History of the Rae House
The Rae House was built in 1868 by John Rae, a pioneer who had tried his luck in the gold fields, settled for a time in Hicksville, worked for a while as an interior plaster finisher, and eventually became one of Galt's biggest ranchers. John Rae's Work as an interior plaster finisher, according to his daughter Alice, included work in the State Capitol. The finishing work around the ceilings in his home were also done by him.
Alice Rae lived in the Rae family home until 1985. She was a graduate of Galt High School and a teacher in the Galt Elementary School District for over thirty years. In 1955, Alice served the Galt community as its City Clerk. Alice was well known for her kindness to the children of Galt and the community in general.
In 1969, the Rae home, then 101 years old, was chosen to be the Centennial home, and was featured on the cover of Galt's Centennial Souvenir Book. Its Victorian Queen Anne Cottage style was considered typical of the pioneer homes of Galt's early history.
In 1985, when Alice became too old and ill to maintain the home and property, relatives moved her to a convalescent hospital near them. With nobody living in the house, and with little care and attention given to the garden, the Rae family house soon became a target for vandals.
The Rae home remained neglected while the estate was in probate, and it began to deteriorate. Although still structurally sound, both the interior and exterior walls suffered at the hands of vandals and their spray-paint cans. It was reported that the property was sold to developers, and the house was scheduled to be demolished to make room for new homes.
In 19xx, when the Galt Area Historical Society was founded, people in the area began asking if the Society wanted pictures and artifacts from Galt's history. It became evident that the Society would need a place where precious historical items could be kept and protected from the ravages of time. We needed a Museum. There was no such place in Sacramento County south of the Consumnes River. The Society saw this as an urgent need, and began looking for a suitable place.
At a general meeting of the Galt Area Historical Society, the plight of the Rae family house was reported. After checking with city officials to confirm the demolition plans, the Galt Area Historical Society voted unanimously to do their best to save the Victorian Rae home for a museum. And so the "Save the Rae" campaign was born, a project that would involve almost everyone in the community and made possible the acquisition of the Rae house for Galt's Museum. Organizations held fundraisers or gave donations. Businesses gave financial support. The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors voted to provide funding for restoration, and private foundations from outside the area contributed as well.
The City Council offered the developers a waiver of park fees if they would give the City the Rae House and 3/4 of an acre of land surrounding it. The developers agreed, and the City Council then deeded the house and land to the Galt Area Historical Society with the stipulation that the Rae family house must be restored and a museum created and maintained.
To the new Historical Society with savings of about $700, the task seemed awesome, but the members were filled with determination, and the citizens of the community rallied to offer materials, labor, and cash donations. One of the members wrote grants for the project and brought in outside financial assistance of $58,000. Both developers in the community and local organizations sponsored fundraisers to support the cause. The slogan "Save the Rae" was well known by everyone in the community, and with the tremendous amount of support, the Rae family home was saved and became the local museum that is still operating today. The charter members surely enjoyed this early success.
On June 9, 1991, the Rae House Museum opened its doors to over two hundred guests. The list of attendees included members of the State Office of Historic Preservation, the County Board of Supervisors, the Galt City Council, and the Sacramento County Historical Society. On that day, the first tours were conducted by costumed docents. There was no furniture in the house at that time, but it was donated later on. Although the house was little more than a shell at that point, it had been so beautifully restored that it was worth visiting to see what could be done. A year after it had been donated, many memorial roses had been planted and a large stone was placed at the base of the new flagpole. On the stone there rested a brass plaque donated by the Rotary Club that memorialized the pioneer families that had been involved with the area's history. This date marked the end of a 3-year monumental project of restoration work which involved raising $190,000 in cash, countless hours of donated time, and many donated materials all used to prepare the home of John Rae for its role as a museum.
Since that day, the Rae Museum has been open on a regular schedule and has given special tours to schoolchildren and adult organizations. It has offered art exhibits, craft demonstrations, annual Christmas festivities, yearly Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Socials, and a High Tea.
The garden, once overrun by weeds, now is dedicated to the Galt area pioneers, and is filled with colorful roses donated in memorial. There are over 100 varieties of roses to see in bloom during the spring and summer months. The garden is also used for weddings and family portraits.
Inside the museum, the visitor is treated to special displays in the Pioneer Room and in the cabinets in the front parlor. A 200-year-old spinning wheel gives the viewer a feeling for the work of textile production in the past. The old wood stove in the kitchen and the round icebox on the back porch give an authentic impression of kitchens of the past. The importance of keeping the stove tea kettle always filled with hot water is also emphasized.
In 2002, the Rae house, built for a small farming family, not as a large museum, began showing signs of wear. The front porch was sagging, the front steps were giving in, and there was serious work that needed to be done to the ceilings in the front room and upstairs. The work was quoted by a contractor at around $75,000, and he warned that some areas might need additional work once they were opened back up. The Society had recently expended the money they had saved for the renovation of the garage, so they needed major assistance for what lay ahead of them. The grant writer began work on obtaining outside funding, while the curator presented the case for "Save the Rae II" to the Galt City Council.
At first the Council was reticent to spend more funds on the Rae House Museum; however, they assigned members of the City staff to appraise the problems and to return with any recommendations. The staff recommendation was that the work must be done to save the museum, and they also recommended a contractor.
The work was carried out as recommended, and when the contractor began working on the back steps, he found dry rot. The back porch needed total replacement, and when it was done, it was returned to the original porch as built by John Rae. At the annual old-fashioned ice cream social in July of 2003, the Rae House Museum was once again opened to the public, ready for tours.
Over 5,000 people have visited the Rae House Museum, and donations of dolls, china, a 200-year-old spinning wheel, a dining room table and chairs, a baby buggy, sewing machine, and many more items have been either on display or carefully stored for use in future exhibits.