Ocean park

Santa Monica’s oldest neighborhood will be explored with several history themed events in the coming days.

The Santa Monica History Museum, the Santa Monica Library and the Santa Monica Conservancy are all hosting explorations of the Ocean Park neighborhood.

On Saturday, Jan. 28 the Ocean Park Branch Library and Conservancy have a joint project event.

The Conservancy is celebrating the first anniversary of their award winning Shotgun House, located within the Library’s parking lot at 2520 2nd Street.

From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. there will be music, refreshments, kids’ activities, and docent tours of the new exhibits in the Shotgun House as well as the “must-see” interior of the Merle Norman House. The program will open with remarks from City Manager Rick Cole and National Trust for Historic Preservation Field Director, Chris Morris.

“Guests can also view the Center’s drought-resistant garden featuring native plants like California fuschia, yellow yarrow, red buckwheat and coyote mint,” according to the Conservancy. “Historian Alison Rose Jefferson, PhD., will also be on hand to discuss African-American history in Santa Monica at the event. The event is free and all ages are welcome.”

The Conservancy event will be followed by a presentation at the library from local historian, Richard Orton. Orton is a familiar face within the community, and moved to Ocean Park in 1970. He was a volunteer for 10 years for Members of Sea Colony along with Santa Monica Conservancy.

“Ocean Park has so much history and having a long time resident like Richard Orton is a great addition. He is very knowledgeable about the history and he works hard to preserve the information,” said Ocean Park Branch Manager Karen Reitz.

He will provide a lecture that discusses much of the history of Ocean Park and how the neighborhood has transformed.

“When I moved into Ocean Park in January 1970, it was not the popular and beautiful place in Santa Monica. It was the local hangout, and it has changed drastically over the years,” said Orton.

Ocean Park came to life with Abott Kinney’s 1891 Ocean Park Development Company. Kinney bought a sandy strip of land in Santa Monica’s southwestern edge and not long after came the roads, homes, and piers.

Orton describes the past of Ocean Park, the run down part of town. He explains that with the neighborhood being unattractive to some, it was a place for the locals.

“At the southern end of Main Street was The Oar House, started by Al Ehringer. It was the spot for every college student,” said Orton.

He continues to explain that by 1980 Main Street was lively. The street was full of restaurants, bars and shops. With these services came more visitors, making the parking around town very difficult for the locals. At this time parking structures were beginning to be built.

“Then somebody at city hall got the bright idea that affordable housing could be built on top of the structure. Soon it grew like a wedding cake with two levels of affordable housing and two more levels of parking for the people that lived there,” said Orton.

This is when Orton became involved with local politics and the Main Street merchants.

Orton has a profound passion and dedication for one of Santa Monica’s oldest neighborhood. He will tell facts, and stories, and share his experience of living in Ocean Park.

The neighborhood is now known for having delicious coffee shops and tasty food stops, but before the businesses came into town there was an ostrich farm, a Carnegie library, and so much more.

Orton will also speak at the Santa Monica History Museum. This will be the museum’s first lecture of the year in its free Discover the History lecture series. The lecture will be held on Feb. 1 at 6:30 p.m..

“I do this talk because I have an appreciation of the past. The neighborhood continues to be amazing,” said Orton. “It has been around before the turn of the last century, and I feel lucky. Not many people live in an interesting neighborhood like Ocean Park.”

This lecture is offered free, but space is limited and residents are encouraged to RVSP to reserve a spot. Contact Kathryn Evans at (310) 395-2290 or kevans@santamonicahistory.org to RSVP for the Museum’s event. Visit http://santamonicahistory.org/upcoming-activities-programs/discoverthehistor for more information.

For more information about the Santa Monica Library visit http://smpl.org.

To learn more about the Santa Monica Conservancy, visit www.smconservancy.org/events-programs/special-events.