The McHenry Museum (the building) has a history going back to 1912. In 1906 Oramil McHenry* died and his will left $20,000 and interest in three city lots for the expressed purpose of constructing a public library in the Modesto.
Construction began in January of 1912 and continued until completion in April 1912. The City of Modesto formally took possession of the building and opened it doors to select visitors on April 29, 1912. The official opening of the McHenry Library to the general public was on May 1, 1912.
The McHenry Library continued to serve the citizens of Modesto until 1971. A Citizen's Cultural Center Committee was formed in 1965 to raise funds for a Museum and Art Center. By 1971 contributions from individuals, organizations and foundations had progressed to the point where the City of Modesto felt sure enough of the ultimate success of the project to convert the vacated library building into a Museum and Art Center. The committee's first step was to carefully restore the building to its original beauty. The Central California Art League occupied four rooms in the basement and developed galleries to display local artists work. The main floor was developed into the McHenry Museum. One room became the changing exhibit room, another to display historic painting, and the third was devoted to “permanent” displays. The displays were vignettes of vintage rooms such as a kitchen, living room, blacksmiths shop, etc. The auditorium was also part of the museum and was used for a variety of events from musical presentation to city council meetings.