Nipomo will be showcased in its very own “Images of America,” a photographic history book published by Arcadia Publishing.
Doug Jenzen, a Cal Poly alumnus who received his master’s in history last spring, took on the task of assembling approximately 200 photographs for publication. Due to a lack of job availability for a history graduate, Jenzen decided to help compile the book, he said.
Jenzen grew up in Nipomo where the Dana Adobe is the only local historical organization. Built in the 1830s by sea captain William Goodwin Dana, it was a major stop for travelers along the historical road between the missions, known as El Camino Real.
“I thought putting together a book like this and donating the proceeds to restore the local adobe house would kind of help me out by having something to put on my résumé as well as helping the community out,” he said.
The “local adobe house” refers to the Dana Adobe, a historical California landmark in Nipomo.
“It’s kind of interesting because (Dana) built it to look like the houses that were being built on the East Coast at the time, only it was built out of adobe,” Jenzen wrote in an email. “He used Chumash laborers that had been recently freed from the missions, so the house really does represent a blending of cultures.”
Jenzen said he also plans to include the famous Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” photographs taken during the Great Depression.
“It’s interesting that there is nothing in Nipomo to mark the importance of its place in American history, especially since the Migrant Mother gave a face to the plight of an entire generation of people and appears in most U.S. history textbooks,” Jenzen wrote.
“The Migrant Mother picture is the most famous of them, but it turns out there is series of a few dozen photos that (Lange) took,” he said. “These photos that she took show all these families from different places around the country that came here to work in agriculture.”
Jenzen said he ran into two problems while making the book. When he first started, he thought he would be in an archive room scanning photographs, Jenzen said. It turned out that no organization had enough photos to cover the 180 to 200 photograph requirement.
“I have had to contact people within the local community,” Jenzen said. “And it’s been really interesting, actually, meeting people who are related to the real families that have been here since the middle of the 1800s.”
The second problem also had to do with the photograph requirement.
“What I didn’t realize when I got started was that I thought that all the local historical organizations would let me publish their photos, but it turns out they all charge fees for it,” he said.
The fees are approximately $50 or more per photograph and help cover the cost of maintaining archives. This made things difficult for Jenzen, who was donating the proceeds to a local organization.
Jenzen ended up speaking with Erin Newman, the chief administrative officer of the History Center of San Luis Obispo County. Together, they worked out a way to overcome the fees.
“He’s offered to donate several books to us that we can then sell in our gift shop as a sort of exchange for fees,” Newman said. “It offsets some of the costs for the use of the photos.”
The money from the book sales will go directly to the Dana Adobe, she said.
“I think it’s really encouraging to see local students and local authors working on local projects,” Newman said. “I think that shows a big commitment to your community to invest your time right here at home,” she said.
Nipomo isn’t the only town in San Luis Obispo County with an Arcadia “Images of America” book. Morro Bay, Grover Beach, Paso Robles, the city of San Luis Obispo, Arroyo Grande and Oceano all have books, available on the publisher’s website.
“It’s really nice that we’re starting to cover different places in the county, not just San Luis Obispo,” she said. “As the county historical society, we often try to encourage authors to look outside of the city limits for interesting stories and fantastic photographs.”
Marine Washburn, the executive director of the Dana Adobe, said the proceeds of Jenzen’s book will help keep the site operational, as well as help to develop an education center, she said.
“We’ve also secured property around the home, so now we control 129 acres around the adobe home and with those acres we will be developing a park,” she said.
For now though, the Dana Adobe is closed for restoration and will reopen in the fall. Washburn encourages people to attend the Dave Stamey concert on Saturday July 30 at 2:30 p.m., where attendees can enjoy music and take a tour of the adobe house. Tickets are $20 and available at www.danaadobe.org.