Del Mar preservationists running out of time to save Dunham House

The Dunham House on 10th Street in Del Mar is more than 130 years old.
(Courtesy of the Del Mar Historical Society)

With an October deadline approaching, preservationists in Del Mar are looking to move the historic Dunham House to a new site.

Plans for new development by the property’s current owners will proceed after the end of this month, and the house won’t be able to remain intact at 119 10th St., around the corner from City Hall and steps away from the beach.

At its Sept. 21 meeting, the Del Mar City Council will consider ways to help the Del Mar Historical Society relocate the house.

Del Mar Deputy Mayor Terry Gaasterland and City Councilwoman Sherryl Parks will prepare an agenda item about the house for that council meeting, but they will not receive any assistance from city staff, who are only working on more essential operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Without staff’s due diligence, the agenda item will likely be limited to asking the city manager to explore the issue further.

“It may be sufficient, it may be insufficient, but we will have done what can be done with the time limitations and the COVID staff limitations to get this as far forward as we can,” Del Mar Deputy Mayor Terry Gaasterland said during the council’s Sept. 8 meeting.

She added that “this is an important historical house.”

The Dunham house was built in the 1880s by Del Mar founder Jacob Taylor, according to the Del Mar Historical Society. The house is named after former owners Ed and Lovey Dunham. For many longtime residents, the Dunham House serves as a vestige of Del Mar’s cozy beachtown roots in a rapidly expanding region.

In 2018, when the property’s previous owners were going through the design review process to redevelop the land, a Historical Technical Resources Report determined that the house had been too heavily modified over the years to qualify for state or local historic designation. But the new owner, Chris Huber, was amenable to contributing to the cost of relocating the existing structure, and the Del Mar Historical Society has been pushing for the city’s help.

“The Del Mar Historical Society is committed to preserving the Dunham House and finding it a permanent home for future generations to enjoy,” Larry Brooks, president of the Del Mar Historical Society wrote in a letter to the City Council ahead of its Sept. 8 meeting.

To cover the expenses of moving the house, the historical society has been holding a fundraising campaign on its website. The group says it doesn’t need city funds, which wouldn’t be available to them anyway because of how the pandemic has decimated the city budget.

Two possible new locations Brooks suggested in his letter are the southwest corner of the City Hall property on 10th Street or the southwest corner of The Winston School’s front parking lot.

Del Mar City Manager C.J. Johnson said via email that the city’s role in the process depends on whether the house’s new location is private property or city property.

“Issues of concern for the City Council in either case would include: who would be responsible for all costs associated with the relocation, (and) potential impacts to the City’s existing tenant at Shores Park,” she said, referring to another relocation option that was mentioned during a May council meeting.

Johnson added that some of the other concerns include “which public site is best suited for such a building,” “how the relocated home would be utilized on the site” and figuring out who would be responsible for future maintenance of the house.