Collect our stories

The people, especially in Laguna, are endlessly fascinating. Here is a story from Laguna’s past involving the death in 1932 of an aspiring artist, Laguna’s first public art, and of a woman who dedicates her life to helping the poor in the Settlement House movement. Let’s start with the colonization movement.

The crushing of urban poverty was a social problem in the 1880s, especially with the influx of immigrants. Seems familiar? The progressives have proposed an enlightened solution: the “houses of colonization”. Rather than giving aid to the poor, middle-class volunteers would raise them by living together in multi-family homes where they could learn from and help each other. It was the Laguna Friendship Refuge for the homeless, but with citizens settled in some apartments. Movement seems the very essence of being “your brother’s keeper”.

The first American settlement hotbed opened in 1886 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and, surprisingly, continues to this day as the University Settlement Society. The settlement movement spread to over 500 homes by the late 1920s when a estranged woman, Isadora W. Kerr, reinvented herself as a social worker and joined University Settlement. She lived there in the 1930 census. By the 1920 census, she was married to a successful doctor from Philadelphia with a new child, servants, and a bright future. Two other children follow but the marriage falters, the reasons unknown. The husband stayed with the children, helped by a young nurse whom he would later marry.

Isadora has a sister, a Pasadena artist and dog lover who moved to Laguna around 1931 and became associated with the town’s Humane Society. Isadora joined her in Laguna, perhaps to take care of her sick sister who died in mid-1932. Before returning to serve the poor of New York City, Isadora had the inspired idea of ​​spending her money on art for the community as a memorial to her sister, rather than a “cold granite stone” in the cemetery.

Building on her sister’s love for dogs and supported by the local Humane Society, Isadora commissions famous Laguna sculptor Ruth Peabody to create a bronze statue of a child watering a dog that can also serve as a fountain. public with a place for dogs. The president of the Humane Society offers him his Scotty Terrier and his granddaughter Adrianne as models.

Now the community is coming together to create Laguna’s first public entrance. The town offers the triangle-shaped land in front of the art museum as Laguna’s second park. The Chamber of Commerce proposes that it be named in honor of Elmer Jahraus, founder of Laguna Lumber and a strong supporter of the city. The Garden Club offers to plant a landscaped community Christmas tree in the park. The water company proposes to install pipelines and supply water. The whole town catches the spirit; it seems like everyone is doing something. The consecration was the biggest event in Laguna’s brief history.

There’s only one problem: the statue remains, mistakenly titled “Boy and Dog,” but the story has been lost. We should have a plaque that tells this beautiful story from our past. There is meaning in this.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a surf trip in the 1950s. He is a student of Laguna history and author of Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach. E-mail: [email protected]