Downtown’s Living Museum

The "Once Upon A Book..." display at Williams' Book Store in downtown is one of many window displays the San Pedro Bay Historical Society have used as a living museum to tell the history of San Pedro.

In an effort to celebrate the past and the present of a city that so many have called home, the San Pedro Bay Historical Society has used the beauty of photos and downtown storefronts to give the residents a history lesson.

In lieu of an actual museum, the San Pedro Bay Historical Society has created a museum on the canvas of the downtown area through the project “Windows Into the Past.”

The project is the brainchild of Doris Theriault, a lifelong San Pedro resident and volunteer at the San Pedro Bay Historical Society.

As with most non-profits, money has always been a struggle for the historical society, but Theriault said she didn’t want money to be the reason San Pedro didn’t have a museum.

“Why not use the canvas that is already here,” she says. “I woke up one morning, and thought that the windows of businesses downtown would be a perfect canvas to create a museum for all of San Pedro to enjoy.”

Theriault and her colleagues at the San Pedro Bay Historical Society started approaching downtown businesses, going through photos and creating themes.

“It was a relatively simple process,” she says. “The history is great, the businesses were accommodating and the public’s response has been overwhelming.”

The project commemorates and celebrates San Pedro’s 125 year past, while educating both residents and tourists about the most critical points in the city’s history.

“The project has been a great success,” she says. “It’s allowed us to tell San Pedro’s story through photos – it’s been great for not only participating businesses, but each of San Pedro’s residents who have taken in photos and learned a bit more about the city they call home.”

“Windows Into the Past” has created a series of historical exhibits, each of which have the goal to tell a story and give a lesson of the past, in downtown business windows.

Lucero Newcomer, owner of the Le Grand Salon Lucero in downtown, says her customers have really enjoyed the display, titled “Smiles of the 70s.”

She says that all of her customers have asked about it. Adding that it is “really nice to have it, to be involved in such a cool celebration.”

“It’s really nice to have [the display], it’s beautiful,” Newcomer says. “We love our community, we love our old town – and this is a way we can contribute and help to celebrate San Pedro and all of its history.”

Vinyl historical posters line other businesses to continue the history lesson.

In all, there are 97 different themed windows at 55 locations in the downtown area. At these 55 locations, 17 have 2-D designs and 10 have 3-D designs. In addition, there are 29 locations that have posters, all of which are different and unique, these celebrate the 29 cultural landmarks in San Pedro.

The San Pedro Bay Historical Society received three grants from the Business Improvement District, which helped pay for the film that the photos were printed on. They also received a grant that will help produce the brochure that will be used and distributed for a walking tour.

Theriault says there was no shortage of themes, as San Pedro’s 125-year history is vast.

“We tried to focus on the crucial parts of the city’s history – development of the port, early modes of transportation, restaurants and more,” she says. “Once we had our themes, we tried to pair them with downtown businesses that matched the theme.”

Jerry Gusha of the soon to be closed Williams’ Book Store, says the window display, titled “Once Upon a Book,” has been a great addition to the store.

“Customers really seem to enjoy it,” he says. “It’s been very nice to look at, and it’s a nice way for us to contribute to the neighborhood and the city in which we live.”

The project kicked off last year, in May, and businesses have been eager to participate, says Theriault.

“The feedback has been positive,” she says. “These are photos that most people have never seen, and pieces of information that people, in most cases, didn’t know much about. It is exciting, and a great way to educate the residents and celebrate the city at the same time.

“This is our outdoor museum and it’s very exciting,” she says. “We were able to celebrate our city in a museum that we built on the storefronts of our businesses.” spt

About the Author: Angela Romero

Angela Romero

Angela Romero is the owner of Townee Tours, offering tours through various historic San Pedro locations. For more information, visit TowneeTours.com.

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