When I was commissioned to research and write a coffee table book (San Diego Then and Now), part of the job was researching the old (“then”) photos of San Diego. It was so much fun seeing how much familiar sites have changed over the years.
The photo collection at the San Diego Historical Society numbers over two million images, samples of which are kept in separate books, divided by subject or neighborhood.
I checked the Kensington neighborhood book to see if there was a photo of the 1926 house I once lived in, but no luck. However, I did find a great shot of the trolley line going down what is now the main street. Weirdly enough, the city was currently tearing up that street in order to put in new sewer lines and in the process they found the old trolley tracks. Of course everyone in my neighborhood went down and took pieces for souvenirs.
What I discovered during this project–and especially want to share with you–is the value of local historical societies. When I began the project, the only society I was really aware of was the main San Diego-based society. However, I discovered there are more than a dozen societies in the county, including one operated by the Marine Corps. And, most are repositories for photos, newspapers and other local history gems.
Have you visited your society lately? If not, why not put it on your list of things to do? And, even if your family wasn’t originally from where you live, I think it’s fun to go through the old photos – particularly if you can find ones from your neighborhood. For a nominal fee most societies will make a duplicate photo for you