March 2016 Meeting – San Clemente’s Heritage – Speaker: Raad Ghantous

San Clemente Beach Club, 1920s, Image courtesy of Tom Pulley

At the next Orange County Historical Society meeting, San Clemente Historical Society president Raad Ghantous will discuss the history of the “Spanish Village by the Sea” and how heritage tourism can be used to save our historic sites. The meeting will be held March 10, 7:30 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange.

San Clemente was founded by former Seattle mayor Ole Hanson in 1925. He required all buildings in town to reflect a Spanish look, with white walls and red tile roofs. This reflected the Spanish Colonial Revival style of architecture, made popular by the 1915 Panama-California Exposition at San Diego’s Balboa Park. San Clemente became a city in 1928, but the economic pressures of the Great Depression brought an end to Hanson’s architectural edicts.

This sleepy seaside village drew new attention in 1969, when President Richard Nixon bought part of the H. H. Cotton estate as his “Western White House.” Nixon called it “La Casa Pacifica.” He vacationed there, entertained world leaders there, and retired there after his resignation.

Today, San Clemente has over 63,522 residents and its latest major addition is a bluff-top outlet mall, designed in a style that would have made Ole Hanson happy. Some of the town’s historic sites, however, are threatened.

Raad Ghantous is the Principal of the design firm Raad Ghantous & Associates. He has served on the boards of many non-profit groups in Orange County and hosts a live weekly radio show on He has served on the board of the San Clemente Historical Society for thirteen years – ever since working as an interior designer to restore Ole Hanson’s home, Casa Romantica, as a cultural and arts center. Since then he has become an important voice both in San Clemente community affairs and in efforts to promote historical preservation throughout the county.