Wisteria Festival of Times Gone By

Did You Know

The Banning Museum’s Howard Rose Garden was once the site of one of the most popular events in Southern California for over 60 years. The Wisteria Festival started by Miss Montana Tuller in 1931 was an annual community event held in late March or early April to coincide with the blooming of the wisteria vine planted by Banning’s Chinese cook, Charlie Lim Yong. Sponsored by the Wilmington Women’s Club, the event was the highlight every spring, attracting as many as 7,000 visitors and dignitaries who came to see the beautiful vine and tour the Banning Manor as it was known then. The San Pedro News Pilot, dated March 24, 1934 stated “Each year the wisteria vine at the old Ban-ning homestead in Wilmington becomes more beautiful. It now compares with the best in the Southland — and what a joy it is to lovers of natural beauty.”

Wisteria Queen and Court 1981

In 1939, a Wisteria Queen and her court, selected by local Job’s Daughters was introduced to the event. By the 1940s, the United States Army took up residence at the Museum — filling the west side of the property with WWII barracks, causing the annual Wisteria Festival to be greatly reduced in grandeur and size. It wasn’t until 1950 that the Wisteria Festival was revived by the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce and The City of Los Angeles, Department of Recreation and Parks.

The Festival was held each spring for the next 30 years spanning the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Folks would come from all around to see the beautiful Wisteria, listen to music, enjoy tours of the residence and meet the Wisteria Princesses selected by the student body from Phineas Banning High School.

Today, the Festival has transformed into the Friends of Banning Museum’s annual fundraiser, Wisteria Regale. Started in 2005, the Regale is typically held in March just as the original festival was to coincide with the blooming of the Wisteria.

Wisteria Bloom Today
photo by Simie Seaman

The crowning of the Wisteria Queen and her court is no longer done. Today, college scholarships totaling $12,000 are awarded to Banning High seniors who submit winning essays on a topic regarding Phineas Banning and his life’s accomplishments. Please join us next year on March 27, 2021 as we celebrate the magnificent Wisteria vine still growing as beautiful as the first day it bloomed over 100 years ago.