March was a busy month for the DPHS members who organized and volunteered to make the fourth public reading of Richard Henry Dana Jr.’s Two Years Before the Mast an outstanding success. More than a 125 people volunteered to read, man the DPHS booth at the Nature Interpretive Center and lead DPHS tours as part of the Festival of Whales. Elizabeth Bamattre and committee are to be commended for organizing the three-day TYBTM reading. A terrific illustrated article, “Descending from Dana,” appeared in the March 13th edition of the Dana Point News, listing notable readers, including Mayor Lisa Bartlett and the cousins of Richard Henry Dana Jr. among others. Look at page three to find the link to this and other articles regarding history related to our area. The Historical Society was pleased to be a part of the 43rd Annual Festival of Whales which celebrates Dana Point’s cultural heritage.
Many DPHS members also accepted the San Juan Capistrano Historical Society’s invitation to hear Orange County Archivist Phil Brigandi at its March 26th meeting. Phil provided wonderful details to the historic events featured in his new book “Orange County Chronicles.”
Later this month, Keith and I will represent the DPHS at the California Preservation Foundation Conference in Asilomar, California, where sessions will address the changes facing historic preservation. We will attend seminars and classes on these topics over three days to learn about state and national cultural heritage issues.
All the past conferences I have attended have had models for Dana Point. “Preserving Local Character: It is More than a Feeling” was the 2009 conference educational track whose sessions explored methods to sustain local character. The challenge for conference participants is to apply what we learn to our own communities and the messages of that conference are particularly useful now, as Dana Point moves forward with its Town Center Plan.
Dana Point is a beautiful coastal community known for its attractive harbor. Orange County and the Ocean Institute have emphasized the unique history of the harbor with a statue of R. H. Dana Jr., the Pilgrim and the Tall Ships Festival. We need to ask ourselves how the historic buildings in the City of Dana Point can also tell the story and establish the character of the city and its relationship to the harbor. How can our legacies of the Doheny Family and Sidney H. Woodruff further enhance the culture and economy of our community? Would preserving the charm of historic buildings, replicating the original nautical lanterns of Dana Point and creating a Lantern Village Historical District encourage tourists to stay longer, spend more money while visiting and create a desire to return? Sustainable tourism strategies include historic buildings, landscapes and roads that give a sense of our city’s place in history and identify the collective culture of our community, contributing to its attraction as a unique destination. Many businesses can locate anywhere. How do we show that the local character of Dana Point can attract knowledge-based businesses to this seaside community?
Richard Henry Dana Jr., Hobie Alter and developers Sidney H. Woodruff, Blanche Dolph and Anna Walters, are all exceptional people in our history. How do we represent their legacies and use our remaining historic resources— such as the remnants of hotel arches along the bluff and the Spanish Colonial Revival commercial buildings scattered along Pacific Coast Highway—to highlight the rich history of today’s Dana Point? Will Hobie’s original Dana Point workshop receive a historic plaque on or near the building to celebrate our surfing culture?
The 2008 City of Dana Point Town Center Plan includes “guidelines” for the restoration and preservation of the historic buildings and elements in Town Center. As the work goes forward, is the city concerned with replicating the signature historic lanterns of Dana Point as symbols of our unique heritage for residents and tourists? Or, are we more interested in developers introducing the new, regardless of the expense to our history? Where is the balance? How will we relate the parallel development story of Capistrano Beach and the generous gift of Doheny State Beach?
Our April 30th meeting will feature another chapter, the History of the Headlands, and will highlight some interesting stories on the part of our speakers. Please join us.
Barbara Force Johannes