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By Amy Behrens
What began as the home of city founder Ole Hanson and his family is now a home for everyone in our community to enjoy friendship, culture, and beauty. Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens is alive each day with people of all ages who visit our treasure, and we are grateful for this new quarterly column to share its story.
For those who may not be familiar, Casa Romantica was built in 1927-1928 as the “California dream home” of Ole Hanson, who developed the city of San Clemente with a syndicate of financiers, including H.H. Cotton. Casa Romantica has been loved by many families over the years.
The final private owners, George and Louise Welsh, sold the property to the City of San Clemente Redevelopment Agency in 1989, and the San Clemente Historical Society was successful in having it added to the National Registry of Historic Places.
In 1999, with support from numerous local preservation groups and a $1 million gift from an anonymous donor, work began to renovate Casa Romantica and open it to the public as a 501(c)3 nonprofit cultural center, historic landmark, and public garden destination.
More than 20 years later, Casa Romantica’s mission is still firmly rooted in the belief that people of all ages and backgrounds deserve to enjoy high-quality programs in visual and performing arts, as well as educational opportunities, and that preserving the history of the home and the city of San Clemente is a cultural imperative.
Today, you can visit Casa Romantica just about any day of the week and see it alive with activities. During the week, the home and gardens are open to the public, with permanent historic exhibits, rotating art exhibitions from historic collections and contemporary artists, and tours (self-guided or docent-led).
Students from public and private schools flock here each spring for field trips. The Casa’s popular concert series (encompassing numerous genres such as classical, jazz, blues, world, and indie), film series, and wellness-focused arts education classes keep the home and gardens active during weeknights.
On weekends, visitors driving in from all over Southern California spend a relaxing couple of hours exploring the property and enjoying Casa Romantica’s free community programs and performances, which are all open to the public and are especially well-suited for families with young and school-aged children.
During evening hours on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, the property is home to private events. Almost everyone in San Clemente has been to a wedding at Casa Romantica, or knows someone who has. It certainly lives up to its name.
Even if you’ve never been inside Casa Romantica, you have likely driven past the entrance on Avenida Granada on your way to the Pier Bowl, or looked up from the pier and wondered about the beautiful Spanish Colonial-style estate on the bluff.
To think, you were just one visit away from enjoying iconic architecture, expansive gardens and filling your event calendar.
Home is where the Casa is, and we hope you will invite this gem of living history into your heart.
Amy Behrens, the executive director of Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens, has been on staff since 2016. She lives in South Orange County with her husband and their two children.