Friends of the Solana Beach Library to present the story of a Del Mar icon


In its second “virtual” Friends Night Out program, the Friends of the Solana Beach Library will present Walking the Wall: Life Behind Del Mar’s “Snakewall” with author Brier Miller Minor. The public is invited to attend the illustrated talk online on Tuesday, March 23 at 6:30 p.m., when Minor will address the history and lore of the iconic La Atalaya walled estate.

Book cover
The cover of Walking the Wall: Life Behind Del Mar’s “Snakewall”

“The ‘Snakewall Property’ is one of the two features people ask us about the most,” says Del Mar Historical Society President Larry Brooks. People wonder about the 22-acre walled estate that extends from the northern end of the Del Mar ridge eastward into the San Dieguito River Valley. Was the high concrete wall really built to keep snakes out, or for something else entirely? Who built it, why and when?

Minor grew up in Southern California and spent the idyllic Augusts of her childhood in the 1950s and ’60s inside, outside and on top of the wall that surrounds La Atalaya, the estate built in the 1920s and ’30s by her grandfather, Coy Burnett — Nebraska farm boy turned west-coast corporate lawyer turned L. A. cement mogul.

Author Brier Miller Minor
Author Brier Miller Minor

In doing research for her book, Walking the Wall: Life Behind Del Mar’s Snakewall, published in February of this year, Minor learned some fascinating Southern California history, including how the Los Angeles Aqueduct and Hoover Dam were built, how the Southern California style of architecture evolved, what Catalina Island was like in the 1930s, and how, for a single day in 1966, the little seaside village of Del Mar officially became Clarksville, of the Monkees “Last Train to Clarksville.”

She learned about the lifestyle of her well-to-do grandparents and their staff as La Atalaya persevered through the Great Depression, a devastating fire and World War II. And she delved into what happened to the family, and the property, when that lifestyle could no longer be sustained.

Minor will also share what she’s learned about how to research family history, with tips about helpful online resources for filling in the gaps. With a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, she has practiced and taught family therapy for nearly 40 years. “Writing my family’s story was a rewarding journey of remembering and discovery,” she says, “and a source of insight into how our early life shapes our patterns of communication and attachment.”

Information about how to attend the March 23 Zoom presentation (and about downloading the free Zoom software for those who don’t already have it), can be found on an Events page at the Friends website:

Also on the website is a link to the video replay of the first online Friends Night Out, the lively “Coral Reef Curiosities” with Chuck Weikert, held on Dec. 10, 2020: