Nearly two decades after it was proposed, the special room at City Hall devoted to El Cerrito history will be open to the public, starting with one and a half hours on one day each month, the El Cerrito Historical Society has announced.
The society's archives, which had long been stored in a basement closet at the , were moved to the new history room on Aug. 23, 2010, the day after the city hosted a "grand opening" celebration for the facility. have spent more than a year sorting materials and computerizing a catalog of the collection, a process that is ongoing.
The first open day will be tomorrow, and the time will be 4:30-6 p.m., Tom Panas, a director of the society, told the City Council Monday night. The initial plan is to open the room during those hours on the third Thursday of each month, he said.
"I am pleased to announce that the Historical Society is now ready to open the Dorothy and Sundar Shadi Historical Room to the public on a regular basis," Panas told the council in a brief statement during the public comment period.
The room is named after the late Sundar Shadi and his wife, Dorothy, and its opening to the public comes nearly two decades since Sundar Shadi wrote to the council expressing his hope for a room at a new City Hall devoted to El Cerrito history.
Most residents probably associate Shadi with the that he gradually created over many decades — a handmade Biblical village that is spread out on the PG&E right-of-way on Moeser Lane during the Christmas holidays.
Shadi also began donating large sums to the city in 1992 for a new City Hall that eventually totaled about $300,000, according to city records. He wrote to the City Council in 1992 saying in part, "At such time as the new City Hall is constructed, it would be my hope that my wife and I could be remembered through the dedication of a room or location in the new City Hall which is devoted to El Cerrito history."
Shadi's donations formed the down payment for the funding of the construction of the new City Hall, which opened in September 2008. On May 17, 2010, the City Council officially designated the room as the Dorothy and Sundar Shadi Historical Room and authorized the city manager to establish an agreement with the Historical Society to organize the room's activities and contents.
The room has old records, newspapers, books, maps, photographs, scrapbooks and a variety of artifacts like TEPCO ceramics (from El Cerrito's once thriving restaurant ware producer), an adobe brick from the Castro Adobe (home of the first settler of European ancestry) and animal figurines made by Shadi. It also has a computer terminal for viewing the materials that have been input so far.