Arda M. Haenszel

Arda M. Haenszel


Nicholas R. Cataldo (2002)

(Photographs from Arda Haenszel's private collection located in the California Room of San Bernardino's Feldheym Library)

Arda in 1928, San Bernardino High School Graduation
Arda in 1928, San Bernardino High School Graduation

For decades Arda M. Haenszel had been the "the source" for local history. On Wednesday, January 9, 2001, the 91 year old San Bernardino County resident became part of that story she loved to research and write about.

The only child of Dr. Allen and Arda C. Haenszel, she became fascinated with the subject early on.

Arda with father
Arda with father in the Summer of 1911 in Ebenezer, New York

Dr. Haenszel sets out on a house
Dr. Haenszel sets out on a house call with his horse "Maggie" in 1911 Ebenezer, New York
(Photograph was taken in front of the Haenszel house)

At the age of nine, the New York native moved with her parents to the semi abandoned Nevada desert mining town of Searchlight in 1919.

Arda's father was the company physician for the Santa Fe Railroad as well as the lone town doctor. In fact, he was the only doctor for miles around. With the mining boom over by nearly a decade, young Arda grew up around the ghostly reminders of abandoned buildings, mine shafts, and rock dumps.

This unique environment that she knew perhaps may have sparked her interest in the past. Shortly after the Haenszel family left Searchlight in 1922, they moved to San Bernardino, which is where Arda called home until moving to the City of Redlands' Plymouth Village a few years ago.

'Plymouth Village a few years ago.

The Haenszel home on 6th Street, San Bernardino
The Haenszel home on 6th Street, San Bernardino

Arda at University of California, Berkeley Graduation, 1933
Arda at University of California, Berkeley Graduation, 1933

After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, Arda launched a 33 year elementary school teaching career in San Bernardino. No doubt, her kids learned a thing of two about our region's "olden days" during her tenure.

Arda as a teacher in Spring 1962
Arda as a teacher in Spring, 1962

Since Arda's retirement in 1966, she had been acknowledged as the number one consultant on our county's rich heritage. A long time associate with the San Bernardino County Museum, Arda and her "famous files"---an unbelievably extensive historical collection of just about any and every topic regarding San Bernardino County as well as parts of Southern Nevada---have provided material for countless other researchers (including yours truly) in their quest of exploring this region. She efficiently and willingly shared information on local Indian tribes, old trails, pioneers, historic sites, nearly forgotten towns, the Mojave Desert...the list goes on and on.

Arda in Big Bear 1945
Arda, in Big Bear, 1945

Arda also had a strong interest in archeology and, although not blessed with great health, was no "couch potato" writer. Until about ten years ago, she was always driving her jeep out into the most remote areas of the desert, photographing abandoned sites, documenting her findings, and analyzing ancient petroglyphs. I have been a history "buff" for as long as I can remember and was developing a real taste for the local variety upon meeting Arda for the first time in 1980.

She made the history exciting, not only through her amazing work, but through the encouragement she gave me to write and record subjects that I knew about and enjoyed. Although her hearing was pretty bad, I just loved talking history with her. The author of "Searchlight Remembered", a reminiscent autobiography of her childhood in that little Southern Nevada desert town, Arda was honored with the prestigious Award of Merit by the Conference of California Historical Societies, an award by the San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society for her many years dedicated to preserving the history of San Bernardino County, and the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Archeological Survey Association of Southern California.

We wish her peace and a happy trail into unlimited history.

Below is the caption for the color photo of Arda holding a plaque:

Arda in 1999 with plaque
Photograph courtesy of Chris Shovey, who took this picture in 1999.

The plaque reads:

The [California] Room is Dedicated
To Arda Haenszel

Teacher, Historian, California
Room Docent and Living Treasure

April 20, 1999

[On December 13, 2007 the San Bernardino Library Board of Trustee's unanimously approved the naming of the California Room as the Arda Haenszel California Room]

[Click here to read Richard D. Thomson's article on Arda M. Haenszel from the 2007 Library News]