Fundraiser focuses on fun and Claremont preservation

For Claremont Heritage, there is no better way to honor the city’s past than to host an evening enjoying the trees, buildings and scenery that continue to keep Claremont a beacon of historical significance along the foothills.

Claremont Heritage is calling its patrons together for a night of dancing, merriment and celebrating preservation Saturday, June 16 for its yearly summer gala and fundraiser. The party takes place from 5 to 10 p.m. at the Pomona College Smith Fountain Courtyard.

This year’s event, Party in the Piazza, is an open-air Italian affair that includes cocktails and Tuscan treats as well as silent and live auction items to benefit the organization’s continued mission of preservation. The $80 ticket, $85 for non-members, grants partygoers entry into the annual staple for the town historical society. It also gives locals the chance to honor both town history and organizations across the city striving to continue to instill that same ideal.

“People don’t realize what we have here in Claremont in terms of architectural preservation. It’s an important part of our cultural fiber, it is why Claremont is so special,” said Executive Director David Shearer. “We could look to a number of cities not so far away that have not paid attention. You can drive through those cities and tell the difference.”

Each year, a location is selected to reflect the city’s history. It was held at the Historic City Depot since the inaugural event in 1996 up until last year, when Padua Hills Theatre was selected. Both sites were chosen because of Claremont Heritage’s role in saving and preserving the buildings.

This year the venue will switch again, this time set along the backdrop of Pomona College. Pomona, the first of the 5Cs established in 1887, will be the recipient of the organization’s lauded Bess Garner Historic Preservation Award, recognizing the best of preservation by either an individual or an organization. The college was unaware it would be the recipient of the award at the time it agreed to host the event. Considering the exceptional contribution the college has made to maintaining historical integrity, their award is not surprising, according to Mr. Shearer.

“We hold them as a shining example of what the other colleges should be looking at when thinking about expansions or master plans. Pomona College has been a steward in maintaining its original architecture,” Mr. Shearer said. “That is something that really does not get the attention or credit that is due.”

Guests will be able to appreciate the reasons the college is being honored, as the courtyard is surrounded by some of this standout architecture.

“We’re thrilled that Pomona’s sensitivity to our past and continuing efforts to maintain our campus’ architectural gems is being recognized,” said Pomona College’s Karen Sisson, vice president and treasurer. “Pomona College has a rich and distinguished architectural history that we are very proud of, and we are dedicated to preserving the architectural integrity and heritage of its buildings and landscaping.”

In addition to the preservation award, Claremont Heritage implemented the Cultural Heritage award 3 years ago to honor those embodying what sets Claremont apart beyond the architecture. This year’s recipient is the longstanding Folk Music Center, which draws in crowds from across the country, and the globe, to sample the local music scene. The music center’s offerings and cultural scope is vast, from a potpourri of musical instruments and a highly-regarded concert series to workshops and educational classes.

“It brought a truly American art form to Claremont, and an outlet of teachers like Ben Harper who have gone on to make a major impact in the music scene internationally,” Mr. Shearer said. “People come from all over to visit it and not only to buy or restore instruments, but take classes. It has really become an institution.”

The store’s mission to spread an appreciation of music hits home for store manager Ellen Chase Harper, whose parents Charles and Dorothy Chase were the original owners, opening the store in the back of a real estate office in 1958.

“It’s certainly meant everything to us, from family to friends,” Ms. Chase Harper said, reflecting on fond memories of her mother teaching music classes in Memorial Park to students who have gone on to teach her style of music across the globe. “It’s had such a big influence.”

Furthering its desire to teach music to students ranging in ages and levels, the Folk Music Center opened its own museum in 1976 as an educational and cultural tool that continues today. In economic times that are challenging for many, being honored for what they continue to provide to the music scene is particularly gratifying for Ms. Chase Harper.

“I think validation is important, for every person and every institution,” she said.

While recognizing these organizations that further the Claremont Heritage ideal, Heritage strives to raise the funds necessary to continue to update its archives, and, a step further, bring those archived works of art into the homes of people across the globe. Heritage is working on creating a digital archive library of all its art pieces, photographs and more, which will be available on the group’s website and linked with other museum archives through a national database. Mr. Shearer hopes to further preservation efforts such as this through grant funding and gala proceeds.

Beyond looking for the necessary funds to continue its operations, Mr. Shearer looks forward to bringing together a group of people dedicated to Claremont’s history both now and for years to come.

“It is just a nice evening of music and dining with other Claremonters concerned about preserving our city,” Mr. Shearer said. “It is a wonderful time for a good cause.”

The Pomona College Smith Fountain Courtyard is located at 150 S. College Ave. Tickets to the gala can be purchased on the Heritage website at

—Beth Hartnett


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