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El Cerrito Historical Society Accomplishments in 2017, Goals for 2018

El Cerrito’s Centennial occupied much of the society’s attention in 2017. Of the 78 Centennial events listed on the centennial calendar, the Historical Society sponsored or co-sponsored 17 of them – more than any other organization, we believe. Pat Shaw represented the historical society on Centennial planning.
 The society toured historic buildings and neighborhoods, featured talks on the city’s origins and growth and delved into how El Cerrito became the place we know and love. We learned about the Castro family, our city’s “gambling past,” the history of our recycling center and our Boy Scout camp, Camp Herms – among other subjects.

El Cerrito Timeline
. As part of the Centennial we also published a printed brochure and put on our website the valuable El Cerrito Centennial Timeline, a chronology of our city’s history.

Our Speakers Bureau was instituted during the Centennial. Several members including Chris Sterba, Tom Panas, Dave Weinstein and Rich Bartke went on the road delivering talks on the city’s growth, politics and more, to community, school and service groups. We are continuing the Speakers Bureau as an on-going, on call service to the community.

The Castro Family visits
. The society played an important role during the centennial gala weekend. During the parade about 50 members of the Castro family, descendants of Victor R. Castro and Luisa Martinez Castro, the original non-Native residents of what is now our city, took part in the parade and much enjoyed visiting or revisiting El Cerrito. Their visit was coordinated by our board members Joanne Rubio and Tom Panas.

Time Capsule
. The society contributed several historical items to the city’s Centennial Time Capsule and held an open house at the Shadi Room during the Time Capsule ceremony.

Notable people in El Cerrito’s History
. Under the guidance of director Barbara Hill, the society has continued building a large listing of notable people in our history.

Cooperative efforts with other organizations
. The society put on programs in conjunction with or with the assistance of several different groups in 2017, including the Northern California Art Deco Society, Friends of the Cerrito Theater, the El Cerrito High Archiving Project, El Cerrito Trail Trekkers, and the Contra Costa Historical Society, among others.

Spreading the word about El Cerrito history
. Our attendance with booths, talks and displays, at the city’s World One July 4th Festival, at a film showing by the Contra Costa Office of Education, the El Cerrito Hillside Festival, the city’s Senior Resource Day, and other events, helped educate many people about our lively history.

Photo exhibit on El Cerrito’s history
. During the Centennial Gala, society member Debbie Weeks displayed an excellent photo exhibit delving into the history of El Cerrito, using photos from the historical society archive.

Archiving and collecting
. Our archivist Barbara Hill delved into best practices as used by other historical societies in our area to improve how we catalogue and care for our archive and collections.
We received many donations, including a large trove of photos and documents from the El Cerrito Chamber of Commerce. We also received books donated by Chris Sterba and Dave Weinstein, among others, and materials from the founding days of Friends of the Cerrito Theater.

Preserving the Mabuchi Floral Shop
. The society’s efforts to preserve this historic floral shop took place over the past several years. It was once owned and operated by the Mabuchi family of El Cerrito, a rare extant reminder of the once thriving Japanese flower growing industry here,
But the fruits of that effort are to be enjoyed today, as we watch Eden Housing build a senior residence alongside city hall that incorporate the beautiful, stone-faced building. The original plan to tear it down was halted by the society’s efforts. A historic plaza will recall the days of the Mabuchi family and the Japanese floral community.

Retirement of former president Rich Bartke
. In May, Rich Bartke, who helped found the society in 1974, and served as president for the past seven years, resigned from the board and was replaced by vice president Dave Weinstein. Rich’s wealth of knowledge about the city’s past has been invaluable throughout the years.

Goals for 2018

Programs: We plan between six and 10 programs for the year. These will include a tour of Sunset View Cemetery (Saturday, July 7, 2 p.m.), a visit to a classic mid-century modern home,  and a tour of the city’s gambling halls and nightclub sites. Watch as we announce others.

Let’s celebrate El Cerrito’s birthday annually: The city’s centennial was such a wonderful event we thought, why not mark the city’s birthday every year in August? Watch our schedule as we prepare for a special event.
Publications: We will publish our print and digital newsletter, The Forge, four times a year, with winter, spring, summer and fall editions. Each will features historical narratives about El Cerrito. In the works are articles about the first stagecoach that passed through the area, El Cerrito and the Civil War, and Louis Hagen, El Cerrito’s‘ only casualty in World War I.
We will publish our digital-only Sparks (from the Forge) monthly, with notices of upcoming events and news items.

Historical Speakers bureau. We will continue this service, and can provide speakers for clubs and other groups about El Cerrito’s growth, its gambling past, the Good Government League that ended vice in town, stagecoaches in El Cerrito, bandit Joaquin Murrieta, El Cerrito and the Civil War, and other topics. Contact Dave Weinstein for information.

Website and social media. We plan to add more content to our website, including oral histories and links to films of our meetings and other historical events. We plan to digitize more photos and other materials and make them available on our website.

Research: We want to boost the amount of historical research done by our members, and hope this will result in material we can publish in the Forge and post on our website.

Oral histories. We plan to start a program of recording long interviews with people who have been involved with historical events in El Cerrito or have been longtime residents and/or business people. We are looking for volunteers to do interviews and to edit transcriptions.

Collections: We will continue to seek out donations of photos, scrapbooks and other historical items that provide insight into the history of El Cerrito.

Historic preservation: We will continue to urge the city of El Cerrito to survey all of the potentially historic buildings and other sites in town and adopt a historic preservation ordinance to preserve historic sites and preserve the character of our neighborhoods. We will continue to watch for historic properties that face threat from development or neglect.

Storage and display space. While we intend to remain in the Sunday Shadi History Room in city hall, we will also seek additional space for additional storage.