A History of the Hermosa Beach Historical Society
Founded in 1987 with a mission to save local history.
Founding at Longfellow
Before the founding and incorporation, historical objects and photos were stored in residential garages and closets around the City, in hopes of one day being shared with the community. Early figures like Bill Schneider and Bunny Seawright scribbled plans and ideas on napkins over breakfast at Martha's. John Hales made efforts to find a storage space to start consolidating memorabilia, and frequently sent letters to the City asking for space.
Then in early Spring of 1987 a small group of dedicated Hermosans met in the Stroyke home at the Foot of Longfellow with a common mission in mind--protecting the history of Hermosa Beach together. They founded the Hermosa Beach Historical Society that day, with Rick Learned, Ricardo Reznichek, Patricia Gazin, Bunny Seawright, Bill Schnieder, Viva Stroyke, Eddie Webber, Sue Horger, and Larry Gray. Their primary goal at the time was outreach and education, with a focus on giving tours to students and interested community members. They expanded to 240 Founding Members and opened a one-room museum in Room 7 of the Community Center, previously known as Pier Avenue School. An even bigger project that year was to organize a city-wide celebration of Hermosa’s 80th year including a parade complete with an elephant!
Finding A Space for Collections
Seeking more space, the Museum opened new space in the Community Center (the previous girls’ locker room) on Saturday, March 2nd, 1991. According to the Beach Reporter, the displays included historical letters, photographs, railroad signs, city momentos and antique furniture. Patricia Gazin continued to advocate the importance of the Museum to the City to extend the lease of space at the Community Center. Jeanette Carr (President at the time) said to the Daily Breeze, " If you can't see your past, how can you see your future?"
On July 24th, 1991 the HBHS began its Video Oral History Project by Ricardo Reznichek interviewing Reverand Canon Richard Parker at St. Cross Church. The HBHS continued to grow and added to the Museum Collections & Archives for the next few years, and identified the importance of local key themes such as surfing and jazz. In 2001, the HBHS won it's first grant of $1,775 with the help of then Parks & Recreation Commissioner Howard Fishman (who later joined the Board of Directors) and then President Larry Gray. The grant allowed the HBHS to hire their first consultant who provided guidance and expertise advise on how to coordinate a potential expansion, and future accreditation application with the American Alliance of Museums.
A Community Funded Renovation
Plans to expand the Museum began around 2002 with the salvage of the old wooden 16th Street lifeguard tower. Then President Fran Carr hoped it would be a central part of the new Museum design. John Hales remarked, "The towers are an integral part of our Hermosa beach life."
Once backing of City Officials was secured, the Museum was then expanded into the larger present area (originally the Pier Avenue School woodshop) due to the efforts of then President Rick Koenig, generous donations of funds from local community members, and labor and materials donated from local businesses. The wall between the girl's locker room and woodshop was knocked out, and the HBHS began the hard work of cleaning out the long-neglected city storage. Then Hermosa Beach Mayor Kathy Dunbabin (also an HBHS Founding Member) remarked, "I am thrilled with the Society's decision to expand the Museum and the city's willingness to provide extra space. It is just a win-win for everyone."
In 2003, the first-ever Surf Movie Fundraiser (later to become the Surfer's Walk of Fame Celebration Weekend) was started by the HBHS with the help of Annie Seawright. The event earned almost $6,000 for the renovation fund. Lifetime Memberships were provided to the generous community members who contributed towards the renovation efforts.
The newly-renovated Museum Grand Opening was held just in time for the HB City Centennial in 2007, with the ribbon cutting taking place down to the minute of the historic founding of the City in 1907. "It was a close call, but we had to make it happen" remarked Rick Koenig.
Advancement in educational programing and the hiring of professional Museum staff became possible largely due to funds raised by Annual Gala Fundraising Events. These events were initiated by Board Member Dorothy Courtney starting in 2015.
A Museum for All
Today, the HBHS has reached and surpassed many of the goals the founders dreamed about at the Foot of Longfellow in 1987. The new generation of the Board of Directors and dedicated staff continue to expand and grow the Museum with student tours, educational lectures, rotating temporary exhibits, along with the continued collection and safeguarding of the Collections & Archives. In 2020 the HBHS adopted the Hermosa Beach Mural's Project so as to safeguard their 10 public murals. In 2021 the HBHS officially began the process of applying for Museum Accreditation.
We continue to flourish with the support of Individual, Family, Patron and Benefactor Memberships.
Celebrating our History as a Museum
On June 26th, 2022 the HBHS held an event to honor the Founders, Charter Members and Life Members of Hermosa Beach Historical Society. All living past Presidents attended as well as many notable community members. To watch a recording of the presentation that includes video footage from the 1987 founding parade, click the vide below.