He was born in St. Paul, but Charles M. Schulz was living in Santa Rosa, California by the late sixties, where he continued to draw the Peanuts comic strip until his retirement. He continued to reside there until his death in 2000, at age 77.
After a December morning drive to St. Helena, Napa, and Calistoga with mom, we turned westward for Santa Rosa to visit the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center. I will tell you that my expectations were not high, as several reviews I had read over the years were polite, but not effusive.
This is why you should never pay attention to anyone who has the time to post on Yelp.
They were reviewing as adults. This place is for the young and the young at heart. If you don’t qualify in either of those categories, go spend your day at the mall.
Possibly, the museum is small by museum standards. There are no stuffy columns outside, no imperious walkway leading to the front doors. Instead, it’s cozy, colorful, inviting, with interactive displays low to the ground, information panels in bright, large print. Most everything can be touched or handled. It’s interactive for children, and nostalgic for adults, exactly as it should be.
And for the artist types, the museum does a great job chronicling the evolution of the Peanuts characters and explaining how their adventures regularly reflected Schulz’s own experiences, changing life philosophies, and often times, his own battle with aging and its encumbrances. Who knew that as Snoopy was wrestling with multiple doctor (vet) visits, the sudden need for glasses to continue his important writing, and the depletion of energy that comes with age, it was because Schulz was currently going through those exact issues himself?
There are also nods to strips over the years addressing national elections, vaccinations, psychiatry, and pop culture. On the second floor, there’s a re-creation of Schulz’s home office and studio, and a wall transported from his 1950’s home with a mural he painted for his daughter, uncovered after having been painted over decades earlier. You can see a picture of that further down this post.
The most popular room was where guests are invited to color and create their own comic strips, browse through shelves of Peanuts books, and watch the animated specials on televisions. Nothing is hands-off here.
Schulz painted this mural for his daughter, Meredith, at his Colorado Springs home in 1951. He sold the home the following year, and subsequent owners painted over the wall, because who the hell was Charles Schulz back then? But in 1979, Polly and Stanley Travnick purchased the house, and having been told that Schulz had painted the original mural in oil, set about uncovering it with sanding liquid. Three months of delicate scrubbing and cleaning brought the beautiful mural back to the surface. It was removed in its entirety from the Travnick home in 2001 and transported to the museum, where it is on permanent display.
You can get through the museum in a few hours, or if you want to really become involved in learning the history of Schulz and the Peanuts gang, you could easily spend your entire day here. There is a garden area as well, though the rain kept us from anything more than a glance.
And there’s a small gift shop – very small. The museum should be applauded and supported just for keeping the commercialization down to such micro-levels. Everything about this place feels right. Anyone who has been touched by the heart of Charles Schulz in his or her lifetime should come here at least once.