The museum building is a replica of the original Murphy ranch house “Bay View” which sat where Murphy Park is located now, along Sunnyvale and California avenues. The last descendant of the family still living in the house, Elizabeth Whittier, sold the house to the City of Sunnyvale in 1951 in order to have it preserved. It was made an historical landmark in 1960, but nothing was done to restore it. In 1956, the Sunnyvale HIstorical Society was founded with the express mission to save the house. Against citizens’ protests, the house was demolished in 1961 for the construction of Central Expressway.
The original house was built in Maine and shipped to San Francisco around Cape Horn and re-erected on the 5000-acre ranch of Martin Murphy, Jr. It was constructed with leather straps and wooden pegs, because there were not enough nails available at the time.
The museum building you see today
The museum was built in 2008 to showcase the achievement of the Murphy family, who were part of the first wagon train to successfully bring wagons across the Sierra Nevada in 1845. It features three rooms designed to look as they might have in the original house around 1860: a parlor/dining room, a kitchen, and a bedroom, filled with many artifacts from the Murphy family. The central part of the building shows the various businesses and industry of the developing town of Sunnyvale, including cannery tools, a display about the Naval Air Station which later became Moffett Field, and items from Hendy Iron Works. The downstairs space is rounded out by a beautiful mural giving the viewer a pictorial history of the Santa Clara Valley from the Ohlone to the 1950s and the advent of technology which changed the “Valley of Heart’s Delight” to “Silicon Valley”.
The second floor has a room for rotating exhibits of different subject matter which change every two or three months (with topics including the history of canneries in Sunnyvale; schools in Sunnyvale; communication from the telegraph to the internet, etc.), and a “Tech Wall” tracing the developments of various technologies in Silicon Valley generally and Sunnyvale specifically. There is also a large meeting room where the SHSMA entertains Speaker Nights and the ever-popular Victorian Teas. This room is also available for rent.
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The museum is open year-round: Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursday from noon to 4pm. Admission is FREE.