Mission Estancia School class enjoys surprise visit to the Derby House


Jennie Chonka, a second and third grade teacher at Mission Estancia in the Encinitas Elementary School District, recently took her class on a walking tour of downtown Encinitas to learn about local history. An unexpected surprise was an addition to the already interesting and fun-filled day.

Ahead of time, Chonka had two scheduled stops arranged with docents Linda from Self-Realization Fellowship and Dayna from the Encinitas Historical Society, who met her class at the Self-Realization Gardens and the 1883 Schoolhouse. Other stops made were to Swami’s Beach, the Boathouses, La Paloma Theatre, and the Derby House. At each stop, the students presented a 2-3 minute speech on their Encinitas landmark.

Chonka said in an email that while students were presenting on the other side of the street from the Derby House, Garth Murphy, a longtime owner of the Derby House along with his wife Euva, stepped outside, waved hello and offered Chonka and her class of 18 students and six adults a tour of his property.

“Of course we couldn’t pass by the opportunity, so safely we crossed the street to enter through the side gate off of F St.” Chonka said in the email. “Through Garth’s side yard and around the front we carefully stepped up the six or so stairs leading to Encinitas’ longest occupied residential house.”

Chonka added that “This unique opportunity is a moment that I will treasure. Garth is truly a neat man; someone who I respect without knowing, who is both quiet and pleasant, with a strong desire to preserve Encinitas’ history by sharing the story of the Derby House to the younger generations growing up in a town that under his roof hasn’t changed.”

Chonka said that Garth shared a binder with her consisting of old photographs of Encinitas and said she could borrow the binder to make copies. “I jumped at that opportunity,” she said in the email.

Chonka concluded by saying, “The inside of the Derby House was as amazing as I remembered [it] four years ago. It’s filled with antiques and remnants that are important to Garth and his wife. My students, chaperones, and I loved every bit of our tour! We ended our 25-minute visit with my three students who researched the Derby House sharing their research gathered presentation of the Derby House that they had originally recited outside his home. My hope is that our visit also made an impact on Garth and gave him hope and reassurance that this town’s history is being studied and that the preservation of cherished locations, homes, and spots we call home are respected.”