Because of COVID-19 and social distancing the gala fundraiser August 8th at the Admiral Kidd Club has been cancelled.

4355 Bonita Road, Bonita, CA 91902  *  phone: 619-267-5141  * follow us on Facebook  &  Instagram

The Museum is Open Wednesday - Saturday, 10am - 4pm, or by appointment.

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Permission To Come Aboard: The History of Navy Ships in San Diego

Exhibition Dates: August 8 – September 26, 2020

The Bonita Museum & Cultural Center is excited to present the history and legacy of the Navy through a major exhibition opening August 9 through September 26, 2020. The exhibition will include sailor-built models, artifacts, photographs, uniforms, and toys detailing the history of the Navy including the Marines and the start of naval aviation from the 1760’s through the 1940’s.
Press Release

Visitors can walk through environments representing the early wooden hull period of ships of the United State Navy and experience the transition to the ironclad ships of the Spanish American War.  Naval history of WWI and WWII introduce steel shipbuilding as well as aviation and Marine Corps history. 

Model of U.S.S. Rowan, U.S. Navy Torpedo Boat, 1895

Navy sailor, Marine, and model builder Joe Frangiosa, Jr. tells the story of naval history through his diverse and fascinating collection of hand-built models displaying the components aboard a ship, including miniature operations rooms and daily on-board activities.  A special hands-on-interactive in the exhibition Permission to Come Aboard provides a quarterdeck environment for visitors to explore.

The exhibition highlights the legacy and shared cultural heritage of the Navy through toys and collectibles.  These historic objects tell the story of the United States and the military families who made toys and brought toys home, passing down this indelible history of specific Navy ships.  Visitors to the exhibition can explore the cultural heritage of life on a ship through the uniforms, food, activities, as well as the specific sailor vernacular/language. 

The exhibition will include resource material and public engagement through lectures and public photos explaining the expansion of the Navy in San Diego, specifically into Coronado, South Bay San Diego, and Baja California during the Spanish American War, World War I, and World War II.  The history of San Diego Navy ship building from wooden hulled boats to iron clad and steel aircraft carriers tells the story of ingenuity and hard work to problem solve and bond together during wartime.


            The evolution of  US NAVY ships from the “Age of Wood and Sail”, “Ironclad & Steam” era, steel hull “Great White Fleet” era leading into the super dreadnought battleship of WWI.  This battleship ultimately resulted in the aircraft carrier prior to WWII.  Public engagement exhibit including photos of current and past South Bay Veterans including stories relating to:

o   Video recording of oral histories

o   Gold Star families and street names in Chula Vista

o   History of the WAVES, Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency   

Curator Joe at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan in 2014, working with British AH 64 Apache Attack Helicopter

From Joseph Frangiosa, Jr., Curator:

Through this exhibition, visitors will see a unique and intriguing collage of sailor-built models, advertising, toys and collectibles that bonded Americans to the Navy. 

As a young nation, the Navy was responsible for planting a U.S. flag on the world stage.  From the beginning of time, control of the seas dictated the success and survival of a country.  The Navy legacy continues in San Diego to this day.  Public support and awareness of the Navy and patriotism drive young people to serve and make our way of life possible.

The exhibition begins on a wooden hull warship surrounded by artifacts, memorabilia, toys, drawings, photographs, and uniform items associated with sailor-built models of that time.  Visitors will travel back in time to the Iron Clad 1860’s period of ship building, and then experience the Great White Fleet (1890-1910) and see the scale replica of the U.S.S. Indiana during the Spanish American War.  Oral histories will recount Navy adventures and daily activities aboard ship.

As the exhibition moves into 1918 and WWI, visitors can see the evolution in 1942 in the aircraft carrier design of WWII.  Visitors will enjoy noting the evolution of ship design and artifacts from each period of history.

Joe constructing models

About the Curator:

Joseph Frangiosa, Jr. served four years in the U.S. Navy and was a plank owner on U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) serving as an Aviation Boatswain’s Mate.  After receiving an honorable discharge, he used the G.I. Bill to obtain a FAA Helicopter Pilots Certificate.  Frangiosa then joined the Marine Corps and became a CH-46 Helicopter Crew Chief. 

As a retired disabled veteran, he enjoys giving back after an exciting twenty year career in the military. He funds and operates the Nautical History Museum in La Jolla and builds handmade scratch- built models of ships.  During his career in the military, Joe would return from deployments and relax and “brain dump” by building models.  He also collected artifacts and memorabilia associated with the ships and their historical periods, eventually opening a museum to house his growing collection.  

This went on for many years and, in his retirement, he is excited to share his knowledge of model making with fellow veterans and the public.  Joe credits his model shipbuilding for helping him deal with PTSD on a daily basis.  He will offer talks and workshops about his work to help fellow veterans and to illustrate his model building process.

Models on Display include:

Age of Wood & Sail
            - HMS Victory, 74 Gun Two-Decker, U.S.S. Vermont 1815,
            U.S.S. Constitution

Civil War Ironclad

            - U.S.S Monitor, Union Gunboat Side Paddle Wheeler

Steel Navy 1890-1910

            - U.S.S. Indiana, U.S.S. Maine, U.S.S. Wilmington,
             U. S. Navy Torpedo Boat 1985


            - U.S.S. New York Super Dreadnought Battleship


            - U.S.S. Langley Aircraft Carrier, Gato Class Submarine,
            Fletcher  Class Destroyer


About the Museum

The Bonita Museum is a Blue Star Museum, always free for members and family of the military.  Exhibitions showcase the art, history and culture of the South Bay San Diego region.  Military families can find free art programs every 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month from 11am to 2pm at the museum through San Diego Art Kids.

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