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By Tom Marshall
The San Clemente Historical Society has a long record of successfully leading the preservation of our cultural history including several major structures of significance. Saving and restoring historic structures such as Casa Romantica, The Casino, Ole Hanson Beach Club and now the Miramar project is gratifying.
However, saving the buildings is not enough. It is also incumbent upon us all to actively support those businesses and organizations that appropriately operate those facilities. Why keep the buildings if we can’t use them?
Many hurdles must be cleared by those who wish to operate in a historic structure including financing, massive paperwork, legal issues and approvals from several government agencies. For example, the community wanted the Casino to be used as it was originally designed as an event center. When artists Linda Sadeghi and her husband bought the Casino nine years ago, the private event business was new to them, but out of love and respect for the property, the Sadeghi’s learned and persevered.
“It has been a true joy to not only own this architectural beauty, but to build the business within. Happy to report…the business is stabilized and flourishing,” Sadeghi said.
Last year, Sadeghi was able to indulge her passion for jazz by offering low-cost jazz performances every other Thursday evening, thus showcasing the music from the Casino’s heyday.
“We don’t look for profits there, but I love reviving the history of live music seaside,” Sadeghi said.
The preservation of Casa Romantica became a community-wide obsession in the early 1970s. Propelled by a $1.25 million anonymous contribution, the aging property was brought back to life as a community cultural center. Still owned by the city, but operated by a nonprofit board of directors and staff, the Casa has fulfilled its mission and then some.
“Fortunately, the community was supportive and that support has continued to grow as our exhibitions and programs have increased in ways we could hardly imagine at the beginning,” said Ruth DeNault, the Casa board president.
The Ole Hanson Beach Club has just undergone a near $6 million rehabilitation by the city. Due to the age of the building, its proximity to the ocean and the decades of continual use, the project involved much more work than originally planned. But it is now open in all its previous splendor, and patrons are returning at an encouraging pace for swimming and private events.
The Miramar project, however, is still in its relative infancy. The former 1930s-era movie theater and bowling alley is planned to become an event center and variety of restaurants. Though city and Coastal Commission approvals have finally been obtained, much work remains.
Former San Clemente mayor Wayne Eggleston has been involved with the building’s owners in the project and reports no restoration will begin until leases have been signed to operate the facilities. Structurally sound, the building needs considerable rehabilitation.
No leases are in the works yet, as far as we know, but Eggleston promises, “progress is underway, and this community will once again take pride in knowing that demolition was not an option.”
The facilities mentioned in this column are unique to this area, and we at the Historical Society urge everyone to support their continued operations.
Tom Marshall is a member of the board of directors of the San Clemente Historical Society and a retired journalist.