Del Mar Library
The Del Mar Library, on Camino del Mar, is a wonderful resource for everyone. Not only does it have the typical services a first class library offers, but it is a community meeting spot as well.
However the real attraction to many is its historical significance. With the same architectural design as many of the downtown buildings, a Stratford-on-Avon theme, the library was originally a church.
The craftsman-style building was constructed in 1914 as St. James Catholic Church. For years, it was the only house of worship between San Diego and San Clemente. Parishioners included Jimmy Durante and Desi Arnaz. Bing Crosby and Pat O’Brien also served as ushers.
As a boy, my family would take us to Mass on Sundays. While I viewed going to Mass as a chore, as most boys my age did then, it was special because of the view of the panoramic Del Mar coastline looking north, just out front of the church.
I remember Fr. Gilfillan saying Mass, then coming outside at the end to greet everyone. I remember his cheerful smile and friendly greetings, a sharp contrast to Fr. McNamara at my previous church, who put the fear of God into me with just a glance.
Over time, St. James outgrew the quaint old church and in 1966 it relocated to the hill above the racetrack in Solana Beach, where it is today.
St. James Catholic Church
The old building became home to various businesses, including The Albatross Restaurant for a number of years in the 70’s and early 80’s. It was a very popular place, with great food and atmosphere. I remember often going up to listen to live jazz and staying until closing to hear Nova, the house band.
My girlfriend at the time was a hostess there, and I ended up working as a busboy at “The Alb” for awhile while in college, and have some great memories.
The owners later remodeled the old Mayfair supermarket in Solana Beach and turned it into one of the first night clubs in North County, called Another Bird. I remember seeing Warren Zevon, Bonnie Raitt, Eddie Harris and Taj Mahal, among other artists who came to play.
After The Albatross closed, the old building was home to various businesses before being sold to the City of Del Mar in the early 1990's to be restored as a public library. The library project won a 1997 Orchid Award for Historic Preservation from the San Diego Architectural Foundation.