Exhibit spotlights auto’s role in La Jolla history

Automobiles are not only symbols in their communities, but a reflection of their communities.

And nowhere is that message more abundantly clear than in “All Roads Lead to La Jolla: A Journey Through Our Automotive Past,” La Jolla Historical Society’s latest temporary exhibition running Dec. 3 through Feb. 20 at Wisteria Cottage, 7846 Eads Ave.

The exhibit coincides with, and leads up to, the sixth annual La Jolla Motor Car Classic being presented by the historical society from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 10 at La Jolla Cove. For the first time, the event will also include a touring rally for participants on Jan. 9.

“We’ve been talking about doing something like this for a couple of years,” society Executive Director John Bolthouse said. “And now that the Classic’s coming along and we’re assuming hosting duties, we thought, why not use the exhibit to promote the event and vice versa?”

Michael Mishler, the society’s archivist and curator, talked about the auto exhibit’s genesis.

“We started thinking how cars have changed cities and people,” he said, adding that the auto exhibit has three segments.

“The first is how cars have changed the landscape: Because of cars, we have paved roads,” he said. “In the second, we show that as cars became more common, society changed to accommodate them with more gas stations, mechanics and car dealers. Finally, we show how cars changed houses, with families starting to build homes with detached garages.”

Auto-related statistics show just how much a catalyst the automobile was in changing economics in the Jewel, and how the demographics have changed over time. In 1959, La Jolla had 16 service stations and seven car dealers, Mishler noted. But as property values increased and shopping habits changed, Ford, Chevy, Chrysler and other dealers moved out.

“We now have three luxury car dealers and only three gas stations remaining,” he said.

Despite changing times, the automobile is still an important part of our self-image, Mishler said.

“Cars have been an important part of your life, a symbol of who you were,” he said. “Nobody ever takes a picture next to their new sofa. But everybody has a picture next to their brand-new car.”

Society historian Carol Olten participated in creating the society’s auto exhibit.

Admission to the auto exhibit is free, though donations are appreciated. The exhibit will be open from noon to 4 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays.

La Jolla Historical Society’s offices and archives at 7846 Eads Ave. in La Jolla are open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call (858) 459—5335 or visit

Information on the Jan. 10 event is at