By Mike McCoy, Executive Director, Kern County Museum
When the Laxague Family decided to build a new brick building for their historic Pyrenees Bakery in 1961 on East 21st Street, they donated the original wooden building to the Kern County Museum. As was typical at that time, the building was “rebadged” by the Museum and used to create a dress makers store and watch repair shop. Several of the buildings in Pioneer Village were repurposed to create a variety of retail and commercial portrayals. For example, the old cook shack from the Piute Meat Packing Company became a “Land Office” and a worker housing unit from Hart Park became an “Undertaker’s Parlor.”
“Mr. Bailey wanted to give the impression of a small American town at the beginning of the 20th century,” said historian Rachel Hads. “In some cases, this made sense, but in others the original building had historic provenance that merited keeping it as the original use.”
This is certainly the case with the bakery building. In the bustling town of Kern in 1910, the bakery was an important business in the largely immigrant community. For the French and Spanish Basque newcomers, a bakery was an important reminder of home. Originally founded by the Gueydan Family in 1893 as the Kern City Bakery and then the French Bakery, Pierre and Juanita Laxague bought the bakery in 1947. The small wood frame building served as the retail showroom for the baked goods and also served as the family’s home. The Pyrenees Bakery is still in business 75 years later.
This spring, museum staff began turning the building back into a bakery. With the support of long-time bakery owner Marianne Laxague and the Ellen Baker Tracy Guild, the exterior was returned to the original white paint with red trim. A new sign was added for the front,the interior was painted white, and the front interior was opened back up and returned to a bakery retail area. The Museum hopes to use the new space as a small entertainment area for showers or parties.
Ms. Laxague donated two original oven doors to create a faux bread baking area in the back of the building and the original 20 foot “peels,” or bread paddles. She also offered a vintage cash register and several historic photos. “Bringing this 100-year-old building back to its original purpose was important,” Rachel said. “And it is a great reminder of the significant contribution our Basque community made to the development of Kern County.”