The Museum is open on Thursdays from 2:30 to 5:00, on Saturdays from 10:00 to 3:30 and by appointment. We are closed on major holidays.
Admission is free. Parking is free and located behind the building.
Phone: (714) 256-2283 * Email: * Mail: 125 W. Elm Street Brea, CA 92821
History Days! Wednesday, May 23, 2012 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM
Brea Museum & Heritage Center

The Brea Museum is operated by the Brea Historical Society, a non-profit organization. The Museum's spectacular exhibits tell the story of the history of Brea from its founding in 1917 to the present. The exhibits tell the unique story of Brea and how this city fits in to the larger history of California and of the United States.

The Museum also houses a research archive, a reference library, and the museum's collections of artifacts, photographs, and manuscripts. For more information on doing research in the collections, contact the Museum. Please explore the Museum's website and come explore the Museum!

Our Mission

The Brea Historical Society is dedicated to the preservation of the rich history of Brea and its region. Through the Brea Museum and Heritage Center, the Society provides a place for education, investigation, research, and community gatherings. The Society encourages students, citizens, and visitors alike to explore our many histories, our roots, and to uncover the events, people, and stories that have shaped Brea in the past and continue to shape it into the future.

Brea History

The village of Olinda was founded in present-day Carbon Canyon at the beginning of the 19th century and many entrepreneurs came to the area searching for "black gold" (petroleum). In 1894, the owner of the land, Abel Stearns, sold 1,200 acres (4.9 km2) to the west of Olinda to the newly-created Union Oil Company of California, and by 1898 many nearby hills began sporting wooden oil-drilling towers on the newly-discovered Brea-Olinda Oil Field. In 1908 the village of Randolph was founded just south of Brea Canyon for the oil workers and their families (and named for Epes Randolph, an engineer on the Pacific Electric Railway).

The villages of Olinda and Randolph grew and merged as the economy boomed, and on January 19, 1911, the town's map was filed under the new name of Brea, from the Spanish language word for tar. With a population of 752, Brea was incorporated on February 23, 1917, as the eighth official city of Orange County.

The Brea Historical Society

In 1962, the city of Brea celebrated its 50th Anniversary and a group of Brea residents, realizing how much the city had changed in their lifetimes, began collecting objects and photographs that documented the city's history. Their group expanded in number and, in 1971, formally organized into the Brea Historical Society. In the early 1980s, the Brea Historical Society first opened the Brea Museum at the old City Hall. There, they displayed oil artifacts and photographs. Several years later the Museum moved into its current location in the old American Legion Hall where it has a much expanded exhibit on Brea's history, a collections' storage facility, reference library, research center, and meeting facility.

The Museum is open on Thursdays from 2:30 to 5:00, on Saturdays from 10:00 to 3:30 and by appointment. We are closed on major holidays. Parking is free and located behind the building.

Brea's American Legion Hall

In 1920, American Legion Post #181 built a small legion hall at Elm Street and Pomona Avenue (now Brea Boulevard). By 1928, members wanted a larger and more permanent structure; they developed plans for a new building. In 1930 when the present American Legion Hall was built, it was only one of three new structures on this block. The City of Brea had just completed a new City Hall Building and a municipal pool called "The Plunge."

The American Legion Hall building was crafted using Spanish Colonial Revival style, a widely popular architectural trend that began in southern California early in the 20th century. The Hall has stucco walls topped by a low-pitch, clay-tile roof; it boasts of lovely, vertical pilasters alternating with tall windows ending in a large, arched entryway. The American Legion transferred ownership of this architectural treasure to the City of Brea in 1934.

The American Legion building along with City Hall and the Plunge served Brea from the 1930s to the 1990s. During these decades, the Brea Police Department (BPD) ( moved out of City Hall and in to the American Legion building. But by the 1990s, the bustling city had outgrown even these municipal buildings. In 1990, Brea moved its city offices - along with the Police Department - to the Brea Civic and Cultural Center (

The building remained vacant until 2001 when Brea Historical Society member Don Schweitzer sought permission from the City to house a permanent Brea history museum in this historic building overlooking City Hall Park. From 2002 to 2005, the Brea Historical Society and the Brea Museum & Heritage Center worked to raise funds and to renovate the former American Legion Hall. The building was retrofitted and some of its Spanish Colonial Revival features were restored. The Brea Museum & Heritage Center opened to the public in its current location in 2006.

In 2010, the old American Legion Hall (now the Brea Museum & Heritage Center) gained a new neighbor. A new collections' storage facility was completed behind the museum. This building houses the Museum's collections and preserves these artifacts for present and future generations to enjoy.

Brea's Museums

Brea residents enjoy sharing the stories of their city's past. In addition to the Brea Museum & Heritage Center, visitors will also enjoy the Olinda Oil Museum & Trail. The City of Brea and California State Parks operate this 12-acre historic park that features some of the original oil industry buildings, machinery, and tools. This historic site includes a two-mile hiking trail with marvelous views of Brea and Orange County. Go here for more information: Brea's rich cultural heritage as well as residents' appreciation for fine art are on display at the Brea Gallery, which exhibits works by contemporary and classic artists. The Brea Gallery website has details on visiting:

Job Opportunities

Hiring - Museum Director

The Brea Historical Society (BHS) is hiring a new director for the Brea Museum & Heritage Center and seeks a motivated and collegial museum professional who enjoys working with the public to run its community history museum. The position is currently part-time and is the only paid staff position at the Museum. The position is currently hired as a 1099 independent contractor, so the employee is responsible for paying federal and state taxes.


The Director's duties include management of the museum's collections (from registration and storage to tracking and loans), management of the volunteer staff (8-10/week), supervision of interns (1-4/year), filling research requests, implementing and further developing the on-site and off-site educational programming and public programming, grant writing, strategic planning, day-to-day administration (including editing the quarterly BHS newsletter, coordinating with community events and institutions, and scheduling for the Museum's events room), and overseeing visitation to the museum. The Director reports to and works closely with the BHS Board of Directors. The museum is currently open two days a week and by appointment. The Director is responsible for docenting one of these days. This position also entails some Saturday and some evening meetings.


Previous professional experience in museums, archives, or public history is required. Prospective applicants must have excellent skills in oral and written communication, time management, and organization. Applicants should have experience scheduling and supervising staff. The Director works regularly with Past Perfect Museum Software and the Microsoft Office suite of software programs; experience with Publisher, Photoshop, and with rudimentary web editing is preferred. An advanced degree or commensurate experience in museums, public history, or business administration is desired. Knowledge of the history of Brea and/or northern Orange County is also desired.

To Apply

Please send your letter of application and resume to the Brea Museum by regular mail or email. Review of applications will begin on June 5, 2012, and continue until the position is filled. Send all inquiries about this position via email. The Brea Historical Society is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.