Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Capistrano, the Viejos, ice cream and Nixon

This is the 1918 power substation on Camino Capistrano in San Juan Capistrano. San Diego Gas & Electric owns the building and is planning to bulldoze it. But historical preservationist Ilse Byrnes (a dynamo in her own right) is at a city meeting tonight, doing her best to save it. Based on her past efforts, I'd say she has a good chance. Ilse says San Juan Capistrano's historical community is also making progress working with the city on historically sensitive modifications to the new Master Plan.

And that's not all that's going on in Capistrano these days. Archaeological digging has turned up the horno (oven) and the old well at the historic Blas-Aguilar Adobe, and steps are being taken to preserve them.

Over a few blocks, in the Los Rios District, (California's oldest continually-occupied neighborhood,) the Silvas Adobe (ca 1796) is also being restored. However, the old Oyarzabal House, which has been deemed hazardous, will have to be torn down and rebuilt. Ilse says it's only still standing "because the termites are holding hands. Barely."

And for the City of San Juan Capistrano's big 50th Anniversary Banquet, Ilse says dryly, "We had Governor Brown for dinner. He was delicious."
 Before I forget,... Special thanks to Bob Bunyan (shown above) for a great presentation about the history of Mission Viejo and Aliso Viejo at this month's meeting of the Orange County Historical Society. Next month's meeting will feature a presentation by Daralee Ota on the history of the community of Olive. (I'll post more details soon.)
 I could tell you a long story (with eye-rolling) about why the Orange County Archives is in semi-exile for a few days while layers of liquid plastic are poured on our floor. But I'll just point out that we'll be moving back to our regular office tomorrow. Meanwhile, we've been camping out in the offices of the Pacific Coast Archaeological Society (PCAS), just down the hall. On the plus side, PCAS has a LOT of fascinating stuff, including a very useful library and many interesting artifacts. One non-archaeological artifact in their office is the enormous ice box shown in the photo above. It came from the old ice cream stand in Irvine Park and is one of my favorite little-known bits of history hidden away at the Old Orange County Courthouse.
 Today I attended the Orange County Historical Commission's meeting, which was held at the Nixon Presidential Library & Museum in Yorba Linda. After the meeting, we were given a lengthy "backstage tour" of the archives and museum, which was rather impressive. I've never had a burning desire to research Nixon's life, but collections and facilities like these make me want to think up an excuse or two.

The enormous climate-controlled room full of compact shelving, (with names like Haldeman and Kissinger on the shelves), the audio-video room, and the facility where artifacts are curated were all rather impressive and full of interesting details. We were shown strange things like a formerly top-secret State Department file describing Mao Zedong's personal tea-drinking habits.

However, in the photo below I'm sharing one of the least inspiring but most humorous things we saw. Yes, they DO have at least one of those once-ubiquitous rubber Nixon masks in their collection.


Anonymous said...

It'd ba a shame to lose that old power station building. I wonder if any of the old hardware (diesel engine, etc) is still in there.

Jim from Magnolia, TX

Tintinmilou said...

Well, I can't say it's a very attractive building. Architecturally, it has nothing of great interest. The doors are nice, but is it really worthwhile to expend the energy and cost to preserve an electrical substation which is, after all, utilitarian, and has outlived its utility? (and yes, I realize the double-entendre)