Take a stroll through San Clemente’s picturesque downtown and hints of its history dot the street.
A tile mural beside a bench in front of Carbonara Trattoria depicts how Baskin-Robbins at the top of Avenida Del Mar looked in 1926, when San Clemente founder Ole Hanson built it as his office. It helped Hanson market a “Spanish village” he was creating from scratch along the then-virgin coast halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego.
Directly across the street from that mural is Cafe Calypso, part of a building that housed Hotel San Clemente in the 1920s. You can find more historical tile murals by a bench there.
“This building housed the people who would come down and look at lots,” said Mike Cotter of the San Clemente Historical Society. “Ole Hanson would occasionally take one up in the bell tower because it had a great view of the city and he would show them where their lot is – that kind of thing.”
On Saturday, San Clemente Mayor Lori Donchak and Michael Kaupp, president of the Downtown Business Association, led a Downtown San Clemente Mayor’s Walk, with Cotter adding some historical morsels to the mix.
Kaupp owns Stanford Court at 106 Avenida Del Mar, an antique shop that occupies two restored early San Clemente buildings. As he told onlookers Saturday, those buildings earlier housed an open-air produce market, an automobile showroom, three incarnations of hardware stores and a general store.
Unlike many cities, San Clemente’s downtown shopping district doesn’t have parking meters. Kaupp said the city installed meters in 1956 but removed them in 1970.
Participants in Saturday’s walk were treated to freebies from Cafe Mimosa, Selma’s Chicago Pizzeria, Oliver’s Olive Oil and Balsamic Tasting Gallery, StellaLucy Gluten-Free Market and Cafe Calypso. They also learned some ins-and-outs of downtown, like don’t just walk by the alcoves along Avenida Del Mar. If you walk in, Kaupp said, you might find an attractive shop like Maui Mermaids at 131 Del Mar.
Donchak invited everybody to “support our local merchants.”
“The local activity in town is so important,” she said. “We have so many unique stores. The economy continues to be tough. These people are our friends. These people are our neighbors. These people have managed to make it through in a tough economy. This is to kind of reacquaint you or acquaint you with some of the newer merchants.”
One of the newest is South of Nick’s, scheduled to open this summer in a restored historical building at 110 N. El Camino Real, named for a popular Laguna Beach restaurant with the same owner. It will be a companion restaurant to Nick’s San Clemente at 213 Avenida Del Mar.
Previously published in OC Register
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