Del Mar Heritage Center: A home for Del Mar’s history

The Del Mar Historical Society has long wanted to bring the Alvarado House back home, and with the city’s planned civic center inching closer, members are centering their efforts on the site.

Built in 1885, the Alvarado House is currently located at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, where it’s been since 1989. But Del Mar Historical Society members say the historical house deserves to be in a more visible spot and open to the public year round. If relocated to the planned civic center, where the existing Del Mar TV studio sits, it would not only be more accessible, it would be near the home’s original location on 10th Street.

Also known as the Del Mar Heritage Center at the Alvarado House, the structure would serve a variety of purposes, according to members of the Del Mar Historical Society. As seen in part one of this series, having the Alvarado House open throughout the year would shed light on the society’s programs, such as Del Mar Voices, a decades-long oral history project.

“Our goal really is to have it be a multifunctional place for the community,” said Susanne Stevenson, a Del Mar native who now lives near Fairbanks Ranch. “We just want it to have as many uses as we could possibly think of.”

With the Alvarado House at the city’s center, it could also serve as a museum.

The Del Mar Historical Society has proposed presenting rotating exhibits of historical artifacts and images at the Del Mar Heritage Center, illustrating the city’s rich and varied history. Today, some of these items are stored at the Del Mar Community Building, with others in members’ homes. Stevenson, for example, is storing an old sign from Kirby’s Café, where Sbicca now sits.

“We have lots of odds and ends,” said Stevenson, a longtime member of the Del Mar Historical Society and current board member.

The displays would be changed quarterly, if not more frequently, Stevenson said.

Currently, the Alvarado House display focuses on the Del Mar Racetrack and old Hollywood stars. It is only open during the annual San Diego County Fair.

“That’s the primary focus and it’s wonderful, because people are at the fair and that’s the sort of thing that they’re thinking about,” Stevenson said. “But when we bring it back, we’ll do revolving displays. We have a wonderful, wonderful collection of historical photographs.”

The two larger rooms in the house would be dedicated to the display of Del Mar history, while the three remaining smaller rooms could be for additional displays or could be furnished with period items to illustrate life in early Del Mar. Exhibits would be open with a docent during all civic center events, such as the Del Mar Farmers Market, and by appointment any time.

The society would cover all costs associated with curating exhibits through grants and fundraising.

“All cities have wonderful backstories, even if they’re small like Del Mar,” Stevenson said. “History defines who we are.”