The Plaque Houses of Pacific Grove – What They Tell us and the Secrets No One Talks About

While enjoying the pretty dollhouse cottages dressed in pastels and shingles, picket fences and stained glass windows, have you wondered about the green plaques that adorn many front porches? Even though they’re engraved with the names of men and women, wherever names like “Della Mayhew” and “Myretta Steiner” appear, it was a first step toward the American dream we all hold dear.

In Victorian times, it was often illegal for women to own/control property, but they were allowed to hold these second homes in a wife’s name, which provided tax advantages to the families.

Pacific Grove was first settled as a summer retreat for the Methodist church. That’s why areas of the city are divided into the original “Retreat” where our current downtown sits. Then surrounding areas were added to the city, including the “Third Addition” – where the Jewelbox Cottages sit. The plaque for our house, if we put it up, would read “Brown.” In 1916, when it was built , the main cottage was one of only 2 houses on the dirt road, and the carriage house really was for carriages.

In those early days, Pacific Grove was surrounded by a fence and had a gate that was locked at night. Profanity wasn’t allowed. Or alcohol. Or cards. Or swimming costumes that showed your knees.

In fact, alcohol wasn’t sold in Pacific Grove until the 70s, which is why every city border has a liquor store, like Bottles ‘N Bins at the corner of David and Lighthouse.

Back to those quaint green plaques, if you survey the names across the city, you might notice something that is conspicuous in its absence – one of Pacific Grove’s dirty little secrets, which still has echoes in our community today. You won’t find names like Chan or Gonzalez or Brown belonging to a family who wasn’t white. Because Asian, Latino and Black people weren’t allowed to own property in PG – or even live here. Nor were the Native American Ohlones who had fished this coastline for centuries.

For Americans of color and different religions, justice only reached the shores of PG through the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which nullified the practice of homes carrying deed restrictions making it illegal to sell to “Asiatics, African Americans, people born in the Turkish Empire, and all descendants of those mentioned.”

There are other dark times in PG’s history that have echoes today. The Feast of Lanterns hails from a time when it was illegal for people of different races to marry. And our Peace Lantern Ceremony remembers the bombing of Hiroshima and Japanese Americans were sent to camps and had their property confiscated.

Sadly, this history of exclusion has seen a revival in Pacific Grove. If you visit our town, you may see some signs that say “Neighborhoods are for Neighbors,” and it means that you and I, both, are not welcome. As of 2020, it will become illegal for you to not stay in a hotel. Not surprisingly, this campaign was funded by Pacific Grove hotels with the intent of forcing you to pay their high rates by taking away the ability for homeowners like us to rent our homes to you. It’s another dirty little secret that isn’t obvious from the Welcome to Pacific Grove up the road from Bottles ‘N Bins.

But even in these dark times, we will overcome.

So please follow this blog, stay in touch with me and other homeowners who still believe you have a right to visit our marine paradise – no matter your gender, race or creed – and that you shouldn’t be forced into pay ransom to a hotel to do so.

We will always share our home with you, your friends and family and anyone who wishes to visit. Check out our Jewelbox Cottages and contact Mel if you're interested in staying.

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