community in 1966 to save the building from demolition was named the Society for Preservation of Drum Barracks. It is the parent group for the current Drum Barracks Garrison & Society, the 501(c)(3), non-profit group that supports the Museum and it’s programs and activities. Donations to the Garrison & Society are tax exempt.
Marge O’Brien continued as director until 1998 and in January 2000, Susan Ogle began as the second director at Drum Barracks.
A 50-year lease with the state was signed by the city in 2007, ensuring the museum will remain a treasure in the Wilmington community. Continuing improvements and maintenance are done, funded by the city and through grants. Lead abatement was done on the exterior walls, doors and windows of the building in 2003 and a new irrigation system was installed providing for beautiful grounds around the site. A new roof was installed in 2010. And we hope there is much more to come.
The Drum Barracks Civil War Museum is a facility of the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks and the State of California Department of Parks and Recreation.