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Santa Monica History Museum Showcases Miramar's Colorful Past
By Lookout Staff
July 23, 2012 -- The Santa Monica History Museum is showcasing “Life at the Miramar,” which traces the famed property’s history from the site owned in1875 by Santa Monica co-founder Senator John P. Jones to the hotel currently owned by tech billionaire Michael Dell.
The exhibit, which includes original photographs, documents and artifacts, is part of a collection at the museum's new home adjacent to the Santa Monica Main Library tracing the history of the 8.3-square-mile city that has become an international destination.
“The ‘Life at the Miramar’ exhibit is one of several marvelous collections on display for residents and guests to experience at the museum,” said Louise Gabriel, the museum's president and CEO.
“I hope that everyone that visits the Museum gains a deeper knowledge and excitement about Santa Monica’s history and appreciation of the founders who made our beautiful city possible,” Gabriel said.
Put together with input from the Fairmont Miramar, the exhibit contains rare photos that once belonged to Senator Jones.
“He had stored, for 40 years, a huge collection of pictures, documents, and all kinds of papers,” said Gabriel. “They were discovered by Rick Bandini Johnson, a longtime supporter of our museum for at least 25 years. He was a close friend of John Farquhar, grandson of Senator Jones.
“He catalogued that huge collection,” Gabriel said of Johnson. “It took five years to catalogue. He’s a great historian.”
The site at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Ocean Avenue is once again in the news after the Fairmont Miramar announced a $255 million project to redevelop the 88-year-old hotel. The proposed project, which is currently being negotiated with the City, would add as many as 120 condominiums in three new buildings, replacing the two main buildings currently on the site.
A hub for local gatherings, the hotel has long been a popular haunt for the rich and famous. Greta Garbo lived there for more than four years. Charles Lindbergh, Howard Hughes, John Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe all were guests. And President Bill Clinton routinely stayed at one of its 32 secluded garden bungalows when he was in town.
Among the documents displayed are guest books signed August 29 1893 by Harry N. Stetson, as in Stetson hats, and by Arabella Y. Huntington, once the nation’s richest woman, also spent a few nights there in 1891.
Before her portrait was ever emblazoned across a silver dollar, Susan B. Anthony signed the guest book in her trademark flamboyant cursive on June 22, 1895 after a long trip from Rochester, New York.
The exhibit also includes a 1950s cocktail menu featuring African and Polynesian flourishes that hint at the funky Tiki-culture craze that swept the West Coast across the decade. Among the list of exotic libations -- a white rum and soda and a Blue Hawaii.
The Museum’s many permanent exhibits include the “Santa Monica Time Line” and hands-on interactive exhibits such as “Then & Now,” “In The Headlines of the Outlook Newspaper” and “Donald Douglas Aircraft.”
Santa Monica’s past and present are playfully highlighted among the many items and exhibits at the Museum including the “Giant Seahorse” that once sat atop the entrance to Pacific Ocean Park (POP) from 1958 to 1967.
Adult, youth groups and free docent-led student classroom tours are available by appointment. For additional information, call 310-395-2290 or visit santamonicahistory.org
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