In 1923, a Quaker educational organization called the Fairmount Academy closed its doors. In 1969, Fairmount High School did likewise. The students who attended these institutions of learning have contributed and are still making their impact felt in all phases of American life. Included have been college presidents, writers, lawyers, scientists, doctors, actors, farmers, artists, and teachers of national and international fame. As these students returned to Fairmount, they invariably asked to visit their old schools. As they walked the halls of their old schools once again, a recurring theme appeared—where were the old class pictures, the trophies, the awards? Luckily the school administrators had the foresight to store all of these artifacts. Everyone agreed that a central location be founded; a place of permanency to preserve these artifacts.
The first meeting of the museum committee was called on January 19, 1975. Other meetings followed, and the Fairmount Historical Museum, Inc. organized officially February 23, 1975. The initial location for the museum was located over the Western Auto Store at 113 1/2 South Main Street. Letters were mailed to former students, soliciting charter memberships and memorials. Sufficient income from the membership drive was received to pay the bills and remodel the old Hockett Studio rooms.
The dedication ceremony for the Fairmount Historical Museum was held Sunday, September 21, 1975. In 1977, the Museum Board purchased the J.W. Patterson property at 203 East Washington Street. This would later become the permanent home of the museum. The Patterson house, a landmark, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and Sites on November 14, 1979. The museum was moved to its permanent home in the Patterson House on September 5, 1983.
In addition to artifacts related to the town, its families, and schools, the museum also holds many pieces related to and once owned by James Dean and his family. These include awards, clothing, motorcycles, and much more. In addition, the museum houses a tribute to another Fairmount native, Jim Davis and his creation, "Garfield."
Since 1975, the museum and its board have sponsored the annual Fairmount "Museum Days" Festival. The three day festival, always held the last full weekend in September, gives special recognition to Fairmount natives who have made a distinct mark in the world. The theme of the festival centers itself around activities relating to James Dean and Jim Davis' character, "Garfield." These activities include recording stars from the 50's, James Dean Look-A-Like contest, the showing of his movies, a car show featuring approximately 2,000 cars, and much more.