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Town Council preserves, protects rural Olivenhain

The Olivenhain Meeting Hall, built in 1895, is still the community’s main gathering place.
The Olivenhain Meeting Hall, built in 1895, is still the community’s main gathering place.
( / Kristina Houck)

From the coastal Cardiff-by-the-Sea to the historical Old Encinitas, Encinitas is home to five distinct communities.

Semi-rural Olivenhain is probably one of the city’s more distinct communities, as it’s primarily a residential community with few restaurants or stores within the neighborhood.

“Of the five communities of Encinitas, we’re kind of unique,” said Dave Perryman, newly appointed president of the Olivenhain Town Council.

Incorporated in 1967, the Colony of Olivenhain Town Council was formed to preserve and protect the rural community, including the Olivenhain Meeting Hall, where town council meetings take place.

Completed in 1895, the Olivenhain Meeting Hall was constructed on stilts and featured one 28-by-36-foot-long room. Community historians believe the meeting hall may have been constructed in honor of the colonists’ 10th anniversary, since the decision to build the structure was made in November 1894, 10 years after the first settlers arrived.

The meeting hall quickly became the community’s gathering place, and the preservation of the structure was the driving force behind the formation of the town council.

“It’s sort of the physical manifestation of the community spirit,” said Perryman, an Olivenhain resident for 27 years.

The meeting hall was restored in the 1990s, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in December 1993. From annual community-wide events to one-time occasions, it remains the community’s gathering place today.

In September, for instance, residents gathered at the meeting hall to celebrate the life of Rick Story, Olivenhain’s longtime UPS driver. Story worked in the community for more than two decades. He died in an off-duty head-on collision last August.

“The whole community just came together. It was really nice.” Perryman said. “Whether it’s the candidate’s forum or a memorial, we provide the vehicle for the community to get together.”

Located at 423 Rancho Santa Fe Road, the Olivenhain Meeting Hall sits in the heart of the town on a two-acre site shared with the shanty and Germania Hotel.

The shanty, which is 10 years older than the meeting hall, was moved to the property in 1979. Also built in 1885, the Germania Hotel was moved to the property from what is now the south end of Seventh Street in 1982.

“I’m proud it’s still here after all these years,” said Adeline “Twink” Bumann, who was recently appointed vice president of the town council. A resident of the community since 1968, Bumann has spearheaded restoration efforts for the historical buildings.

“You can imagine what these two acres would be worth if someone would like to develop it into homes. I’m glad we’ve been able to preserve it.”

Besides preserving the land and maintaining the historical buildings, the Olivenhain Town Council also organizes some of the area’s longest-running annual events.

Both the Bratwurst and Beer Festival in April and the Oktoberfest in October celebrate the community’s German heritage, which dates to 1884. The April event was established in the early 1970s, while the Olivenhain Oktoberfest first launched a decade ago. Today, both events attract about 500 people.

“The grounds are full of people,” Perryman said. “Everybody has a good time. The community and beyond supports those things quite well.”

In addition, the Olivenhain Town Council hosts a variety of other events, including the Outdoor Cinema Series in August and September, the Craft Fair in November and the Holiday Wine Tasting in December.

Having been appointed in June, the new leaders of the town council want to continue the restoration of the hotel and build on the success of annual events, while encouraging community participation.

Attendance has dwindled at general meetings, Perryman said.

Until recent years, the council hosted a Fourth of July picnic, but the annual event was canceled due to low attendance. The council tried unsuccessfully to recruit a volunteer to revive the event this year.

As the new board president, Perryman plans to make more people aware of the town council and its activities, and encourage others to get involved.

“We need to get back to what Olivenhain is,” he said. “We’ve got a vision statement — it’s to preserve and protect our rural community. I think we’ve done a really good job of that. But maybe we need to think about how we support that vision in 2014, as opposed to 1967, when it was first written down.”

For more information, visit www.olivenhain.org.


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