Preserving the Past
Tucked along the sunny Southern California coastline, historic Encinitas boasts more than just perfect weather, beautiful beaches, and tasty Mexican food: it has a rich past and a strong sense of community that lives on today. The San Dieguito Heritage Museum has worked for almost 30 years to preserve and share with others this unique local history of the San Dieguito River area. Join us as we talk with the museum’s Executive Director Barbara Grice to learn how the organization is educating and involving the community in its own vibrant heritage.
Q&A with Executive Director Barbara Grice
What is the history behind the San Dieguito Heritage Museum?
The museum was founded in 1988 by numerous families in the San Dieguito area who saw the need for preserving our local history.
What is the museum’s mission?
To collect, preserve, and interpret local history: “Building Our Future to Preserve the Past.”
What is the significance of the museum within the 92024 community?
I believe it is extremely important to preserve our local history. We live in a very unique and beautiful part of the world that is ever-changing. We must pass on the stories of the lives of the pioneers of this community.
What kinds of programs are offered for guests?
We have offered a school field trip designed to provide a hands-on experience for students to learn about local history. This program is targeted for third graders and covers several standards identified in the California third grade curriculum. The students participate in activities that make the museum experience fun and exciting.
What are some of your favorite museum features that guests can enjoy?
I would say that our “Al’s Barbershop” exhibit is perhaps one of my favorites. The fact that a lucky hand in a local card game started a new career for Grant Ulysses Johnston is quite an amazing story! Grant happened to be playing cards at the Encinitas Pool Hall and won Al’s Barber Shop – and promptly changed his name to Al to match the sign. So began his new career as a barber!
Name: Barbara Grice
Hobbies & Interests: Anything near the ocean
San Dieguito Heritage Museum
Executive Director: Barbara Grice
Address: 450 Quail Gardens Dr., Encinitas, CA 92024
Hours: Thursday through Sunday | 12 – 4 p.m.
How does the San Dieguito Heritage Museum stay connected with the community?
The museum participates in a number of local events each year. Events include entering a float in the Christmas parades, representing the museum at the biannual street fairs, and participating in the annual Moonlight Beach Fest. This year we will also have a booth at the first Moonlight Summer Concert at the beach.
How does the museum fund its programs and projects?
We receive numerous grants throughout the year. The City of Encinitas and the Mizel Family Foundation gives us a grant through the Community Grant Program that helps to fund our weekend Families Make History program. We also receive a grant from the County of San Diego that provides funding for our Deep Pit BBQ and the Lima Bean Faire. The rest of our funding comes directly from our donors and membership drives.
How did this year’s Deep Pit BBQ turn out?
This year was the 28th Annual Deep Pit BBQ, and it was a great success with plenty of new friends who joined us. Our Deep Pit BBQ is a very unique tradition that originally began in the late 1800s with the vaqueros on the surrounding ranchos. The German settlers added their own homegrown lima beans to feast and the tradition has been passed down through the generations. It has now become a community tradition.
Do you have any specific events coming up soon that the community should know about?
We have a bimonthly Speaker Series which we hold at the Encinitas Community Center.
Our next big fundraiser is to be held on Oct. 8. This would be our 8th Annual Lima Bean Cook-Off, however we have decided to re-brand the event as the Beans, Greens, and Other Things Cook-Off in order to be all-inclusive to beans and greens, as well as lima beans! The cook-off brings professional chefs, amateur cooks, as well as one of the third grade classes from Ocean Knoll Elementary School! We have children’s games, a petting zoo, a silent auction, bake sale, and lots of fun photo ops. Families and people of all ages will have fun!
• Encinitas was once well-known as the “Flower Capital of the World.”
• In 1920, Grant Ulysses Johnston played a lucky hand of cards at the Encinitas Pool Hall and won Al’s Barber Shop — and a whole new career. Johnston walked next door to his new business at 569 First Street (now Highway 101) and promptly changed his name to Al to match the sign. Undeterred by the fact that he had no formal training, Al optimistically began his career as the local barber.
• The San Dieguito area is comprised of seven communities. It includes Del Mar, Solana Beach, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Encinitas, Leucadia, Olivenhain, and Rancho Santa Fe.
• The property on which the museum sits is leased from the City of Encinitas for $1 a year.
Does the museum need volunteers? If so, what kinds of volunteering positions are available and how can people get involved?
The museum’s lifeblood is its volunteers. We are always in need of new volunteers that have an option of many different avenues to help. We have a very lively group of third graders that start in the fall and we are always looking for those who enjoy working with children. We also participate in many different local events during the year that always require extra hands. There are so very many ways to get involved – all you need to do is give us a call, or there is a volunteer form on our website that can be sent electronically if you prefer. We would love to have the community get involved!
Besides volunteering, what other ways can community members get involved with the museum?
We like to visit other museums and points of interest. We would love to take more field trips and would enjoy having the company of others in the community.
“I believe it is extremely important to preserve our local history. We live in a very unique and beautiful part of the world that is ever-changing. We must pass on the stories of the lives of the pioneers of this community.”
Can you tell us a little about your board of directors? Why are their positions crucial for the museum’s success?
We have a wonderfully diverse board of directors. Our board president, Ralph Stone, has a long history of community involvement. He is a landscape architect and has served on many boards in the past. Cathy Bourdon is our board secretary and comes from a publishing background. Kerry Witkin is our interim treasurer and has a business, The Private Banker, in Rancho Santa Fe. Jeff Charles, Ph.D., is a history professor from Cal State San Marcos. Edgar Engert is “Mr. Encinitas” and used to work for the Ecke Family for many years. Evelyn Weidner, the previous owner of Weidner’s Gardens here in Encinitas, is also on the board.
Why do you think the museum is such an important part of Encinitas?
Our role as a local history museum is very important. We need to make sure that we are good stewards of the past, protect the history that has come before us, and teach that to the young and old alike. By fulfilling a part of the third grade elementary school curriculum teaching local history, we also accomplish our mission.
What do you most enjoy about working with the San Dieguito Heritage Museum?
I love the people! We have the most wonderful group of volunteers who love this museum as much as I do and are dedicated to preserving history.
What are the museum’s short-term and long-term goals?
• Short-term Goal: One would be to keep getting the word out that we are here!
• Long-term Goals: We are maintaining course with the continuation of our master plan build-out. We have completed the restoration of the Teten House (or nearly completed) and we are making strides with our Main Street building. We have a wonderful walkway laid with pavers (with a slight yellow tinge – hence the “Yellow Brick Road”) that is being completed by a Boy Scout for his Eagle Scout badge. Our campus is flourishing!
San Dieguito Heritage Museum By the Numbers
1988 Year Founded
4+ Number of Original Founders
1 Number of Original Buildings
5 Current Number of Buildings
8 Current Board Members
200,000 Approximate Annual Visitors
If you could grant one wish for the museum, what would that wish be?
That our main focal point of the campus be completed. We have a 4,000-square-foot barn in our master plan and this building would serve as our meeting hall and community events building. As it stands now, our large meetings need to be held off-campus or we have to wait until warmer weather and move outside.
Is there anything else that you would like 92024 Magazine readers to know?
I would love to have our neighbors stop in and take a look around. We have great activities for adults and families, and have a wealth of knowledge to share with the community!