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Modesto’s triple treat: Great Valley, McHenry & McHenry

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POSTED June 16, 2012 3:11 a.m.

MODESTO - Great places where you can get the best bang for your buck, and you don’t even have to bankrupt your pocketbook when it comes to putting gas in your tank.

• Great Valley Museum of Natural History – 1100 Stoddard Ave., Modesto

The big move to a new building on the west campus of Modesto Junior College is not until around the end of the year, so the museum is still located at its old location next to the east campus on Stoddard Avenue. Admission is free to museum members and MJC students with ID, as well as to children age 6 and younger; just $1 for general admission, and $3 for each family visiting.

The museum is open to visitors Tuesday to Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; it’s also open every second and fourth Saturday of the month. Closed during the month of August.

Entrance to the museum is on Stoddard Avenue.

The Great Valley Museum is a perfect educational and entertainment destination for the entire family, especially families with young children. The not-for-profit, tax-exempt foundation is “dedicated to providing science and natural history information to adults and children of all ages through classes, programs, and exhibits.” Funding for the museum comes from memberships, admissions, grants and donations.

• McHenry Museum (also known as the Old City Library)

Before it metamorphosed into the McHenry Museum, this major attraction in the heart of Modesto’s downtown was the city library. In 1912, the Oramil McHenry family donated the building to the City of Modesto. The museum is under the direction of the city’s Parks, Recreation and Neighborhoods Department Cultural Services manager Wayne Mathes.

The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Admission is free.

Inside the museum are permanent exhibits with new ones displayed every other month in the Changing Exhibit area. The current new exhibit is on Oramil McHenry, his family, and his contributions to the area. Permanent exhibits contained on the main floor and downstairs include a complete dentist’s office, replicas of a general store, a blacksmith shop recreated by using wood and square nails from a century-old house, as well as gold mining paraphernalia and original fire-fighting equipment in the olden days.

• McHenry Mansion, 906 15th Street, Modesto

The historic McHenry Mansion in downtown Modesto is a historic residence built in the Victorian-Italianate style in 1883 by Robert McHenry, a prominent local rancher and banker of his time. The ornate building was turned into an apartment complex in 1923 and remained as such until 1976 when the Julio R.  Gallo Foundation purchased it and then donated it to the City of Modesto with the stipulation that it be restored and then made available for community use. The mansion, which is decorated with antiques appropriate to the period when the families of Robert McHenry and son Oramil lived in it, is open for tours, as well as for weddings and other events.

The mansion is open to visitors from Sunday to Friday from 12:30 to 4 p.m. It is located at 15th and I streets in Modesto, telephone (209) 577-5235.

For more information, visit the mansion web site at

Directions to get to the museum and mansion: Take southbound Highway 99, then take the Central Modesto exit, make a left on I Street past the freeway overpass, the Modesto arch on Ninth Street, and the Gallo Arts Center. The museum is just two blocks from the Gallo Arts Center.

209 staff reporter

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