By Tom Marshall
In March 1973, Fred and Lois Divel and a group of like-minded residents formed the San Clemente Historical Society, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the city’s unique cultural heritage.
Many local citizens were outraged at rampant bulldozing of our iconic structures including the Bartow Mansion, which was torn down without a permit. We successfully lobbied for an ordinance that prevents historic structures from being demolished.
Next month, on March 19 from 4-7 p.m., we will celebrate our Golden Anniversary with a party at Casa Romantica. The public is invited to a chicken dinner like what Ole Hanson organized to entice the public to buy homesteads in his new Spanish Village by the Sea.
Tickets sold out in two weeks. The event will feature a historic film of Ole selling homes from a tent and the building of the first structures here.
“Ole” will also make a live appearance. In addition to dinner, there will be a cash bar, live music, a photo exhibition, a 1920s costume contest, artifacts from our archives and items for a time capsule to be opened in 2073.
Over these first 50 years, the Historical Society can show hundreds of accomplishments in preserving our unique style and culture. We have saved thousands of documents and artifacts dated as far back as the 1920s.
One of our first accomplishments was publishing Fishcarts to Fiestas in conjunction with the Junior Woman’s Club. This history of San Clemente was provided to local elementary schools for teaching local history.
In addition, a college scholarship program was established for local high school students. We have also published or contributed to several other books on San Clemente history and established an oral history video project.
Here are but a few of our other accomplishments:
Over the decades, we’ve opened local history museums in several locations around town. We spearheaded the drive preventing the city’s plan to turn Casa Romantica (Ole’s home) into a restaurant, and the tearing down of Casino San Clemente and the Miramar Theater.
The tiles at the rest benches along Avenida Del Mar are a beautification project of the Historical Society. We worked to establish a two-story limit downtown and recreated the original weathervane atop the Ole Hanson Beach Club.
Most recently, we established the North Beach National Historic District.
As to our future goals, Historical Society President Larry Culbertson ticks off a list including:
- Reopen our local history museum downtown
- Designate Avenida Del Mar and the Pier Bowl as National Historic Districts
- Secure National Register Listings for Casa Pacifica and The San Onofre Inn
- Include some Mid-Century Modern architecture buildings to our preservation list
- Provide historic markers for all Ole Hanson buildings and offer more assistance to their owners’ rehabilitation efforts.
Most of all, we’d love to have you join our crusade as a member of the San Clemente Historical Society. See our website for details.
Archive Picture Update: A couple weeks ago, we asked if readers could identify a man pictured holding a large yellowtail fish while standing in front of a police car. Reader Michael Harrison identified him as diving legend Burt Hancock, a local volunteer firefighter.
Tom Marshall is a member of the San Clemente Historical Society and a retired journalist.