Del Mar Historical Society hopes to bring Alvarado House back home

Members of the Del Mar Historical Society have been looking for a new home for the Alvarado House, and are now centering their efforts on the city’s planned civic center.

Built in 1885, the Alvarado House was donated to the Del Mar Historical Society in 1985 when the new owner decided to build a bigger home on the lot at the foot of 10th Street, where the 600-square-foot home sat for a century. It was moved to the city hall parking lot for four years, and then relocated to the Del Mar Fairgrounds, where it’s been since 1989.

Today, the house, which was originally sold for $600, largely remains locked up and unused at the fairgrounds, except when it is open to the public during the annual San Diego County Fair.

Members of the Del Mar Historical Society say the historical house deserves to be in a more visible spot and open to the public year round. The structure could serve as a home to the society and store the organization’s collection of Del Mar books, photographs and other historical objects. If located at the planned civic center, where the existing Del Mar TV studio sits, it would also be near the home’s original location.

“It would get it back within one block of where the house was built originally in 1885,” said Larry Brooks, president of the Del Mar Historical Society, which has collected, preserved and displayed the city’s historical facts, artifacts and properties since it was founded in 1985. “We would now have a place open 52 weeks of the year, not three weeks of the year, like it is at the fairgrounds.”

Del Mar Voices

Having the Alvarado House open year-round, would bring to light Del Mar Historical Society’s programs, such as Del Mar Voices, an oral history project the organization’s founder Harold “Swede” Throneson started with an old recorder and cassette tapes.

Today, the project is highlighted by the Southwest Oral History Association as a model community oral history project. In fact, the society will be giving a presentation about the project at the association’s annual meeting in October in Long Beach.

“It’s a pretty outstanding oral history program,” said Del Mar resident Suzi Resnik, past president of the society and current member who leads the project.

Launched in 1995, Del Mar Voices has produced nearly 30 oral histories that are stored in albums in the Del Mar Library and catalogued into the San Diego County Library System. Subjects include former mayors, community leaders and longtime residents.

“We’ve interviewed all kinds of people who stood out in Del Mar’s history over the years,” said Resnik, who moved to Del Mar in 1995.

As technology has evolved, so has the program. The Del Mar Historical Society has since digitized its oral histories.

It has also broadened the program. The society received a grant from the Del Mar Foundation two years ago to record group oral histories of 10 volunteer organizations in Del Mar. The society has since produced oral histories on the Del Mar Foundation, Del Mar Community Connections, Friends of the Del Mar Library, Friends of the Powerhouse, and working on others. The society also recently collaborated with the Del Mar TV Foundation and produced a televised group discussion of its history.

“I always refer to Del Mar Voices as the memory keepers of Del Mar, but we are also a forum for roundtable discussions,” Resnik said.

If the Alvarado House is relocated to the site of the new civic center, Resnik said the centralized location would enable the society to more easily outreach to capture more Del Mar Voices. The Del Mar Historical Society could also outreach to local schools and get students involved.

“We want to make history come alive,” Resnik said. “We love the idea of having a presence in the central part of Del Mar. We’ve been agonizing over only having the Alvarado House open during the fair and having it in a more remote setting than in the heart of Del Mar.”