Heart of a city, a photo at a time

Every resident of Laguna will, inevitably, be part of its history.

Or so the Laguna Beach Historical Society hopes.

The Historical Society ? which preserves the archival history of the city ? is asking residents to contribute to the history of the community by donating photographs and artifacts to the group.

"We're trying to preserve Laguna's past so that it's not lost. That's what this campaign is all about," board member Jane Janz said. "Our motto is to keep Laguna's history alive."

Recently, the society received two historic photographs. One is of a campaigning Richard Nixon ? in prime political form with a golden-locked child in hand while waving to the crowd in front of City Hall ? and the other is of a 1923 Laguna Beach baseball team.

The photographs originally came from the collection of Amos Stricker and were passed on to the Historical Society by City Manager Ken Frank.

The society hopes that residents will take to its cause and donate their own collection of historical photos, like the ones contributed by Stricker.

"We want the community to help share the richness and diversity of Laguna Beach with everyone. There's so much to know and enjoy about the history of our town, and how it's grown into what it is today," Kimberly Stuart, newly elected president of the Historical Society, said.

Donated photographs can be digitally scanned and then returned, preserving a historic record for future generations without the loss of personal items to owners.

A collection of the Historical Society's photographs, written documents and memorabilia are on display at the Murphy-Smith Bungalow, located at 278 Ocean Ave.

Nestled next to the Wells Fargo building, this unpretentious structure, built in 1923, contains the true essence of the city's heart ? its history.

"We want to make it inviting by maintaining the historic characteristics of the time, so that it's a delight for people to visit," Stuart said.

The property is owned by the Wells Fargo Bank, but is leased to the Historical Society to be maintained and shared with the community.

"We enjoy using the space and sharing that piece of history through the generosity of the Wells Fargo Bank," Stuart said.

Inside the bungalow, donations include everything from a pottery piece made by Gerard Laguna Originals, donated by the pioneering St. Clair family, to a panoramic photograph of the city from 1912.

Resting on a dinner table, for a small price, are a collection of laser-copied historical photographs of the city, as well as a new folder containing aerial shots taken in 1941, from Emerald Bay all the way to Three Arch Bay.

"People like to come in and see if they can find their house," Janz said.

The bungalow is also featuring a display, created by Janz, of two classic movies with ties to Laguna Beach.

In the 1938 romantic adventure "Her Jungle Love," featuring Dorothy Lamour in her recurring role as the "sarong girl," the beach and boat scenes were filmed at Goff Island ? formerly Treasure Island and now the location of the Montage Resort and Spa.

"Now, Voyager," filmed in 1942, starred Laguna Beach local Bette Davis in the famous cigarette scene overlooking the Laguna coastline from the patio of the Victor Hugo Inn ? now Las Brisas restaurant.

In addition to collecting artifacts and photographs, the Historical Society also puts together presentations highlighting an individual or topic of interest.

The next presentation will be held Sept. 18, when Larry Lytle will be showcasing the work of one of Laguna Beach's most famous photographers, William Mortensen.

The programs are held at the City Council chambers at City Hall. The Historical Society board is also requesting the use of any Mortensen photographs that individuals might have to add to the depth of the presentation.

Stuart says that, when it comes to the programs, community involvement is what makes them stand out.

"We have a community of long-standing residents," she said. "The people that attend [the programs] are so full of stories and anecdotes that they add to the richness of the event. Everybody has a story to share."

Gene Felder, former president and current treasurer of the Historical Society, agreed.

"Often, the speaker learns things that they didn't know from the members of the audience," he said.

The Murphy-Smith Bungalow is open to the public at no charge most Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m.

For more information, call (949) 497-4525 or www.LagunaHistory.org.

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