Historical Society’s summer open house will be educational


On the eve of a new era, La Jolla Historical Society will host its annual, free summer open house Saturday, Aug. 18 from noon to 4 p.m. in the group’s new home, Wisteria Cottage at 980 Prospect St.

Special exhibits, pre-renovation tours of the historic Wisteria Cottage, refreshments and a membership drive are just a few of the activities that will be featured. A classical guitarist will perform.

While the Society’s annual open house is always fun, John Bolthouse, the group’s executive director, noted it comes at a watershed time in 2007.

“This year is particularly special as it will give the community one last chance to see historic Wisteria Cottage before restoration and renovation work is slated to begin in the coming months,” said Bolthouse. “Not many people get to see the before-and-after of Wisteria Cottage so we want as many La Jollans to come see what’s planned for this great icon of the community.”

The La Jolla Historical Society plans to begin extensive renovations to the beloved former John Cole’s Bookstore, and The Balmer School that expanded into the La Jolla Country Day. The renovations will result in new exhibit galleries, a gift shop and a modernized facility to house its extensive facilities.

Thanks to the Wisteria Cottage’s owners, the family of Roger Revelle, who played a key role in creating UCSD, a 10-year lease was signed in 2005 by the La Jolla Historical Society to take over the former John Cole’s Book Shop. The entire block on which Wisteria Cottage sits was Ellen Browning Scripps’ estate.

At the Aug. 18 open house, the Society’s exhibit at Wisteria will showcase the work of Max Miller, an author who lived in and wrote extensively about the Jewel before his death in 1968. “He was living in La Jolla when he wrote his bestseller, ‘I cover the Waterfont,’ ” said Carol Olten, the Society’s archivist. “He wrote a series of fictionalized essays on the town, some very funny pieces.”

Olten said local residents and visitors alike make ample use of historical materials, which will continue to be housed in the Society’s existing historical building. “People come in to research old houses in La Jolla,” Olten said, “and visitors want to know something about the early history of the town. One of the most popular questions is, ‘What’s going on with the seals at Children’s Pool?’ They’re also curious about the Red Roost and the Red Rest, two (historic) cottages in a dilapidated state.”

Bolthouse said the Society is presently in the “quiet phase” of a long-term fund-raising drive to generate the revenue necessary to restore Wisteria Cottage. But that will change soon, likely beginning this fall, when the Society expects to go high-profile with its new capital campaign dubbed “Partners For History.”

Ann Zahner, co-chair of the Society’s capital campaign, noted it’s an ambitious endeavor. “It’s a huge undertaking,” said Zahner. “We’re planning to change the three vintage buildings on the property.”

The biggest fund-raiser of the year for the Society is the organization’s annual Secret Garden Tour of Old La Jolla held each May. In 2006, the event was the group’s most successful ever. “We cleared $50,000,” said Zahner, “far better than we have ever done.”

Future plans by the historical society include another lecture series to be held in spring 2008. The annual Ellen Browning Scripps luncheon will be held Oct. 6 this year, once again at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club. “It’s an important event on a number of levels, said Society archivist Olten. “It’s the birthday party for Ellen Browning Scripps, who died in her 90s,” she said. “It was always a time for the community to gather at the old Scripps house, where they brought her flowers and a birthday cake. This kind of commemorates that a little bit.”

Additionally, Bolthouse said the Society will host a golf tournament sometime in November, and will also hold another open house in conjunction with the community’s annual Christmas parade in early December.

La Jolla Historical Society is offering a number of donation packages with incentives for membership which include family plans, historic photographs, an annual newsletter subscription, free archives research assistance, free historic La Jolla Walking Tour guidebooks and more. Donations are being sought in categories from $25 for students/military up to $5,000 to join the group’s elite director’s circle.

La Jolla’s connection to its rich heritage, the La Jolla Historical Society’s offices and archives are located at 7846 Eads Ave. Offices are open to the public Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information call (858) 459-5335 or visit