Wednesday, March 04, 2015

The Mystery of the Sunshine Lodge

The Dana Point Historical Society was recently given fragments of an old sign (or two) from the "Sunshine Lodge." (See photo above.) The fragments were incorporated into the walls of the "Doheny House" (1928) in Capistrano Beach. That doesn’t mean the sign is from 1928, of course. It could have been added later, during repairs or renovations. In fact, based on the look of the sign, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was from the 1930s or 1940s.

So, what and where was the Sunshine Lodge?

Wherever it was, it had an “unequaled ocean view.” That lets out the old Sunshine Hotel in Orange, which is the only place with a similar name I can find in the South Orange County directories between 1899 and 1953. (Yes, I said "south." For most of our history, everything below Katella Ave. was considered "South Orange County.")

There was a Sunshine Lodge at 215 Wavecrest Ave. in Venice/Santa Monica from about 1903 through at least 1959. It was the headquarters for the local branch of the International Sunshine Society. But the sign in Dana Point seems to go with a hotel of some kind – not with the clubhouse of a social/charitable organization.

There was a hotel called the Sunshine Lodge at Coney Island in New York City around 1920. But that seems a little far to haul scrap lumber.

Do you have any thoughts on the origins of this sign? The Dana Point Historical Society and I would both appreciate any light you can shed in the comments section for this post.

[Note: Due to conflicting information from multiple sources, I initially cited the Dolph House as the source of this artifact. That information has now been corrected. My apologies for the confusion.]

Sunday, March 01, 2015

The Original Villages of Irvine

A preview brochure for Woodbridge Village, 1970s.
Historian Ellen Bell will discuss “The Original Villages of Irvine, 1960-1980” at the next meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, on March 12th, 2015, 7:00 p.m. (program begins at 7:30 p.m.) at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange. This program is open to the public at no charge.

The City of Irvine did not appear by accident. The modern day metropolis, with more than 200,000 residents, was the result of well-designed Master Plan. Citrus groves and cattle grazing land became a collection of individual Villages, including the Village of Woodbridge, a model for urban planning nationwide. Ellen Bell will discuss the transition of Irvine, from a 100,000-acre blank slate to California's 15th largest city.

Orange groves are cleared at Jeffrey Rd. and Irvine Center Dr. during the construction of Woodbridge Village, 1975.
Ellen Bell’s father was a history teacher and she spent her childhood summer vacations riding in the back of the family’s Country Squire Station wagon, stopping at every historical marker or Civil War battlefield that they passed along the way. Her father had a great ability to make history come alive by making it vibrant and compelling. She grew up with a hunger for history and a passion for sharing what she learned.

30 years later, she moved to Irvine, traded the station wagon for a minivan, and began taking her own two kids on fun field trips all over her adopted home of Orange County. California provided a whole new landscape to explore and a whole new history to learn.

Ellen is the author of Irvine: Images of America, and is a member of the Irvine Historical Society. She writes about local history for the Orange County Register and Destination  Her website, OC Day Tripper, is filled with field trip suggestions for exploring Orange County’s historic treasures. Currently, she is producing a series of videos for the City of Irvine, entitled “Hidden Histories.”
The Irvine Dream, 1972: Cycling from home to office through a greenbelt.
I apologize for not consistently posting OCHS programs on this blog over the past six months or so. I'll try to get back to a regular schedule of doing that.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Ben Grabiel

"Long time preservation supporter and Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society Associate Director Ben Grabiel has passed away," writes SAHPS president Alison Young. "I communicated with him recently by email and knew of his two strokes, but he indicated that he was doing well and recovering.  This is sad news.

"Ben was an SAHPS Board Director from 2002 through 2007.  In 2013 when we implemented the Associate program, he came back as an Associate Director.  Ben was part of the Friends of Lacy group that successfully worked to save a number of vintage homes from demolition in the Lacy Neighborhood.  His enthusiasm and sense of humor will be missed."

A memorial is planned for March 14th (details to follow).
SAHPS member Jeff Dickman adds, "Ben was a long-time friend and dedicated preservationist. I came to know Ben during the fight against One Broadway Plaza and later against the City's Station District project and its destruction of historic houses in the Lacy neighborhood."

Ben -- standing behind the SAHPS booth at a Floral Park home tour in the early 2000s (well before I started working in Santa Ana) -- was the first person to introduce me and welcome me to Santa Ana's historical community. At the time, I'd never given much thought to Santa Ana at all. But that friendly and informative welcome was the first in a series of events that led to becoming a SAHPS Associate Director myself. Thanks for making the new kid feel at home, Ben.

Thursday, February 12, 2015


Irvine Park in the early 1900s. (Photo courtesy Orange County Archives)
Q: Where was Camptonville? There’s a paragraph mentioning this old campsite on the OC Parks website, but I can't find anything more about it. Can you help?

A: References to Camptonville in the Santa Ana Register, in the early 1900s, referred to it as “above Orange County Park” (now called Irvine Regional Park) and “across the creek” from the main portion of the park. The description of Camptonville you found on OC Parks website is drawn largely from Don Meadows’ book, Historic Place Names in Orange County:
“…A favorite camping spot in Orange County Park… was on the left side of the road soon after it crossed the Santiago Creek for the first time. There was always water in the creek, and the sycamores and oaks were festooned with wild grapevines, and the road meandered through a shady tunnel of vegetation. The camping place, dubbed Camptonville, was as well known in the county as any town or village. Camping there was prohibited after 1917.”
Historian Jim Sleeper, who wrote the definitive book on Irvine Park, Bears to Briquets, wrote about the campsite as it was around 1903: “A settlement of squatters, (known as ‘Camptonville’) had sprung up on the north side of the creek.”

If this makes the place sound a little sketchier than the average family campground, you’d be right. It seems Camptonville’s reputation vacillated wildly over the years and the various shifts in the economy.

By 1910 the spot had gained favor as a legitimate place for families to camp.  In the 1911 edition of his History of Orange County, California, Sam Armor wrote that these “camping grounds are generally occupied by a few families or congenial friends in vacation time only.”

But by 1917 the problem with “permanent campers” had reached the point where camping at Camptonville was banned. That seemed to turn things around, for a while.

In the Summer of 1919, when twelve concrete and rock fireplaces were installed for picnickers at the park, two were built at Camptonville, which was again a popular place to spend a relaxing day.

When the Great Depression hit, the north shore of the creek again filled with squatters. Sleeper notes that, “Unlike the canvas palaces of the old Camptonville days, these makeshift tar paper shacks were not for recreation, but shelters for the truly dispossessed. Spawned by the Depression, they ended with it. Henceforth, ‘permanent camping’ was no longer permitted” anywhere within the park.

Today, the north side of the creek still holds a special appeal to those who enjoy the back country.  Less developed and framed by rugged bluffs, it retains an air of adventure that has been somewhat diminished in the more combed-and-curried parts of the park.

The old Camptonville site has most assuredly been heavily eroded by the many floods that have scoured the banks of Santiago Creek over the past century. So don’t expect to find any remains if you visit.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The First Europeans In Orange County

Caption contest winner, Jim Washburn: "We'll put the Hooters over there." (Image courtesy Irvine Co.)
The story of the 1769 Portolà Expedition, "The First Europeans In Orange County," is the latest in my regular series of "O.C. History 101" articles for the County Connection (the County of Orange employee newsletter). It's now available online in two parts. It begins...

"Imagine landing on an unknown earth-like planet with no prior information about the kinds of terrain, animals, people, plants, or water sources you’d encounter. That’s the kind of challenge Spain’s appointed governor of California,Gaspar de Portolà, faced in 1769, when he traveled from Loreto, Mexico to San Francisco."

The article deals mainly with the experiences of Portolà's party in Orange County. The expeditionary force consisted of 63 men, including soldiers, mule skinners, Indians from Baja California, servants, Fransican friars, a mapmaker, and a scout. Their impact on Orange County can still be plainly seen today.

The article begins in the Jan. 2015 County Connection, on page 7, and the second half appears in the Feb. 2015 County Connection, on page 5.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Talk Like A Grizzled Prospector Day, Jan. 24, 2015

This Saturday, Jan. 24, is Talk Like A Grizzled Prospector Day! It’ll be perzactly 167 years since the day when gold(!) was discovered at Sutter’s Mill, settin’ off Californee’s big Gold Rush! And all ye gotta do t’ celebrate this historical day appropriate-like is to talk like a dag-nabbed grizzled prospector!

This year, purt near everybody's talking about TLAGPD, including such high-falutin' publications as Uncle John's Bathroom Reader and the Heritage Hill Assisted Living Newsletter (Caro, MI).
An’ this year I figger ye ain’t got no excuse no-how fer not talkin’ like a dad-gummed grizzled prospector, since she falls on a Saturday. Yer bosses, grubstakers, ‘n’ whatnot cain’t rightly put up a fuss, seein’ as yer talkin’ like a grizzled prospector on yer own durn time.
So, tell yer friends, mark your calendar, and be ready to talk like a grizzled prospector, consarn it! Here’s some Interwebby-type link fer sharin’ with yer amigos:
Now, I'd best skedaddle back to my claim afore some hornswogglin', bushwhackin' sidewinder jumps it. Have a good 'un!

(Thanks to Heather David an’ Kevin Kidney fer the purty pitchurs in t'day's post!)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Unknotting the Treehouse Legend

I've written an article for Werner Weiss' wonderful Yesterland website about the connection between Disneyland's Swiss Family Treehouse attraction and the enormous (and real, and historic,) Moreton Bay Fig Tree at Founders Park in Anaheim. Hope you enjoy it. (LINK)

Friday, January 02, 2015

David Belardes (1947-2014)

Steve Adamson, David Belardes, Chris Jepsen & Don Dobmeier at the Orange County Historical Society, 2011.
"If somebody remembers the Juanenos, or if my children and grandchildren remember who they are and where they came from, then my efforts have been worthwhile." --David Belardes
Another respected member of Orange County's historical community has passed away. David's obituary, headed, "Chief, Chairman, Tribal Scholar, Historian, Genealogist and Teacher," appeared Jan. 1 and 2 in the Orange County Register. I'm reprinting it here,...
David Lee Belardes, born to Frances and Matias Belardes on March 8, 1947, Chief and Chairman of the Juaneno Band of Mission Indians, Acjachemen Nation, and lifelong resident of San Juan Capistrano, passed away surrounded by loved ones on Monday, December 29, 2014. He is survived by his sons, Matias and Domingo Belardes, grandchildren, Matias, Ciara, Marcella, Wyatt, Antonio and Andres Belardes; his sister, Donna Murphey, husband Butch, three children, five grandchildren and two great grandchildren; brother-in-law, Rueben Paramo, wife Debbie, six children and sixteen grandchildren.

Raised with a deep sense of community and an understanding of the ways of his ancestors and Old Time families of San Juan Capistrano, David remained committed to honoring the traditions of his people. With quiet dignity and often behind the scenes, David devoted his life to supporting the community. He was always there to lend a hand without ever seeking recognition. He helped community members with burial services, taking care of Elders, providing wood for ceremonies, supporting young peoples' search for family histories, and in many other ways. David was recognized across the state as a scholar amongst the scientific and archaeological communities for his expansive knowledge of San Juan Capistrano and tribal history. Throughout his life he advocated on behalf of the Juaneno people throughout Orange County, the state and the nation. In 1993, under his leadership, the Juaneno Band of Mission Indians, Acjachemen Nation received the honor of being the first state recognized tribe in California. A man of vision and conviction, David was always willing to take a strong stand on behalf of the Native Americans of San Juan Capistrano, even when such positions were not politically popular.

Over the course of his life-long dedication to raising cultural and historic awareness about San Juan's first people, the Juaneno Indians, Mr. Belardes was deeply involved in many local and state preservation organizations and received numerous awards in recognition of his work. He was a founding Board Member of the California Mission Studies Association and the California Mission Foundation, Founding Board Member and President of the Blas Aguilar Adobe Foundation, served on the Board of the Orange County, Saddleback Valley, and San Juan Capistrano Historical Societies, served as a member of the City of San Juan Capistrano Cultural Heritage Commission for many years, helped establish the Capistrano Indian Council and was instrumental in bringing Indian Education to Capistrano Unified School District where he worked for over thirty years. He was a recipient of the San Juan Capistrano Cultural Heritage Award, an honoree for the City of San Juan Capistrano Wall of Recognition, and a recipient of the Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen Award for superior contributions in furthering the preservation and protection of California Missions. David's legacy of cultural and historic preservation lives on through his family.

Viewing will be on Friday, January 2, 2015, from 6:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m., followed by the Rosary from 7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. in Serra Chapel, San Juan Capistrano. Services will take place in the Mission Basilica on Saturday, January 3, 2015, beginning at 12:00 p.m., reception to follow. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Blas Aguilar Adobe Foundation.
 In another Register article, San Juan Capistrano Historical Society President Tom Ostensen called David an "encyclopedia of local history, folklore and cultural resources,” Ilse Byrnes called him an "enormous source and resource for historic preservation,” and David's cousin, Jerry Nieblas, likened his death to the closing of a history book that we'll "never be able to take off the shelf" again.

I understand how Jerry feels, but I think in time we'll see just how much knowledge David Belardes shared with other people, and will see that many of them will pass along what they learned.