Rancho Bernardo Historical Society Celebrates 40 Years
The Rancho Bernardo Historical Society celebrates its 40th anniversary with an open house from 2 to 5 p.m. on Monday, October 10 at its museum.
“I’m always surprised how many people don’t know there’s a winery in Rancho Bernardo…and they don’t know there’s a museum,” said RBHS president Raenell Hooten, member for a decade.
Nine years ago, the historical society moved into its current 1,536 square foot museum space at the south entrance of Bernardo Winery, 13330 Paseo del Verano Norte.
“One of the reasons we’re there is that we want to tell the story and the story of Rancho Bernardo,” Hooten said. “It is one of the most successful and oldest planned communities in the United States and one of the first to have underground utilities.”
The current museum is the third the historical society has had at the winery and a far cry from the first – a few storage sheds on the grounds of the winery. Several years after this modest beginning, the museum was moved to a building that is now a store on the grounds of the cellar before ending up in this space, which was originally a dormitory.
The group has come a long way since its beginnings four decades ago, storing artifacts, photos and documents donated by locals to keep in a member’s garage, Hooten said.
The RB Historical Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving local history and raising public awareness of the area through programs and outreach. It depends on the community for volunteers, donations, contributions, memberships and gifts to its museum collection, members said.
The museum’s exhibits cover a long period, from the community’s first Native American residents to Spanish landowners, its early pioneers, and its development as a planned community within the city of San Diego.
The exhibits are divided into two major periods – the early days and after 1960, when its current development began. Highlights include an authentic replica of a mud wagon the historical society made years ago, an exhibit of Native American rock art found throughout the community, and versions of the community timeline spanning thousands of years. The timeline can be viewed inside and outside the museum.
The museum features many artifacts that are either donated originals or authentic replicas, Hooten said. These include necklaces, hair clips and clay sage burners used by the Kumeyaay.
“We added a table with rabbit skin, deer antlers, soft grass and deer tendon,” she said.
The latter is a fibrous tendon that, when separated, forms threadlike pieces used for sewing, she explained.
In addition to its museum exhibits, the historical society has an education and awareness component for the younger generation of the community. It particularly focuses on the influence of Native American Kumeyaay culture. Presentations have been given in classrooms on Poway Unified School District campuses and to groups, especially those aimed at young people, such as Boy Scout troops.
“We are open to offering private tours, especially to groups of children and young people,” Hooten said.
Museum volunteers also offered tours to others, such as women’s organizations.
Another aspect of its educational program is a series of free monthly lectures open to everyone. Hooten said the average attendance is 15 to 20, although it has occasionally been over 30, depending on the topic. Speakers provide information not only about the immediate area, but about historical topics throughout San Diego County.
The lecture series is offered at 11 a.m. on the second Saturday of each month. For those who were unable to attend or who are interested in past presentations, more than 60 conference videos are posted on the group’s website, RBHistory.org.
Archaeologist Richard Carrico, professor of Native American studies at San Diego State University, will speak at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, about new discoveries from the CW Harris site that shed light on life in the area during the Last 11,000 years and environmental changes. over several millennia. The site is along the San Dieguito River and includes the Crosby Estates Golf Course.
On Saturday, November 12 at 11 a.m., San Dieguito River Park Senior Interpretive Ranger Leana Bulay and Sikes Adobe Historic Farmstead Interpretive Ranger Blanca Drapeau will talk about the river park established in 1989. It has preserved open spaces, areas wetlands and wildlife along the San Dieguito River watershed from Volcan Mountain to Julian to Del Mar and the Pacific Ocean.
Hooten said the museum is run entirely by volunteers. Its opening hours are from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. It’s also open when the winery hosts special events, such as its craft fairs and holiday parties. Free entry.
The museum is designed to be “very user-friendly” through the use of interpretive panels explaining each exhibit, Hooten said.
“During COVID, we’ve written reviews on every exhibit…and there are always guides to answer questions,” she said. “We get great feedback when people walk in.”
Last Saturday, a young man who grew up in Rancho Bernardo stopped by and ended up staying two hours, Hooten said. Sharing the community’s story with visitors like him is what the museum exists for, she said.
Another is to be a place for researchers. In addition to the archives, which are available by appointment, the historical society has made much of its records available online so that those doing research can virtually access the archives through its online collections database.
Hooten said the historical society has received grants, including from the RB Community Foundation, to digitize items such as back issues of the Rancho Bernardo News Journal, Rancho Magazine, Bernardo Brandings and other community publications over the decades. The database is updated as new digital images become available.
In addition to memberships and grants, the RB Historical Society has held fundraisers to fund its operations, such as the annual Pancake Breakfast on Memorial Day and the Vines & Vittles Festival.
Annual memberships are $10 for students, $25 for individuals, $45 for families, $100 for patrons, and $250 for corporations. There is also a $500 one-time lifetime membership and a $1,000 patron level.