Historical Society goes public with fundraising effort

By Kathy Day

Staff Writer

Keep your ears open La Jollans: The Historical Society has ended the “quiet” phase of its capital campaign and is putting the word out to raise the $720,000 it still needs to renovate the historic buildings and property at Eads and Prospect Streets.

With only about a third of the $2 million left to raise, capital campaign co-chairs Melesse Traylor and Ann Zahner — who have been involved since the effort started in 2008 — said Friday it’s time to move to the next phase, even if the economy is still a bit challenged.

“Ann and I aren’t stopping,” Traylor said. “We’re going to get there.”

They’ve planned a campaign that will “take the Historical Society into the neighborhoods” as well as an appeal through the mail, a speakers’ bureau and more special events, they added.

Once the money is raised, the society can finish the third and fourth phases on the site, which includes the 1904 Wisteria Cottage, the Ellen Browning Scripps 1895 carriage house, the 1909 beach cottage that houses the society’s offices and the historic grounds.

In 2008 before her death, Ellen Revelle and her family deeded the property, which had been in the family for more than a century, to the society because they saw what was being achieved, Zahner noted.

The first work included making interim improvements in the cottage and the Balmer Annex so the space could be used right away. The changes — which Executive Director John Bolthouse called “generally cosmetic” — ranged from repairing the wood floors and rebuilding the pergola at the entrance to upgrading the Carriage House so it had humidity and temperature controls to make it suitable to store the society’s archives.

Acknowledging that they’re not as far along with the fundraising as they wanted to be two years after beginning their campaign, the women and Bolthouse all said that it’s important to move forward.

“We need to use the cottage to do programs and for third-party rentals to help us make up the operating deficit,” Traylor said.

They’ve held successful fundraising events, from the Secret Garden Tour to the Feasting on History event coming up this month, and members have been generous as have local business people who have donated services and materials.

But, they said, they’d like to have a few large gifts to help match a $500,000 challenge they received late in 2008.

“We cannot do it on our own. We’ll take $5 or $500,000,” Bolthouse said. “We’d love nothing more than having everyone involved.”

Zahner stressed the desire to expand the society’s ability to serve as an educational resource to the community, and Bolthouse added that they key is that the society wants to give back to the community by protecting its assets.

“We want La Jollans to know history is fun and relevant,” he said. “We want to protect the community’s history and its architecture and have the community invested in us. “

Coming improvements

  • Complete Wisteria Cottage — upgrade wiring throughout and lighting in the gallery; add elevator for disabled access and to facilitate movement of materials, caterers’ food and supplies; restore façade.
  • Transform cottage basement to include a food preparation area.
  • Modernize Balmer Annex with audiovisual equipment and add hardscape to expand capacity.
  • Upgrade landscaping, including grading, fences and sidewalk repairs.
  • Upgrade 1909 cottage to provide venue for researchers and improved space for staff and volunteers.