Ranch & Coast Magazine

January 2024

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F OUNDED IN 1874 AS THE SAN DIEGO Society of Natural History, the San Diego Natural History Museum is the oldest scientific institution in Southern California and the third oldest west of the Mississippi River. It was created by a group of amateur naturalists who met downtown at the Hotel Cecil on 6th Avenue with the idea of being a primary source of scientific culture for a growing community eager for information. at was 15 years after the publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species, and "it was a very Victorian undertaking," says Judy Gradwohl, president and CEO, who came to the museum from the Smithsonian in 2016. "ey were interested in natural history and wanted to talk about specimens. eir first field trip was to Mission Bay and it took all day." Now, 2024 marks the sesquicentennial of its debut, and from a society of natural history lovers and collectors, "e Nat," as it is affectionately known, has grown into an award-winning museum with more than eight million specimens and a world-class research and conservation arm. "We are much more than a building," says Gradwohl — though it is a very impressive building. e society moved into its current home on Balboa Park's East Prado in 1933 following a $125,000 donation from longtime supporter and local philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps. Designed by leading San Diego architect William Templeton Johnson, the building was intended to be a complete rectangle. But, even with Scripps' gift, money remained tight during the Depression, and only the south and west wings were built. It was not until 2001 that the east and north wings were completed, bringing the original plan to fruition. Nature and "e Nat" Celebrating a 150-year partnership BY BILL ABRAMS ranchandcoast.com 84 JANUARY 2024 RANCH & COAST MAGAZINE COURTESY PHOTOGRAPHY

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