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Museum documenting the history of homes on Balboa Island

The love letters started appearing after Valentine's Day, taped to the windows of a small cottage on the main drag on Balboa Island.

In one note, a woman tells of meeting her future husband after her car broke down on the Balboa Island Ferry and had to be pushed off the boat and onto a neighborhood street.

"Just then, I was flagged down by a cute boy on his balcony offering to give me some assistance," Summer Brees wrote.

Within a couple of years, the two were married, and 28 years later they've raised a family on the island.

Although it all may seem small-town cute on an island where residents tend to move in and never leave, the love letters solicited by the Balboa Island Museum and Historical Society are part of a much grander undertaking: recording the history of every house, cottage and bungalow on the island — about 1,440 homes in all.

The love letter about the chance meeting of Summer and Dennis Brees will be preserved along with the other notes that were pasted on the museum's windows over the weekend.

But that's just a starting point, said Sharon Lambert, a museum board member and docent.

As part of the museum's goal to record the history of each residence on Balboa Island, where the first developments sprang up in 1906, curator Tina Wayt already has taken pictures of every home, from one end of the island to the other.

Now she and Lambert are looking for volunteers to help interview each home's occupants and learn as much as they can about the history of the houses.

Wayt, a volunteer, like everyone else at the museum, said the intimacy of the island is something they want to capture.

Decades ago, Wayt was married in the backyard of her parent's Balboa Island home. Their neighbor, a judge, performed the ceremony.

That tight-knit community still exists, Wayt said. It's not odd for her neighbor to call in the morning in need of something — a couple of eggs, perhaps.

Wayt said she typically responds to those calls by reaching out the window with the eggs in a butterfly net to pass them into her neighbor's window just a few feet away — a feature of the densely built island that forces a certain sense of togetherness.

"On Balboa Island," Lambert said, "you celebrate life."

jeremiah.dobruck@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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