Today’s communities of Del Mar and Solana Beach exist as gems found in the larger San Diego area – communities that a diverse group of people are lucky enough to call home. But, as Del Mar Historical Society (DMHS) President Larry Brooks shares with us, these communities cannot flourish without first knowing who they are and where they came from. This is where the historical societies come in: they bring people together by collecting and revealing the vibrant history of the Del Mar and Solana Beach areas. Read along as we speak with Del Mar Historical Society President Larry Brooks and Solana Beach Civic & Historical Society (SBC&HS) President Michele Stribling about how their organizations preserve the past.
Q&A with Del Mar Historical Society President,
Can you give us a brief history of the Del Mar Historical Society?
The Del Mar Historical Society is an independent 501(c)(3) California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation founded in 1985. The founder was Harold (Swede) Throneson, affectionately known as Del Mar’s “Mr. History.” Swede moved to Del Mar in 1959 while he was on active duty with the Marine Corps at Camp Pendleton. He and his wife rented a home on the beach for $150 a month, decided to buy a lot, built a home, and had a wonderful life in Del Mar. He retired after 21 years from the Marine Corps, taught elementary school for another 15 years, and then retired again. He became involved in Del Mar history by accident. In conjunction with local businessman Jim Watkins, they tried to come up with an idea to encourage people to patronize the shops at Stratford Square. Swede decided to put up old photographs. The idea worked so well that the photographs are still there today. In Swede’s words, “That’s when I got hooked.” There was no historical society at that time. On his own, he began collecting memorabilia, keeping files, and making photographs. From that small beginning, the Del Mar Historical Society was born in 1985. The founders and signers of incorporation papers were Swede, Alice Goodkind, Cathy Wood, Jane Scroggins, Cal Scroggins, Nancy Ewing, and Gerry Wood. Swede passed away at the age of 83 on April 30, 2000.
What is the mission of the DMHS?
Its mission is to discover, record, collect, preserve, perpetuate, and display for public benefit the historical facts, artifacts, properties, and other material concerning the history of the village of Del Mar.
How does the DMHS stay connected with the community?
Over the years, DMHS has offered Day At the Races events, home tours, and social fundraising events. DMHS owns the Alvarado House in the garden section of the fairgrounds and provides docents in the house during the fair. Also, DMHS has worked with local schools, particularly on the third grade local history requirement.
How does the DMHS fund its programs?
Donations and grants – we gift old photos and history books to donors (think PBS) and solicit grants for specific projects such as Del Mar Voices and our oral history program.
Does the DMHS have any community events coming up?
Rotating exhibit of old photos in the Herbert B. Turner Gallery at Southfair.
Does the DMHS need volunteers?
DMHS is always looking for people with an interest in Del Mar’s varied history. We have used local high school volunteers to index two of our history books. Interested folks can contact us by email:
What other ways can community members get involved with the DMHS?
Being docents in the Alvarado House during the fair and letting us know of potential artifacts related to Del Mar history.
When and where does the DMHS meet?
DMHS meets the third Tuesday of each month at 5 p.m. in the conference room at 225 9th Street. The public is invited.
Please give us a little bit of the history behind the Alvarado House.
Alvarado House was the first house sold in Del Mar by Jacob Taylor in 1885 to Don Diego de Jesus Alvarado for $600. The deed contained a clause, “…this conveyance is made and accepted upon these express conditions that the said party of the second part [Don Diego] shall not use or employ the said land and premises or any part thereof for the purpose of carrying, exercising or conducting any saloon for the dealing of intoxicating liquor of any kind, either alcoholic, malt or fermented or any house of ill fame or for any species of gambling.”
The house was occupied until 1985 by several owners, including the Arballo family. Bill Arballo was a longtime City Council member and mayor of Del Mar. In 1985, the property was sold and the house was threatened with demolition. DMHS intervened and was given the house by the new owner. The house was moved to the City Hall parking lot for three years and, when a permanent site could not be found, it was moved to the fairgrounds. The condition being that DMHS provides docents in the house during the annual county fair. We are in the process of trying to move the house from the fairgrounds to the new Del Mar Civic Center. When moved, the Alvarado House will be about one block from where it was built in 1885.
Can you tell us about your 2016 Board of Directors?
The board of directors consists of 14 very energetic folks with a passion for Del Mar’s history. Two of the directors were born in Del Mar in 1927 and 1930. Being a very small organization in a very small town, each director carries some of the responsibility.
Why do you think this organization is an important part of the Del Mar community?
No organization can flourish without knowing who they are and where they came from. Del Mar and DMHS are no different, particularly with the very fluid and part-time population.
What do you most enjoy about working with the Del Mar Historical Society?
I enjoy hearing people’s stories about Del Mar. Del Mar Voices is the name of our oral history program where we do formal oral histories of prominent people and organizations. These histories are included in the catalog of the San Diego County Library system. Other stories come from serendipitous meetings, particularly in the Alvarado House during the fair and from email inquiries from all over the world.
What are the organization’s short-term and long-term goals?
Our immediate goal is the siting of Alvarado House in the new Civic Center. A long-term goal is the continued attraction of energetic, interested folks to carry out our mission.
If you could grant one wish to the DMHS, what would that wish be?
Moving the Alvarado House to the new Civic Center.
What’s a fun fact about Del Mar’s history?
The present Del Mar, centered at Camino del Mar and 15th Street, is really the second version of Del Mar. The first was centered at Railroad Ave. (now Stratford Ct.) and 10th Street. However, when Jacob Taylor’s resort Casa Del Mar burned to the ground in 1890 and torrential winter rains washed out the streets, this original Del Mar died. Over the next 15 years, people deconstructed their houses and moved elsewhere. In 1905, the South Coast Land Company bought land from 9th Street in Del Mar to Oceanside, and the present Del Mar was started with the Stratford Inn, now the site of L’Auberge.
What else would you like Del Sol Magazine readers to know?
If your readers have an interest in Del Mar’s varied history, please join us. If they know of old photos or other artifacts, please contact us.
At-A-Glance DMHS President
Name: Larry Brooks
Community: Del Mar
Education: M.S. in civil engineering from University of Illinois; M.S. in physical oceanography from University of Connecticut
Family: Second marriage with five children and 12 grandchildren
Hobbies & Interests: Genealogy, digital photography, travel
At-A-Glance Del Mar Historical Society
Q&A with Solana Beach Civic & Historical Society President,
Can you give us a brief history of the Solana Beach Civic & Historical Society?
The Solana Beach Civic and Historical Society evolved from the well-established Solana Beach Women’s Civic Club, which was formed in 1953. The founding officers included Olive Smith, president; Blanche Kintz, vice president; Thelma Crawford, secretary; and Frances Cornwall, treasurer. The aim of the organization was the beautification of Solana Beach and the solution of problems confronting Solana Beach as a growing town. At that time there was no freeway and Highway 101; through Solana Beach was a corridor of billboards and gas stations. The Women’s Civic Club was instrumental in the removal of these billboards and planting of trees and landscaping this corridor. Among their many accomplishments was the renovation of the central plaza and installation of the “Sunburst Fountain.” In March of 1989, the newly formed Solana Beach City Council asked the Women’s Civic Club to become custodians of the City’s history, and the Civic Club’s certificate of incorporation was modified to create the Solana Beach Civic & Historical Society – with membership now open to gentlemen also!
What is the mission of the SBC&HS?
The mission of the SBC&HS is to promote civic welfare by artistic, historical, and cultural advancement of the community.
What kinds of programs are offered for the community?
The SBC&HS is actively involved in and financially supports programs in education (this includes maintaining a community museum, a “living history” program, and three college scholarships), civic affairs, local history, beautification, and maintaining community gardens. Our monthly general membership meetings cover a wide range of topics from the practical and educational to the purely entertaining. Social events are planned throughout the year. A handicrafts group meets regularly to create items for the society’s annual Holiday Boutique. The SeaWeeders Garden Club meetings are held the first Wednesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. at the Center for Healthy living, located at the Solana Beach Boys & Girls Club.
How does the SBC&HS fund its programs?
The SBC&HS funds its programs through membership dues and donations. Our biggest fundraiser is our Holiday Boutique, which raises the biggest share of our funds. The items on sale at the boutique are handmade and created by our handicrafts group. We also raise money through the sale of historical books about early Solana Beach, written by one of our members. The SeaWeeders have an annual poinsettia sale to raise funds for their beautification projects and events.
Does the SBC&HS have any community events coming up?
Our annual Holiday Boutique will be held Nov. 12 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at La Colonia Park Community Center in Solana Beach, where handmade items suitable for gifts and for holiday decorations are available. The public is invited.
Does the SBC&HS need volunteers?
The SBC&HS always welcomes volunteers and a variety of volunteer positions are open. For example, we are seeking to fill a board position for Historian. Volunteer positions are also available with the Heritage Museum and the SeaWeeders. Interested people can contact Michele Stribling at email@example.com, or simply attend one of our general meetings. Meeting times are available on our website.
What other ways can community members get involved with the SBC&HS?
The first step to getting involved with the SBC&HS is to become a member of our organization and attend our general meetings. Membership forms and meeting times are available on our website as well as the history of our organization and information about the history of Solana Beach. The public may also donate to our nonprofit organization. A few examples of our community projects include:
- Renovation of the Fletcher Cove Community Center
- Highway, roadway, and median beautification
- Local academic scholarships
- Planning/preservation of Coastal Rail Trail Torrey Pines
When and where does the SBC&HS meet?
SBC&HS board meetings are usually held the first Monday of the month from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at La Colonia Park Community Center. General meetings are usually held the second Friday of the month from 5 to 7 p.m. at Fletcher Cove Community Center. For exact dates and times see our newsletter on our website.
Please give us a little bit of the history behind the Solana Beach Heritage Museum.
The Solana Beach Heritage Museum is located at 715 Valley Ave., Solana Beach, in La Colonia Park. Built in 1887, the museum is the first home built in the community. For 100 years, it sat on Pepper Tree Ln., later renamed Del Mar Downs Rd., overlooking the San Dieguito estuary and today’s fairgrounds and race track. Threatened with demolition, it was moved to La Colonia Park, where it is owned by the City of Solana Beach and operated as a museum by the SBC&HS. In a visit to the museum, you will discover the key to sleepy Lockwood Mesa’s transformation into bustling Solana Beach. The museum offers a hands-on journey back in time 100 years. Visitors begin in a 1900 kitchen and a living room, and as they walk through the museum they see the lifestyle changes that came with the arrival of running water and electricity. A timeline photo exhibit traces the history of Solana Beach as it developed from the arrival of Native Americans and the Spanish explorers into the community of today. Other Heritage Projects include:
- The Living History Program for school children
- Historic plaques highlighting early businesses in Solana Beach
- The Legacies Project
- The War Memorial at the Plaza in Solana Beach.
Can you tell us about your 2016 Board of Directors?
The 2016 SBC&HS Board is proud to continue its civic engagement in Solana Beach as an organization that has, without interruption, been part of the life of Solana Beach for 63 years. With the exception of our local Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Solana Beach Chamber of Commerce, the SBC&HS is the oldest community-serving organization in Solana Beach. The current board is committed to continuing to actively contribute to the community by preserving its history and responding to new and developing needs and opportunities. We could not do it without these hardworking civic-minded volunteers.
What do you most enjoy about working with the SBC&HS?
The society brings together people of many interests, experiences, and energies, all of whom are interested in helping to create and sustain a community in which people want to live, work, and raise their families.
What’s a fun fact about Solana Beach’s history?
Many fun facts about Solana Beach’s history can be located on our website. I would like to share one fact not located there. One of our founding members, Wenetta Childs, was an artist and studied at the Art Institute in Chicago. Wenetta was the artist and creator of our iconic “Sunburst Fountain” located in our main plaza in Solana Beach. As told by Wenetta’s daughter Carol Childs, “Wenetta welded that entire sculpture, not including the poles, in our garage.”
What else would you like Del Sol Magazine readers to know?
The SBC&HS: convivial and community-building connectivity – join now!
At-A-Glance SBC&HS President
Name: Michele DeGraw Stribling
Community: Solana Beach
Education: B.S. in sociology; M.S. in counseling
Family: Husband – Frank Stribling; Children – Ian Stribling and Selena Stribling
Hobbies & Interests: Gardening, skiing, biking, jogging, travel, volunteer efforts
At-A-Glance Solana Beach Civic & Historical Society