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Jan Siegel Guest opinion by Jan Siegel

May is National Preservation Month. This year, the Cultural Heritage Commission is hosting a day on Los Rios Street to not only commemorate the preservation of the oldest residential street in California, but also a tribute to Ilse Byrnes, who nominated and placed the street on the National Registry of Historic places.

Ilse, who recently passed away at the age of 94, was the closest we had to a national treasure. A resident of San Juan Capistrano for more than 50 years, she was the town historian; an avid horsewoman; a member of many commissions, both locally and in Orange County; and active in the Fiesta Association, Historical Society, Blas Aguilar Foundation, and Montanez Adobe.  Except for the Mission, Ilse was responsible for putting the other 13 structures in San Juan Capistrano on the National Registry.

The Walking Tour Guides and the Historical Society Docents will be giving tours throughout the day on Los Rios Street and at the Montanez Adobe. Presentations will also be given at the train depot on local history of the area. The Camino Real Players will be putting on a short play on the life of Ilse Byrnes at the Historical Society. 

As part of the celebration, local fourth-grade school children will participate in an essay competition on the history of San Juan Capistrano. Prizes will be awarded for the top three winners, and their essays will be read at the Historical Society. 

Sponsors for the event include Zoomars at River Street Ranch, Regency Theatres, Mission San Juan Capistrano, Selma’s Chicago Pizzeria & Tap Room, 3:16 Bakery, Ricardo’s, the San Juan Capistrano Historical Society, the Walking Tour Guides, Camino Real Playhouse, the City of San Juan Capistrano and the Cultural Heritage Commission.

The event is open, free to the public, and will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Donations will be accepted at the Historical Society and at the Montanez Adobe to insure future preservation in our community.

You can spend a “Moment in Time” and learn about our local history and what the city and commissions do to support historical preservation. And you can also learn about how one person can make an incredible difference in their community. 

Jan Siegel was a 33-year resident of San Juan Capistrano and now resides in the neighboring town of Rancho Mission Viejo. She served on the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission for 13 years, has been a volunteer guide for the San Juan Capistrano Friends of the Library’s architectural walking tour for 26 years and is currently the museum curator for the San Juan Capistrano Historical Society. She was named Woman of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce in 2005, Volunteer of the Year in 2011 and was inducted into the city’s Wall of Recognition in 2007.

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