Michael Sanborn, Director and Curator of the Banning House Museum, grew up in the Harbor City area and received a Masters Degree in Fine Arts from CSU Dominguez Hills.  He has worked at Banning since 1991 and considers this his dream job.  He co-authored a 2008 book, Images of America: Wilmington, about the local history including the Banning Museum and the nearby Drum Barracks (from the Civil War).
Mr Sanborn supervised a $2.5 million multiyear project to expand the Museum in the unused basement, to document the history of transportation in the Los Angeles Harbor area.  Currently the House is undergoing an extensive refurbishing with new paint (decontaminating the old lead paint), plumbing, electricity, and roofing and structural repair, using Douglas fir and redwood from northern California, and square nails and original-construction window replacement where needed.  The house is surrounded by extensive scaffolding now, but these repairs will be complete by next year, the 150th anniversary of this house completed in 1864.
The house was built on a hilltop portion of 2400 acres bought by Phineas Banning from the Dominguez land-grant family.  Most of the land was later sold or converted into a large park around the house and surrounded by a tall wrought-iron fence.  There is an active educational program for schoolchildren on field trips.  They can learn manual activities as performed in the 19th century, such as washing clothes with handmade soap on a washboard and hanging them on a clothesline with wooden clothespins, and churning butter, baking bread, and eating their results.  Unfortunately, recent decreases in school funding have reduced bus transportation and school field trips by two thirds.
Phineas Banning was the founder of the city of Wilmington, which he named after his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.  He grew up on the East Coast and had been hired to transport cargo to California in 1851.  On his arrival, he saw a business opportunity in the potential port, at that time only mud flats (“wetlands” in today’s terminology) many miles from the isolated town of Los Angeles.  He established a business of stagecoach and freight wagons between the port and the town, and extended cargo connections eastward to San Bernardino.  He also owned Catalina Island, which he sold to the Wrigley family.
As a California state senator, he was instrumental in bringing the first railroad to Los Angeles to connect with his system, helping his business and ensuring the growth of Los Angeles into a great city.  He arranged harbor dredging in the mud flats to build a deepwater port for ships to connect with his freight wagons (successfully competing with an alternative site proposed for a port in Santa Monica).  He built a 220 acre ranch with a 17,000 ft² home and barn, which he offered to Union troops during the Civil War (the nearby Drum Barracks are the only remaining military remnant).  His family lived in the house for many years until 1929 when it became the current Museum on the remaining 19½ acres.
2014 is the 150th anniversary of the site, and a major celebration is planned next year, especially on Phineas Banning’s birthday, August 18.  (Audrey Dahlgren & Angi Ma Wong have been active volunteers in Museum activities.)  Information on the Banning Museum is available on the website, http://www.banningmuseum.org/.