‘Patricia A. Schaelchlin Day’ celebration to honor late La Jolla historian, archivist and author

The late Patricia Schaelchlin will be honored Friday, July 7, in La Jolla.
(La Jolla Historical Society)

The free event will be Friday, July 7, at the La Jolla/Riford Library, where Schaelchlin’s collection of books and research materials provides much of the material for the History Room.


Historical researcher Patricia Schaelchlin loved San Diego, La Jolla and La Jolla’s library. “She had a lasting vision,” according to local youth services librarian Katia Graham.

To honor Schaelchlin’s contributions to La Jolla and beyond, Graham plans, in collaboration with the La Jolla/Riford Library and its nonprofit, Friends of La Jolla Library, a “Patricia A. Schaelchlin Day” ceremony at 11 a.m. Friday, July 7, at the library, 7555 Draper Ave.

The free event will include remarks by San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava, San Diego Public Library Director Misty Jones and La Jolla Library staff members and volunteers, plus refreshments.

Members of Schaelchlin’s family also will attend from near and far to celebrate what would have been her 99th birthday.

Schaelchlin was born in Flint, Mich., and moved to La Jolla in the 1940s as a teenager. She later returned as an adult with her husband, Bob, and became active in historical research and preservation.

“She will be most remembered for her efforts in preservation,” said La Jolla Historical Society historian Carol Olten. “Her true love was preservation and she loved the research.”

Patricia Schaelchlin worked in the 1970s to create Heritage Place to save historical houses about to be demolished.
(La Jolla Historical Society)

Schaelchlin began working for the Save Our Heritage Organisation and held positions with San Diego County and more.

She worked at the La Jolla Historical Society in the 1980s, directing the organization and conducting research, Olten said.

In 1988, after 11 years of research, Schaelchlin published “La Jolla: The Story of a Community, 1887-1987,” “the first serious history book of La Jolla,” Olten said.

Patricia Schaelchlin published “La Jolla: The Story of a Community, 1887-1987” in 1988.
(La Jolla Historical Society)

Schaelchlin wrote the book for La Jolla’s centennial, along with a trivia column in the La Jolla Light leading up to the celebration of the community’s first 100 years on April 30, 1987.

In addition to cataloging much of La Jolla’s history, Schaelchlin was the “backbone behind the creation of Heritage Place,” Olten said.

Schaelchlin and her husband, Bob, founded the group of historical houses on La Jolla Boulevard in the 1970s as a place to move houses at risk of demolition.

Schaelchlin also wrote “The Little Clubhouse on Steamship Wharf” (a history of the San Diego Rowing Club) and “The Newspaper Barons: A Biography of the Scripps Family.”

Before Schaelchlin died in 2006, she left her enormous collection of books and research materials to the La Jolla/Riford Library. It provides much of the material for the library’s History Room.

Schaelchlin was very involved in the library, serving on the Friends board for some time, according to the group’s president, Sarah Feeney.

“Pat was my introduction to the La Jolla Library,” Graham said. She learned about the historian when she began volunteering at the library a few years before becoming its youth librarian.

The History Room wouldn’t exist without Schaelchlin, Graham said.

“She cared about preserving all of that history and bringing it together in one place for the benefit of the community, to bring the community closer together and closer to itself,” Graham said.

“Pat would be so proud that there’s new generations of people who are enjoying this space that she really cared about and had a vision for.”

The wealth of materials at the library — from cookbooks and yearbooks to newspaper clippings and archived issues — “tells everybody who lives in La Jolla that their life matters,” Graham said. “It shows that people who live here are appreciated; it doesn’t matter who you are.”

The History Room — usually open only via appointments made at — offers the opportunity to look through old photographs, books and “all of the amazing things that [Schaelchlin] put together there,” Graham said.

The History Room will be open all day July 7 during the library’s operating hours, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“We’re going to make sure every July 7 that it’s staffed so the public can enjoy it in her honor,” Graham said. ◆