La Jolla Historical Society turns exhibit into a book


The 10 La Jolla subdivisions developed in the 1920s — Barber Tract, Prospect Park, El Pueblo Ribera, Lower Hermosa, La Jolla Shores, Country Club Estates, Upper Hermosa, Ludington Heights, The Muirlands and La Jolla Hills — were showcased in summer 2016 at the La Jolla Historical Society (LJHS) exhibit “From Jazz Age to Our Age: Landmark Homes in La Jolla.”

Now, LJHS has taken their story one step further by turning the exhibit catalog into a book titled, “Jazz Age to Our Age: Architects and Developers of 1920s La Jolla,” available starting April 15 at Wisteria Cottage, 7846 Eads Ave., and at Warwick’s bookstore, 7812 Girard Ave., for $25 to LJHS members and $30 to non-members.

Author Seonaid McArthur told La Jolla Light that the book is comprised of exhibit visuals. The idea came about when La Jollan Ann Zahner visited the exhibit and said it would be a shame if there wasn’t a catalog derived from it. “She came forward and offered to fund it,” McArthur explained. Zahner is listed in the book as one of the many donors whose contributions made it possible.

“Jazz Age to Our Age” chronicles the architects, lifestyle, geography, transportation and culture that shaped the outskirts of The Village in the 1920s. “By 1920, the resources, the funding and the money were available and the people were poised in developing all the land surrounding The Village of La Jolla. The Panama Canal had opened, so there was more investment coming into California, and the 1915 Panama-California Exposition celebrated that,” she said.

Another factor in the development of historical La Jolla homes was the architects. Many had arrived in San Diego for the Panama-California Exposition, and were readily available to build custom homes near La Jolla beaches or on top of Soledad Mountain, the book reports.

McArthur explained that when putting the exhibit together they originally wanted to pay tribute to La Jolla historical buildings “and we found that the ‘20s were such an important time period that we should take that time and make the whole exhibition about it.”

LJHS, publisher of “Jazz Age to Out Age,” has ordered 500 copies so far. Director Heath Fox told the Light they used professional designers and printers in the process.

When asked what LJHS wanted to accomplish with the book, Fox said, “To document and promote public awareness of the property owners, the architects, the architectural styles and the neighborhoods that grew up around these 1920s homes, which we still know today.”

One of the most remarkable things about the period, according to McArthur, is the variety of styles that manifest in La Jolla’s constructions. “The architects were so inventive — from the Pueblo Ribera Native American look to Spanish and Tudor Revival and from California Craftsman to Modernism — the whole spread is really spectacular.”

For her, the best thing about the book (and the exhibit) was the willingness of many families to volunteer their historical materials. “It was really fabulous that the people who own these homes are so proud and wanted to share their information. What I enjoyed was their enthusiasm to bring material forward. To me, that was the exciting part of the project!”

But, McArthur added, what surprised her was the need for historical research in La Jolla. “The cataloging of La Jolla’s history has a long way to go. There needs to be a lot more work done in interviewing architects who are alive and helped build the town. There needs to be a lot more work done in gathering historical material, and it’s thanks to this exhibition process that these things are brought forward.”

She highlighted the importance of families coming forward to help historians figure out the past of La Jolla. “Often times, we don’t have the identities of the people in photographs, and it takes their families to come forward,” she said, encouraging private collection owners to donate to the LJHS.

La Jolla Historical Society can be reached at (858) 459-5335 or 7846 Eads Ave.