Rob Selway, manager for the County's Historical Parks, tells me that the Santiago Canyon fire got within spitting distance of Arden (actress Helena Modjeska's 1888 home, pictured above). Luckily, the building, like others in Modjeska Canyon, was sprayed down with fire-retardant gel or foam shortly before the fire arrived, and the place was saved.
In the face of widespread fire and tragedy, it seems strange to keep chattering away about local history. But that's what this website is about. I’m worried about the fires too -- But there are hundreds of news sources better equipped to tell you that story than I am. All I can add is the occasional bit of historical perspective.
For instance, the media has frequently referred to "Portola Springs" in their coverage of the fires. This is a new marketing name that housing developers slapped on a historically significant spot called Tomato Springs. In Historic Place Names In Orange County, Don Meadows identified Tomato Springs as “tiny springs in Bee Canyon,… northeast of the El Toro Air Station. They were discovered by Padre Francisco Gomez [of the Portola Expedition] in July, 1769, and named San Pantaleon. Early in the days of American occupation, tomatoes were found growing wild around the springs and the present name was applied.” In 1912, it was also the site of a famous shoot-out between Sheriff’s Deputies and the “Tomato Springs Bandit.”
The National Archives' regional depository in Laguna Niguel is considering a move to the so-called Great Park. The Register ran an informative article about the possible move today.
In my search for more Modjeska photos today, I stumbled across this Polish website that includes photos of beloved local librarian and historian Opal Kissinger playing the roll of Helena Modjeska. Now, like Modjeska herself, Opal is "world famous in Poland!"