The La Jolla Historical Society has been a La Jolla institution since its inception in the 1940s; since then, its buildings have changed functions, titles, and hands several times. From the 40s until the early 60s, The Cottage (known today as Wisteria Cottage) served as The Balmer School and was later renamed La Jolla Country Day School. Then from the 60s until 2005, the structure served as a bookstore – first under the name Nexus and most recently the John Coles Bookstore. In 2008, the 1904 Craftsman-style cottage, garage, and surrounding structures were deeded to the Historical Society through the Scripps/Revelle family. The La Jolla Blue Book took a few minutes to chat with Heath Fox, Executive Director of the Society, to learn about its long history and recent renovations.
A Look into the Past
The Historical Society hasn’t always called the Wisteria Cottage home; throughout its history, the Society has operated out of a number of different facilities – initially from a small room in the La Jolla Federal Savings & Loan building at 1100 Wall Street! Then in 1971, operations were moved to the La Jolla Public Library at 1010 Wall St. (location of the present-day Athenaeum) and six years later, operations moved to the Colonial Inn. Finally, in 1981, the Society moved to its current location at Wisteria Cottage on 7846 Eads Avenue.
The Scripps Sisters
The 1904-era Cottage is the oldest remaining structure of the South Moulton Villa Estate, which was first developed by Ellen Browning Scripps in 1898 and eventual home to her and her sister, Virginia Scripps.
The building originally served as the guest cottage for the estate, and in 1907, the two hired master architect Irving Gill to remodel the Craftsman design and horticulturalist Kate Sessions to develop the landscape. Guests were able to walk directly to Moulton Villa from the Cottage’s entry through terraced gardens, which are still visible today. Landmark status was eventually granted to the Cottage in 1982 for its design, beautifully intact landscape, and longtime association with the integral Scripps family.
New Visions and Recent Renovations
The picturesque cottage recently underwent a massive renovation thanks to a generous grant from the Hind Foundation. Its interior rooms have been transformed into museum-quality galleries for exhibitions and public programs complete with humidity control and specially dimmed lighting. The Society shipped off exterior paint samples to Virginia for analysis – they wanted to preserve as much of the original outdoor aesthetics from 1919 as possible by maintaining the same color schemes and wood type.
They successfully restored the exterior to its two original paint colors and the roof shingles to their original cedar and sage. “The rehabilitated cottage will serve as a much-improved interpretive and exhibition gallery space,” said Heath Fox, Executive Director. “The environmental conditions (temperature and relative humidity), light management, and electronic security profile in the exhibition galleries and archives storage space provide for museum-standard care and protection.”
Celebrating its 50-year anniversary this spring, the new and improved Wisteria Cottage will host its grand reopening party on Sunday, May 4th. Heath Fox is excited about what the renovation means for the Society’s future: “This pivotal moment in the Society’s history marks the first time, after 50 years of collecting archived materials, that exhibitions can be prepared and presented inside professionally-designed museum galleries,” he remarked.
We can’t wait to see what the Cottage looks like post-renovation. Have you spent time at the Historical Society? Do you remember its previous locations on Wall St.? Share with the Blue Book using #LaJollaBB!
[Images Courtesy of The La Jolla Historical Society]
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