By Breeana Greenberg
Since its founding, 35 years ago, the Dana Point Historical Society’s (DPHS) primary focus has been on preservation.
Inspired by a lecture given by founding member and Dana Point historian Doris Walker, the historical society was formed in 1987 to preserve Dana Point’s rich history.
“So, about five active women, including one or two that are still on our board, Elizabeth Bamattre and Judy Henderson, were negotiating with the county along with other members of the Civic Association to save public access to the Blufftop Trail,” DPHS President Barbara Johannes said.
“So, in those efforts to save it, that’s what started the Historical Society,” Johannes continued. “So, we do have a preservation background.”
For the last 35 years, the nonprofit has worked to preserve and document the city’s history through the establishment of plaques, statues and restoring artifacts like the city’s lanterns. In celebration of the milestone anniversary, DHHS has released a commemorative lantern ornament that shoppers could purchase from the nonprofit’s website.
The lantern ornament harkens back to the society’s effort to preserve the historic lanterns that were once seen all throughout town, Johannes explained.
“If we would have had it our way, I suppose we would have wanted to have lanterns all over town because they were, when they first turned them on, there were 400 of them,” Johannes said.
As part of a holiday reception earlier this month, historical society members gathered at the DPHS Museum in City Hall Plaza, where they reminisced about the society’s accomplishments.
Among those accomplishments the society has celebrated is the city’s adoption of the historical preservation ordinance establishing a program for homeowners of historically significant structures to be included on the City of Dana Point Historic Resource Register.
The Woodruff and other historic homes and structures have since been added to the registry, including the Dolph House, the Palisades Gazebo and Pines Park. Another accomplishment of note for the society was the restoration of historic lanterns at Lantern Village Park.
Previously, descendants of Richard Dana contacted the city, interested in having a family reunion in Dana Point. The historical society was contacted by the city to help investigate the family’s history and genealogy to facilitate the reunion.
Each year, the historical society also offers scholarships for graduating high school students who live in Dana Point. Two of the scholarships honor Doris Walker and fellow founding member Lucy Chavarrias-Saunderson. A third is named after Richard Dana descendants Thomas Wolcott and Dorothy Ricklefs.
People join the historical society for a variety of reasons, Johannes explained. Those who are interested in historic homes, those who have just moved to the area and those with friends who are members join to learn more about the town’s history.
Members can go on historical fieldtrips and can receive discounts on all DPHS merchandise such as the 35th anniversary commemorative lantern ornament or city seal ornament.
Programs and informational talks that the historical society host are open to the public.
The benefit of having such an active historical society is that the nonprofit can serve as a resource for the city and community members when researching aspects of the town’s history, Johannes said.
“The city, when they have questions, they ask and maybe we don’t always have the answers … but we can help them with it,” Johannes said.
The historical society’s role in archiving the town’s history can be a challenge, Johannes added. The nonprofit is actively looking to hire an archivist familiar with the software PastPerfect to help in the endeavor.
Johannes noted that “we’re all volunteers” and that the organization is “raising money to get an archivist to do that and find somebody who’s willing to stay at it.”
Looking towards the future of DPHS, Johannes aims to continue advocating for preservation and archiving the town’s history.
“We want to keep doing what we’re doing, preserving history,” Johannes said. “We want to continue archiving. We have so much (information), we have some done but we have more to do.”
Breeana Greenberg is the city reporter for the Dana Point Times. She graduated from Chapman University with a bachelor of arts degree in English. Before joining Picket Fence Media, she worked as a freelance reporter with the Laguna Beach Independent. Breeana can be reached by email at email@example.com