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Santa Monica – Now and Then:

Louise Gabriel is the President and CEO of the Santa Monica Historical Society, as well as one of the organization’s founders. Through her dedication, the society opened in 1988. She is also the founder of the Santa Monica Historical Society Museum, which houses various vintage items, including telephone books, photos and historic documents. Currently, the museum is featuring an exhibit about the Marion Davies Estate.

Gabriel’s latest offering to history buffs is Early Santa Monica, part of Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series. The book, loaded with vintage photographs from Santa Monica’s early days, is a must-see for anybody remotely interested in the city’s history.

The Mirror spoke with Gabriel about Early Santa Monica.

Mirror: What defines old-time Santa Monica versus today?

Gabriel: It was more of a resort in the early years, and it’s gone from a rancho to a small town to a good-sized city.

Mirror: How are the people different?

Gabriel: It’s hard to say because they were very resourceful in the early years. Some of the early pioneers were in all kinds of business ventures, like Charles Tegner. He started the first department store in Santa Monica, Henshey’s, and he built the first theater, the Majestic, and he had an insurance business and I believe he worked on the Long Wharf for a while. Most came with very little money and ended up becoming very successful.

Mirror: What picture in the book do you think will be the biggest surprise?

Gabriel: One of the big surprises would be the picture in front of Senator Jones’s mansion, with the horse and buggy [page 27]. That’s the first time it’s been shown. It’s from a collection that was stored for over 40 years and just discovered a few years ago and turned over to our museum.

Mirror: Why is it important for people to be aware of the city’s past?

Gabriel: There’s a closer feeling to your community and I believe that’s why there are so many wonderful volunteers in Santa Monica, working with various nonprofit organizations. I think they feel attached to the community. It has a very colorful history, and Santa Monica has so much to offer in the way of shopping, entertainment, sports, etc.

Mirror: How did your interest in historical things begin?

Gabriel: That started when I worked on the Santa Monica Centennial committee in 1975. They had various kinds of activities. We put on a historical exhibit at the Civic Auditorium. That’s when most people were exposed to the history. That’s when the Santa Monica Historical Society was founded.

Join Louise Gabriel this Sunday, August 20, as she speaks about old-time Santa Monica and signs copies of Early Santa Monica. The free event will be held from 2-4pm at the Santa Monica Bay Women’s Club, 1210 4th St.

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