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Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum

Published on: 9/16/2014 11:03 AM
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Almaden Quicksilver Mining MuseumWelcome to Casa Grande and the New Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum part of Almaden Quicksilver County Park.

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How to Get There

Casa Grande and the New Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum are located at 21350 Almaden Road. Casa Grande is the impressive white building with picket fencing just past the Post Office. The Club Almaden sign is still up on the large redwood tree at the entrance.

From Highway 85 take the Almaden Expressway exit south 4.5 miles to Almaden Road. Turn right and proceed 2.5 miles west to the town of New Almaden. The Casa Grande will be on your left.

From Highway 880 take 101 south to 280 north (toward San Francisco). Exit 280 at Hwy. 87 (Guadalupe Parkway) south. Exit Hwy. 87 at Almaden Expressway south (to the right). Proceed about 8 miles to Almaden Road. Turn right and proceed 2.5 miles to the town of New Almaden.

Hours and Fees

Mining Museum PhotoThe New Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum is open-year round Fridays through Tuesdays except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year's Day. The museum is closed Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Mondays 12pm - 4pm
Tuesdays 12pm - 4pm
Wednesdays Closed
Thursdays Closed
Fridays 12pm - 4pm
Saturdays 10am - 4pm
Sundays 10am - 4pm

​School tours are available Monday - Friday year-round by reservation. Additional museum hours and guided tours are available by request for groups. Call (408) 323-1107 for reservations. No fees are required.

History

Mining operations in New Almaden first began in 1845 under the claim of Mexican Cavalry Officer Captain Andres Castillero. Castillero discovered that the red rock used by the local Ohlone Indians to paint them and the walls of the Santa Clara Mission was cinnabar, an ore containing mercury. The valuable mercury was needed to process silver in Mexican silver mines.

American companies eventually acquired ownership of the mines, where operations continued under the management of Captain Henry Halleck. Halleck had the Casa Grande ("the big house") designed and built by architect Francis Meyers in 1854. The six acre grounds were later landscaped by John McLaren, designer of San Francisco''s Golden Gate Park. For decades this classic revival-style mansion served as the official residence and office for a succession of mine superintendents, and as a country weekend retreat for wealthy mine investors.

The Casa Grande once boasted 27 rooms. The basement consisted of the kitchen, dumbwaiter, servant quarters, food storage and a large vault for depositing liquid mercury, also called "quicksilver." After the closing of mine operations, the Casa Grande had a succession of private owners and served a number of purposes, including a tourist resort and recreational facility known as Club Almaden.

In 1973, the Santa Clara County Parks & Recreation Department began purchasing the old mine properties. In 1985, the Department purchased a private collection of mining artifacts from Constance Perham, a resident of New Almaden. From 1949 to 1983, Mrs. Perham had displayed mining artifacts, memorabilia and photographs in her private "museum" in the historic village. The Parks Department leased the museum site from 1983 to 1998, and the New Almaden Quicksilver County Park Association volunteers maintained the collection and exhibits, as well as provided school and public tours about the history of New Almaden and the Quicksilver Mines.

In 1997, the Casa Grande once again was offered for sale, and the County Parks Department seized the opportunity to add the National Historic Site to Almaden Quicksilver County Park. The existing museum collection moved to the Casa Grande, where a new exhibit was erected by park staff and volunteers. The new museum and exhibits opened July 3, 1998. After an extensive building renovation from 2009-2010, the newly expanded museum once again opened in January 2011.

For additional information about Almaden Quicksilver Park, go to the Almaden Quicksilver County Park webpage.

If you are interested in learning more about the history of the New Almaden Quicksilver Mines, you may view a selection of historic maps, photos and documents at our on-line archive webpage.

Activities

Mining Museum Photo

The museum presents visitors with an interesting array of exhibits about the history of mercury mining and the lifestyles of mining communities at New Almaden. A mine diorama duplicates the interior of a mine shaft, giving visitors a feel for working underground. Other exhibits explain the changing technology of how the liquid mercury was extracted from mined cinnabar ore. Artifacts from Cornish, Mexican and Chinese mining families depict the diversity of people that once lived and worked together on "the hill." Casa Grande's antique-furnished parlor, library and drawing room reflect the lifestyle of a mine manager's family.

Guided tours through the museum are provided to schools and community groups. Call the museum office at (408) 323-1107 for information and reservations. View a fun YouTube video of a recent field trip from a local elementary school!

Teachers may complete a Field Trip Request Form and return to the museum staff by fax or email.

Accessibility

In compliance with the requirements of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (‘ADA”),the Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation Department will not discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities on the basis of disability in its programs, services, or activities. The Department will make reasonable modifications to policies and programs to ensure that people with disability have an equal opportunity to enjoy our programs, services, facilities, and activities.If you need assistance with an ADA request, please contact our ADA Coordinator.

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