Malibu Historical Society redux


Group formed to preserve Adamson House reconstitutes itself for new challenges.

By Vicky Newman/Special to the Malibu Times

Like the mythological phoenix, the Malibu Historical Society is rising from the ashes to start another life.

Disbanded in 1981 in negotiations with the California State Parks Department on preserving Malibu’s historic Adamson House, the organization has been resurrected by lifelong Malibu resident Jane Hemenez.

Hemenez wants to get the society running again and would like to bring back the barbeques and potluck parties of the original group. She consulted dozens of residents about forming the new group and held an organizational meeting Wednesday.

“I got a tiger by the tail,” Hemenez said. “I wasn’t planning to do that much.”

The new Malibu Historical Society will restore a large organization to preserve local history, Brian Merrick, son of Malibu Historical Society founder Judge John Merrick, said.

Hemenez, 88, and Merrick, 36, told The Malibu Times that the group needs to safeguard the area’s heritage now that the California State Parks Department owns the Adamson House and adjoining Malibu Lagoon Museum. The artifacts and furnishings of the site are held by California State Parks and the Malibu Lagoon State Beach Interpretive Association, successor of the Malibu Historical Society.

In an effort to reassure residents who had donated historical memorabilia and artifacts to the museum or state, Lynette Anderson, interim superintendent of California State Parks, said that curators of the state and interpretative association were cataloguing all items.

Besides preserving the museum’s legacy, people interested in the new organization want to expand the founders’ research.

“There’s a lot of Malibu history beyond the Malibu Lagoon site,” Ronald Rindge, the grandson of Frederick and May Rindge, last owners of the 13,000-acre Rancho Malibu, said. “A reconstituted Malibu Historical Society will broaden the scope of research.”

Finding people with a mission is another goal of the society.

“You need a core group that digs in with four feet, that has the same passion for history that Judge John Merrick has,” Rindge said. “A leader like that is hard to duplicate.”

You need to find “go getters” to organize people, Julie May, widow of Fred May, the society’s founding president said. An artist who has loaned one of her paintings to the state, May recalled how the elder Merrick, Rindge and Tom Doyle conducted research, and her husband raised funds and organized the docents for the museum.

“It was a community effort,” May said.

Another lifelong resident and descendant of a famous family, Lisa Roberts, is also enthusiastic about the new group. Roberts’ grandfather, Fred Roberts, established the 11,000-acre Roberts Ranch acquired for parkland in the 1980s and now known as Solstice Canyon. She says her grandfather’s story is about entrepreneurship and protecting the environment.

“Malibu is a small community and people have lived here all their lives,” Roberts said. “The older generation has a lot of pride in their heritage and wants to keep it alive.”

For information or to contribute memories, documents and ideas, call Hemenez at 310.456.6009.