Search for new La Jolla Historical Society director is on; website revised, preserve the post office committee formed


By Pat Sherman and Dave Schwab

With La Jolla Historical Society’s executive director John Bolthouse leaving to head another nonprofit, a search is on to replace him.

Additionally, the Society has formed a committee to save La Jolla’s Wall Street Post Office and has revamped its website.

Bolthouse will assume the position of executive director of the Water Conservation Garden at Cuyamaca College on Feb. 20.

“It’s just a tremendous chance for professional growth,” Bolthouse said of the transition. “It’s a wonderful place and there’s an opportunity to make a difference there.”

Historical Society board member Doug Dawson is heading up a 5-member committee searching for Bolthouse’s replacement. Carlos Gonzalez, office manager, will act as interim executive director.

“We’ve started putting the word out to the (local) nonprofit community,” said contractor Tom Grunow, a member of the director search committee which also includes Christina Freundt and Suzi Bustamante. “We’re hoping to see if there are any people who will come forward that we might consider, someone who has experience with nonprofits.”

Bolthouse joined the Society in August 2006 and during his five-plus years worked with the board of directors to build the small community organization with modest means, programs and facilities into one of La Jolla’s most vibrant nonprofit organizations.

The Society now boasts a broader community profile; larger professional staff; a public exhibition and gallery docent program; emerging youth-oriented programs; increased partnerships with La Jolla’s business community; and an expanded array of events including the annual La Jolla Concours d’Elegance, walking tours and publications, including its popular newsletter, Timekeeper.

The Society also completed renovation of its new collections storage facility as well as expanding its donor base, nearly doubling its operating budget with exponential growth in financial assets, plus acquiring a more diverse, philanthropic-minded 15-member board of directors.

Most significantly during Bolthouse’s tenure was the 2008 donation of historic Wisteria Cottage to the Society by La Jolla’s Revelle family, a turning point in the organization’s history.

Grunow said Bolthouse’s replacement will be someone who can pick up where he left off.

“We’re looking for a fresher vision of where the Historical Society should go with all of this growth going on now that we’ve reached this plateau,” he said adding the recent tear down of Windemere cottage and news that the Wall Street Post Office is being moved underscore the escalating need for historical preservation.

The Society is also nearing completion of a $2 million fundraising campaign to complete build-out of Wisteria Cottage and the rest of its campus.

“We’re in the high $1.8 million range and we’re wrapping up the campaign, waiting to see if the last of the donors out there can help us close that gap,” said Grunow.

After Windemere Cottage’s unexpected demolition on Christmas Eve, Grunow said the Society is working with Save our Heritage Organisation (SOHO) to make the city aware that “their process for issuing demolition permits needs to be significantly improved.”

With public interest growing in trying to save the post office and its historic Depression-era mural, Grunow said the Society has responded by forming a committee intending to resubmit an application for the post office’s historic designation.

“That will happen immediately with this committee being co-chaired by Ann Craig and Janet Evans with information and input from the community,” he said. “There will also be some public meetings to collect ideas.”

The Society has also updated its website at with an easier-to-use design providing search tools for key words and easy access to the Society’s Twitter, YouTube and Facebook accounts.