Historical Society campaign revs up


$2 million drive to restore Wisteria Cottage out in the open

La Jolla Historical Society is no longer keeping quiet about its capital fund-raising campaign to raise $2 million over the next two years to transform historic Wisteria Cottage into a community museum.

They want everybody to know about it - and have the opportunity to contribute.

The nonprofit group has kicked its campaign into high gear now that Ellen Clark Revelle, widow of UCSD founder Roger Revelle and her daughter, Mary Revelle Paci, have donated the landmark historic cottage and its verdant grounds to the society.

In 2005, the Society had signed a 10-year lease on the property with the Revelles.

“Having this (ownership) resolved has just changed the tone of the conversation,” said John Bolthouse III, the Society’s executive director. “People who’d been reticent about donating … now those checks are coming in.”

The Revelle’s donation has been a windfall for the society, he said.

“It’s the equivalent of getting an inheritance you were not expecting,” said Bolthouse, “and then being able to share it with your family.”

Where history lives

Bolthouse said a rehabilitated Wisteria Cottage would make an appropriate repository for the community of La Jolla’s historical heritage as well as a community gathering spot.

“This is the home where the stories of this community’s history, that have so long been forgotten or neglected, should live,” he said. “A strong, central organization that cares for that history, this is where it should live. It’s beyond our wildest dreams.”

Not having title to the cottage had been an impediment to getting donations.

“People were saying, ‘A 10-year lease doesn’t seem long. What are you going to do about that?’ ” said Melesse Traylor, co-chair of the society’s Capital Campaign Committee.

During the “quiet phase” of the society’s fund-raising campaign, which began in January 2007, the group held a number of private parties with supportive La Jollans to begin “prospecting” for donations.

Bolthouse noted that effort soon became a two-way dialogue.

Evolving vision

“The community has helped us strengthen the capital campaign and caused our vision to evolve as well,” he said. “I think it’s much stronger than when we first started out.”

The society is about a third of the way toward its $2 million goal. It has established a program titled “Partners For History” offering recognition opportunities and benefits to donors.

Ann Zahner, who is co-chair of the committee, talked about how donations will ultimately be spent.

“Five hundred thousand (dollars) is earmarked for programs,” she said, “The other $1.5 million will be for the grounds and the building.”

During the behind-the-scenes efforts, the committee heard a number of good ideas for programs that people would like to see, Zahner and Traylor said.


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