Edelweiss: Chronicle of a Del Mar Beach House 6

Local author Juliana Maxey-Allison has penned Edelweiss: Chronicle of a Del Mar Beach House 1885 to Now, the intriguing history of a Victorian beach cottage that you’ve probably crossed driving or walking around our coastal city. The book reveals the backstory and characters that make this century-old house interesting and worth preserving, as it combines local history and memoir with tips on researching and revitalizing a vintage home. Maxey-Allison invites you on a little journey to the past exploring the history of the home she lovingly restored in the 1970s.

Edelweiss is only one of three remaining original Del Mar homes and that will soon become just two. One is the Alvarado House (mentioned on page 38 in the book and shown on page 47), which currently resides at the Fairgrounds in the care of the Del Mar Historical Society. The other is the first house that Del Mar founder Jacob Taylor lived in, which might have been a telegraph office later but not considered ‘original’ since it was renovated along the way. It is now festooned with pink flags, indicating plans to tear it down. “The yellow ‘Dunham house’ is also of the early era on 10th Street. It is a block to the west. So far it has been sold a few times and not yet torn down. There were pink flags to dig a basement, but nothing has happened for a year,” says the author.

Mining her own family archives, unearthing old real estate records and relating what she found to what was going on in the wider world at the time, Maxey-Allison has put together a captivating tale of Edelweiss and its people, from pioneers to celebrities. The story begins with the author’s first look at the Del Mar house in 1972, then doubles back to the origin of the cottage in 1885 and works forward from there.

In the early 1880s, Jacob Taylor, Del Mar’s first real estate developer, envisioned and built an extravagant tourist destination. This house at 227 10th Street was part of his dream made manifest. The author encountered the sagging, slouching, peeling “old Victorian beach cottage” almost a century later and couldn’t resist it. The house has stayed within the same footprint and has the same number of rooms as when she found it in 1972. It now functions with three bedrooms, living room, dining room and kitchen, and three bathrooms — two where closets used to be.

“Everyone who comes into the house wants to know at least a little about its history. I heard bits of gossip and juicy rumors, and I had collected printed information from clips of stories published in newspapers. I thought I should find out for myself what the real story of the house was. It turned out to be such an interesting story, not only of the house, but of the life and times of Del Mar, that I wanted to put it down in a book. I wondered who had lived in it before.”

The book is a ‘bite-size’ piece of local history that captures the feel of moving through Del Mar’s first century with the inhabitants of Edelweiss. It also introduces some intriguing mysteries, among them: how this Del Mar beach cottage got its Swiss-chalet look; why so many of its owners were women; and whether Edelweiss was really the hideaway of celebrities Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. in Del Mar’s star-studded 1920s and ’30s. The author’s easy writing style is well-supported by the illustrations: pen-and-ink drawings by Seattle artist Abigail Maxey and others; black-and-white photos from the archives of the Del Mar Historical Society, the Library of Congress and local newspapers; family snapshots of the renovation process; and pictures of Edelweiss today by photographer Elizabeth Zusev.

Veteran writer Juliana Maxey-Allison has written for The New York Times Magazine, New York, Self, Ladies Home Journal, and other publications. Published December 2016, the book is available for sale on Amazon.com, and at Del Mar Gifts located at 1440 Camino Del Mar.