Balboa Fun Zone new home for Newport Beach Historical Society’s museum

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About 50 people turned out Friday night to celebrate the Newport Beach Historical Society’s newly acquired but temporary location at the Balboa Fun Zone.

“We moved into the Fun Zone for the time being; we’re looking for a permanent home,” said Bernie Svalstad president of the nonprofit for the past decade.

He explained the first temporary donated museum space had been at the Balboa Branch of the Newport Beach Public Library, home to the museum since 2016. After eight years, however, the museum had to relocate because the peninsula library, built in 1929, is slated to be demolished and reconstructed, along with fire station No. 1.

Bernie Svalstad cuts the ribbon during the grand opening of its museum at the Balboa Fun Zone

Newport Beach Historical Society President Bernie Svalstad cuts the ribbon during the grand opening of its museum at the Balboa Fun Zone on Friday.

(Susan Hoffman)

Balboa Island residents John Vallely, along with his wife, Karen, grew up in Newport Beach.

“I’ve lived here since 1948,” said John Vallely. “There’s a lot of history housed here in the pictures and in them a lot of statements that tell a story.”

Prominent local historian Bill Grundy, who also grew up in the city, founded the Newport Beach Historical Society in 1967. He had been president for 42 years until 2010 when his son, Gordon, stepped in following his father’s death.

Svalstad said he took over the role as president in late 2014 after Gordon Grundy moved away. At that point, the museum was incorporated as a nonprofit.

“Our membership is growing, including lifetime member Mayor Will O’Neill, and we added 50 new members this month, giving us around 250,” he said.

Svalstad, a 50-year resident of Newport Beach, originally became involved in its history during the time when he was chairman of the McFadden Square committee.

“My committee raised the money and put together the history of Newport Beach with an engraved area all around the monument, ” said Svalstad. After that, he hoped to keep the momentum going in his search for uncovering local history.

“I wanted to get involved and to find anybody who knew a lot about the specifics and figure out who was preserving [the history],” he said.

About 50 people gathered for the opening of the Newport Beach Historical Society's museum at the Balboa Fun Zone Friday.

About 50 people gathered for the grand opening of the Newport Beach Historical Society’s museum at the Balboa Fun Zone Friday.

(Susan Hoffman)

The organization hosts lectures throughout the year that feature people and places that have historically contributed to Newport Beach. It also hosts social events.

Peyton Reed, the oldest living Newport Beach lifeguard, dove into the past and evolution of lifeguarding in Newport Beach peppered with personal stories during a museum event in February.

In May, a celebratory dinner was held at the Balboa Pavilion Grand Ballroom themed, “Balboa Ferry Dinner: Over 100 Years of Back and Forth.” For that event, keynote speaker Seymour Beek talked about the 100 years of journeys of the Balboa ferry.

One of the vintage photos featured at the Newport Beach Historical Society's museum.

One of the photos featured at the Newport Beach Historical Society’s museum shows the former City Hall and the Newport Beach Grammar School, which were built in 1905 next to McFadden’s Wharf.

(Susan Hoffman)

One of Friday’s grand opening attendees, Ken Carpenter, a Balboa Island resident who recently joined the board of NBHS, said he joined the museum because “I love Newport Beach history and I need to find a place for my collections. I was born in Corona del Mar and I’ve been here my whole life and I can’t escape.

“The small temporary location — I think this is a perfect location,” he continued. “We’re looking for a long-term large facility so that we can display the entire collection of Newport history, which encompasses Corona del Mar, Balboa, Balboa Island and all of Newport.”

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