Project marks city's historic buildings
The Solana Beach Civic and Historical Society is in the process of installing plaques on commercial buildings constructed between 1923 and 1952 to highlight their significance as some of the city's earliest structures.
More than 20 buildings in the downtown area and La Colonia de Eden Gardens will have the plaques, which explain the original owner and use of the structure and the year it was built.
"You can walk down Cedros or Highway 101 or the Plaza or Valley and, through the plaques, visualize how things looked anywhere from 60 to 90 years ago," said Jim Nelson, the historical society member spearheading the project.
The first plaque was recently affixed to one of the oldest homes in the city, built on South Cedros Avenue in 1923 for the caretaker of the Union Oil Co., which used to be nearby. For the last 12 years, it has been home to Deborah Beard's shop Out of the Blue.
"My business would not be the same in a strip mall or newer building," said Beard, who sells vintage, handmade and recycled home decorations. "Being surrounded by the history and the charm is a blessing."
Beard said she was happy to bring attention to the historical nature of the building, which has escaped the wrecking ball numerous times. Owner Charles Mirandon has turned down lucrative offers to redevelop the site because he strongly believes the piece of Solana Beach's past should remain, she said.
However, the Solana Beach plaque program is simply educational and has no legal bearing on building's future, Nelson said. Unlike other city's programs in which plaques come with legal historic designations, this program does not restrict remodeling or demolition.
"We're trying to interest the citizens of Solana Beach in the history of the town," Nelson said.
Nelson was inspired to establish the plaque program after the old Mormon church on North Granados was razed and he realized the society did not have an inventory of historic structures.
Nelson, along with longtime resident Jim King and historian Richard Moore, were able to identify original owners, uses and construction dates for more than 20 buildings now occupied by businesses.
Plaques, which are funded by a grant the society received, are only installed if they have documentation to prove their information is accurate, Nelson said.
The tile plaques were designed and fabricated by local artist and Public Arts Advisory Commissioner Kathryn Schmiedeberg.
"I wanted to design a classic style that would work well with all the different architectural styles of the buildings," Schmiedeberg said.
Along with the informational writing, the sand colored plaque also features the historical society logo and a kelp drawing in the background reminiscent of the tiles in Fletcher Cove Park. The tiles are mounted in a wrought iron base made by Baker Iron Works.
Historical society member Richard Moore said he was pleased to see the plaques go up around town.
"It gives people a sense of community and longevity," Moore said.