Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Disneyland, monorails, Fox Fullerton, 1930s, etc.

Here's a view of the snazzy new Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim on June 1, 1956. On the right is the spot where the monorail station would later be built. On the left is the coffee shop that would later be known as the Monorail Cafe. The sign above reads, "Disneyland Hotel Restaurants by Gourmet." I've zoomed in on part of the image below to show off some of the outstanding landscaping, signage, and other Space Age design elements. I'd take this place over Downtown Disney any day!
Today's "Daily Read" in the Register is about the 50th anniversary of the Disneyland Monorail, and features an interview with the monorail's designer, Bob Gurr. It's an interesting article, but take it with a grain of salt. For instance, Walt Disney clearly was not "the most famous guy in America" in 1928 (nor in 1929, nor...) . And the monorail opened in 1959, after a surprisingly short design-build process.
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The Fox Fullerton Theatre Foundation is asking all its supporters to attend a meeting tomorrow night, concerning the development of the area adjacent to the historic theatre. The meeting will be held Wed., July 1, 6:30pm., in the Venetian Room at Angelo's & Vinci's, 550 N. Harbor Blvd., in Fullerton. The project's history and planning process will be discussed, the developer and architectural team will be introduced, and the community will be able to provide feedback on the initial concept.
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Phil Brigandi will discuss "The Great Depression in Orange County" at the Anaheim Historical Society's annual banquet on July 11. For more information or to RSVP, contact Cynthia Ward.
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A bunch of us local history folk celebrated Phil's 50th birthday on Sunday at Disneyland. (See photo below.) Read about it on Cynthia's Anaheim Life blog.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Strange drawings at the Old Courthouse

The Old Courthouse Museum in Santa Ana has a small but very interesting new exhibit on the 1st floor. They're now displaying about six of architect Charles L. Strange's original 1900 drawings of the Courthouse building itself. The drawings are loaded with detail. For us architecture geeks, it's fun to look for ways the building changed between the planning stage and completion.
These drawings were borrowed from the County by the L.A. architectural firm of Parkinson and Parkinson in the 1920s, when they were approached to design a proposed (but never realized) expansion and remodeling of the courthouse. A former historical commissioner tells me that Parkinson didn't get around to returning the plans until 1992, but then asked to be recognized for their contribution. (Using the same logic, perhaps my neighbor will give me a plaque if I finally return the weed-whacker I borrowed from him twenty years ago.)
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While you're at the Old Courthouse, you might also want to check out their new photographic exhibit of the route of Lewis and Clark. And of course, stop by the County Archives and say hello to me too.
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A late happy birthday to Cynthia Ward and an early happy birthday to Phil Brigandi. See you both tomorrow at Disneyland!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

5 Fwy, citrus labels, Dreger Clock, slides, etc.

This late 1950s Kodachrome image shows the 5 Freeway at First St. in Santa Ana. It certainly looks different today!
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I wondered how SoCal pop-culture maven Charles Phoenix would react to the news about Kodachrome's passing. He posted a piece about it today on his website, which begins, "Kodachrome slides changed my life." Indeed, he makes his living doing slide shows and creating books based on his amazing slide collection. (Click here to read his comments.)
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The Citrus Label Society's next meeting will be held Aug. 17th, 7pm, at the Orange Public Library & History Center. Reader Daralee writes, "It's an informal event in which you walk in and see the [vintage citrus crate] labels on sale at each of the various tables... Anyone who is not a member is welcomed to attend and purchase these labels."
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Those of you following the saga of the "Dreger Clock" (which once stood at Knott's Berry Farm) should check out the recent news updates on Glenn Frank's website. Restoration of the clock is nearing completion and it should be unveiled at its new home, near the Whitaker/Jaynes House Museum in Buena Park, in late July or early August.

Jacko in Orange County

So you thought you'd escape the 24-7 barrage of Michael Jackson coverage by coming here and reading about Orange County history? Sadly, you were wrong. I've had this weird picture - taken at Knott's Berry Farm in April 1984 - for a while now, and this may be the only excuse I ever get to post it. (Note that the sign on the Good Time Theatre marquee behind them reads, "Flash Beagle" - a show based on arguably the worst animated "Peanuts" special of all time.)
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You probably don't associate Jackson with Knott's. But you probably remember his connections to Disneyland.
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In a move I'm sure Disney executives later regretted, Captain EO - a 3-D movie starring Jackson - opened at Disneyland's Magic Eye Theatre on Sept. 18, 1986. (It actually debuted six days earlier at Epcot Center.) The special effects extravaganza was directed by Francis Ford Coppola, with George Lucas as executive producer. They are seen on the set with Jackson in the photo below.
Captain EO was 17 minutes long and cost 17 million dollars to make. That's five million less than Jackson paid in 1994 to settle one of the molestation cases against him.
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The short film was technically and visually impressive, but the glow faded over the years as Jackson's creepy personal life (e.g. sleeping with little boys) became public. The show closed in 1997 to no fanfare whatsoever.
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I'm told Jackson was a regular at Disneyland at various points in his career, going from ride to ride with his entourage - sometimes wearing a disguise. He was so enamoured of the park that he built a half-baked version of it on his Neverland Ranch near Santa Barbara.
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And speaking of Disney connections,... Did anyone else notice that Jackson died in a rented mansion on Carolwood Dr. - the same street Walt Disney lived on when he was developing Disneyland?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Kodachrome, Orange County Plaza, Knott's, etc.

"They give us those nice bright colors.
They give us the greens of summers.
Makes you think all the world's a sunny day, Oh yeah!
I got a Nikon camera.
I love to take a photograph.
So mama don't take my Kodachrome away."
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Paul Simon, Kodachrome

Sorry, Paul. Kodak has announced it is retiring Kodachrome slide film after a 74-year run. For good or ill, digital now officially rules the high-end photography world. Yes, there is much to love about the new-fangled "ones and zeros," but the change is bittersweet for those of us who cut our teeth "shooting silver."
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But don't worry -- we'll all be scanning and sharing Kodachrome slides online for a long time to come, including the image above. Today's photo shows Orange County Plaza, on the 9700 block of Chapman Ave. near Brookhurst St. in Garden Grove in 1957.
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Yes, this is post number three featuring this particular shopping center, but the other two (here and here) were among the most popular O.C. History Roundup posts ever. Go figure!
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If that weren't strange enough, it turns out that the photo I'm posting today is also the most frequently viewed image in the Orange County Archives' photoset on Flickr. (Over 1,627 views in less than eight months online!)
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Don't get me wrong,... I think these are great images of typical 1950s Orange County, or I wouldn't have posted them. But the level of public interest fascinates me.
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In response to an earlier post about the O.C. Plaza, reader "MCAS El Toro" wrote:
"...Off the top of my head, the anchor [stores] were JC Penney, Thriftimart, Economart and Grant's. The center declined after 15 years and the plaza was remodeled during Garden Grove's 'City Redevelopment' phase in the mid-1970s. It was reconfigured and re-branded as the 'Garden Grove Mall' and given another facelift in the late '80s as the 'Garden Promenade'. About ten years ago the JC Penney building was razed to make way for the current Regal movie theater."
On an unrelated note, Jay Jennings will discuss his new Arcadia photo book about Knott's Berry Farm on Real Orange on KOCE-TV tomorrow (Wed.), at 6:30pm. (Repeated at 11pm, and on Thurs. at 8am.) About half the images in the book are from the O.C. Archives' collection, so I'm especially curious to see how he organized them with his other material to tell the story.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Hintz Construction, Anaheim

Folks seemed to like yesterday's post, so I thought I'd bring your attention to this similar 1950s postcard advertising the homes of the Hintz Construction Co. of Anaheim. The postcard comes from Vic Stapf's wonderful Photos of the Forgotten website.
I started digging up a little more information about Hintz, but didn't expect to find much. I was wrong. First, the basics,...
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The president of the company was John T. Hintz, who was involved in at least eight local tract-building firms in the late 1950s. Gilbert J. Hayes acted as sales agent on most of these tracts.
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The black and white image above is from Hintz's "Riverview Estates" development, which was on sale in Spring of 1957 near Walnut Ave and Hart St in Orange. (Bizarre factoid: Over Easter weekend, "Easter Bunny clowns" were positioned along local streets with signs and balloons to point the way to the "big Easter frolic" that awaited potential homebuyers.) A second set of "Riverview Estates" was built at the same time near Clinton Ave. and Trask St. in Garden Grove.
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That same year, Hintz began construction of a 106-home tract at the northwest corner of 9th St. and Katella Ave. I believe the image below depicts a home in that tract.
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In May 1958, the O.C. Planning Commission also okayed another 44-home Hintz tract at the southwest corner of Bolsa Ave. and Euclid St. in Garden Grove. You get the idea. Hintz Construction was doing a booming business.
Perhaps it was a portent of trouble to come when one of Hintz's business associates took off from the Orange County Airport in an airplane owned by Hintz. When detained by authorities at an airport in Illinois, he claimed he had every right to use the plane and that John Hintz had no business contacting the authorities.
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Then the real trouble hit the fan. In March 1960, the O.C. District Attorney brought six real estate men - including John Hintz - into Anaheim-Fullerton Municipal Court on charges of violating the state Business and Professions Code. According to the L.A. Times, Hintz was charged with making "material changes in the financial structure after submitting to the real estate commission [his] planned method of handling the contracts of sale on the homes." The case was complicated, involved many parties, and resulted in a major "second trust deed" mixup. At least 200 O.C. homeowners faced forclosure. Hintz pleaded not guilty. (Two years later, the Garden Grove Union High School District sued Hintz on a related matter.)
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Going back through newspapers of the time, I can't find how the case ended or what happened to the homeowners. Does anyone know?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Dollar Builders, Santa Ana

No big post today. Just this great 1955 postcard for Dollar Builders of Santa Ana from the collection of Mark Hall-Patton. I love architectural illustrations of this style and era, and I always wonder where the original paintings ended up.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mother Colony House and Woelke-Stoffle House

Today's photos are from July 16, 1950, when the Mother Colony House (1857) in Anaheim was declared a State Historic Landmark. In the photo below, we see both the Victorian Woelke-Stoffel House (1894) (a.k.a. "The Red Cross House") and the Mother Colony House on that same auspicious day. The dark building in the background is a vineyard distillery barn which no longer stands.
It appears these fellows consecrated the ground by doing the Dance of the White Shirted Businessmen around a ceremonial totem. Round and round they go. You can almost hear them chanting.
The Mother Colony House is open for tours by appointment (see link above) and the Woelke-Stoffel house is currently undergoing a significant restoration/preservation effort. Drive down West St. near Sycamore if you'd like to see these historic buildings and the magnificent fig tree next door.
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Update: Reader ColonyRabble posted the following in the comments, but I thought it should be brought up here to the front page where everyone will see it: "I am very pleased to report that both structures are about to be incorporated into a public park for the interpretation of local history, overseen by the lovely Jane Newell! The ginourmous fig tree (that is the Latin, of course) will be included, along with some new construction for display space, so we can get some larger artifacts out of the Central Library basement (and bomb shelter) and out where kids can learn. Very exciting stuff happening in Anaheim."

Monday, June 15, 2009

Great Depression, Knott's, Olive, Nixon & NARA

The Register is running a series on the Great Depression in Orange County, including a handful of videos, on their website. (Kudos to Eugene Garcia for his nod to John Hodgeman in the first video.) The photo above shows "map colorists" in Fullerton, hired by FDR's Works Progress Administration to hand-color historical maps of Orange County. Some of you may remember that I was coveting these maps as recently as last year.
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For the whole series of articles, videos, photos, and other related information about the 1930s in Orange County, see the Register's Great Depression page.
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Speaking of the Great Depression, Knott's Berry Farm is selling some great t-shirts that read, "Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant: Serving quality chicken from one depression to the next."
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And speaking of the CDR's 75th, (sorry about all the cheesy segues,) I couldn't resist adding one more photo from yesterday's festivities,... The image below shows Tony Baxter, head of Disneyland's Imagineering, meeting Marion Knott, who was instrumental in shaping Knott's Berry Farm throughout the late 20th Century. I love her look of surprise.
Olive historian Daralee Ota has added a new segment to her website featuring the history of Mission Clay Products Co. and the Padre Tile Co. Link on over to learn more about the old brick yard.
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The Richard Nixon Presidential Library & Museum invites the public to enjoy cake, punch, a presentation, and special tours of its archival and museum holdings as the Library celebrates the 75th anniversary of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The event will take place 2:30-4 pm, Thurs., June 18. It's free, but reservations are recommended.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A banner day at Knott's Berry Farm

I'm posting a few of the photos I took yesterday at the 75th anniversary celebration for Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant at Knott's Berry Farm. It was an amazing day and the place was packed with some really interesting people. The photo above shows the biggest star of the day, Marion Knott, talking about her parents, Walter and Cordelia. Marion was born on the Knott's berry farm, and grew up working there, living there, and eventually involved in management.
The place was packed with historians, government officials, and many many former employees of the restaurant. This group shot brought together CDR staff from many generations. Linda F. "Pam" Elliott - who's sitting to the right of Marion Knott, and wearing a white cardigan - was a waitress there for 51 years! Mrs. Knott gave her the name "Pam" because there was already a Linda working at the restaurant. The name has stuck to this day. Jo Burdick, on the far left,, was a waitress, but also danced in the Calico Saloon and went on to a career in showbiz, working with the likes of Frank Sinatra. I'm sure each of these people has interesting stories to tell, and I'm sorry I didn't have time to hear more of them than I did.
The day was capped off with the re-dedication of the Orange County Historical Commission plaque that was originally placed at the Farm in 1977. The group above includes Commission members, Marion Knott and State Senator Lou Correa. They are standing between the park's ticket booths and Grand Ave.
Here, Historical Commission Chairman Don Dobmeier holds up a photo I brought showing the original plaque ceremony in 1977, in which he also appears. (He was Chairman that year too.) You can see the image more clearly in my post from last Monday.
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I want to thank Jennifer Blazey, Marty Keithley, and everyone who worked behind the scenes to make this event such a ringing success. It was wonderful to bring together the people who recognize that Knott's Berry Farm is much more than just another amusement park. It's a significant part of Orange County history, it teaches us about Western U.S. history, and it has a fascinating history of its own.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Follow the Chicken

These days, Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant receives its chickens the same way you do: More or less ready to cook. But for many decades, the Knotts brought live chickens in one door and sent fried ones out another. In between those steps was a huge process that required a big staff, multiple buildings, and a great deal of labor. In honor of the 75th anniversary of the restaurant, I thought we'd take a look at some of the steps in that process.
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The first photo (above) shows Knott's chicken buyer, John Ritter, (no relation to Jack Tripper,) buying the restaurant's millionth chicken, in 1944. At that time, he had contracts with 33 local chicken ranchers.
The photo above (circa 1963) shows the chickens being cut and sorted into their various component parts. The woman has the exact expression you'd expect of someone with her job. I also have photos of several steps between these first two images -- But processes like de-feathering are not as attractive as you might think.
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The next photo (below) shows the chickens in the restaurant's main kitchen. The row of women in back are washing the chickens. I'm not sure, but it appears that the pans of chicken in the foreground are being soaked in milk. This step is designed to make the meat more tender.
Combined, these kitchen images (one above and two below) from the 1940s hint at how big the operation was. And this kitchen, it should be noted, was just one piece of the puzzle. There was also a bakery, space to wash dishes, and much, much more.
The next photo (below) shows the chicken being fried - a job that seems to have gone to men in those days. Once fully cooked, the chicken was deposited onto plates and whisked away to hungry customers.
Frying, of course, is where the real magic happens. Frying creates that wonderful aroma that accosts you even before you're in sight of the restaurant. How can anyone NOT love Knott's Berry Farm once they're met at the entrance with that smell?
A not-so-small army of waitresses brought the food out to the ever-expanding dining areas. The chicken, mashed potatos, rolls, and vegetables in the photo above were all traditional at Mrs. Knott's. I'm less familiar with the aspic-like object atop two leaves of iceberg lettuce. I also wonder why we don't see the traditional dish of cherry rhubarb.
Finally, the chicken is enjoyed by the customers. They undoubtedly worked up a big appetite while waiting in long lines to get a table. Again, there's a strange lack of rhubarb at the table, but the boysenberry punch and preserves more than make up for it.
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So that's the short version of the chicken-dinner-making process. With a few changes and streamlines here and there, this process has continued nearly every day (except Christmases) for 75 years. These days, they serve about 1.5 million meals annually.
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Other restaurants that regularly change and update their menus could learn a thing or two from this Buena Park institution. The trick is to find something you do well and keep doing it.
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If you fry it, they will come.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Ralph Clark, Mrs. Knott's chicken & Dana Point

Ralph B. Clark, former County Supervisor and father of O.C. public transportation, died Saturday at age 92. He began his political career on Anaheim's City Council in the late 1960s and served as mayor in 1969. (A mutual friend of ours calls him "The Silver Haired Orator of Anaheim.") He represented the 4th District on the Orange County Board of Supervisors from Jan. 6, 1971 to Jan. 5, 1987, and served 12 terms as chairman of the Orange County Transportation District. Among his many accomplishments, Clark was largely responsible for the creation of our public transportation system, and for bringing the Rams football team to O.C.. Eventually we lost the NFL, but the buses stayed and flourished.
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The Register's website features an article with more details about Clark's life.
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The photo above shows Clark at his desk in the County Hall of Administration in 1971. The image below shows Clark (left) at the dedication of an O.C. Historical Commission plaque at Knott's Berry Farm in 1977. Also in the photo are Historical Commissioner Don Dobmeier and Virginia Knott.
The plaque shown above has gone missing over the years. (These things happen.) Coincidentally, the plaque will be replaced this very Saturday at an event honoring the 75th anniversary of Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant. It should be quite a gathering of former and current employees, local historians, theme park aficionados, and at least one or two members of the Knott family.
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[Correction (6-9-09): The old plaque has finally been found and will be re-dedicated and put back on display at Saturday's event.]
I plan to post more photos and information about this storied dining establishment as the week goes on. For now, see the Register's article about the anniversary or their readers' memories of chicken dinners past. (They also have a short video interview with Marion Knott.)
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Architecture fans, please note: I've updated Friday's post about the Mr. & Mrs. Haines House in Dana Point. The mystery is not yet solved, but we have a couple more clues.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Silverado, new history books, OCHS, Tustin, etc.

The photo above shows the Silverado Branch of the Orange County Public Library in July 1957. The photo below is a detail from the same photo, so you can try to make sense out of the reflections in the window and various papers taped to the glass.
The Orange County Historical Society's biannual Author's Night event will be held this Thursday, June 11, 7:30pm, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange. Featured authors who will speak, sign, and sell their recent local history books include James Newland (Cleveland National Forest), Ron & Elfriede MacIver (La Palma), Art & Mary Ellen Goddard (Early Costa Mesa), Susan Deering (Silverado Canyon), Claire Marie Vogel (Laguna Beach), Jan Van Emon (Villa Park), and Robert Carvounas (The Golden Bear, Huntington Beach). The authors will have books for sale, but will also sign books that were purchased prior to the event.
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Guy Ball is writing a book on Tustin history for Arcadia Publishing. He says, "I’m accessing the Tustin Area Historical Society’s huge collection of older images but I’m really looking for extra images from the 1950s to 1990s. My intent is to share old stores, restaurants, housing developments, and events that old-time residents would fondly remember. It looks like I need some help with obtaining these images. (Shows that we historical societies need to consider 'current' events as history in the future.)" If you have any photos that might help, please leave Guy a message at (714) 730-5817, or email him.
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Chris Epting recently wrote an interesting article for the Huntington Beach Independent about the long-reaching effects of the 1950 crash of a USMC Beechcraft SNB-5 (returning to MCAS El Toro) into a mountain above Mission Viejo.
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Epting will also be signing (along with co-author Marvin Carlberg) the new Postcard History of Huntington Beach on June 13, 10am-Noon, at the Springdale Country Store, 15802 Springdale St., in Huntington Beach.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Clueless in Santa Ana

The City of Santa Ana seems to be doing its best to stamp out historic preservation. Several months ago, their own Historic Resources Commission criticized their handling of the Basler-Twist House debacle. Days later, the City moved toward disbanding the Commission.
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Luckily, the residents of Santa Ana’s historic neighborhoods (with almost no notice) banded together to protest this move. This show of support postponed the City’s decision on the Commission’s fate. The final die still has not been cast.
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However, the City seems to be leaning toward cutting the number of Commission meetings down to only four a year. That would still take away most of the Commission’s ability to accomplish anything, but would probably not draw as much fire from the public as simply giving them the ax.
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Simultaneously, the City has raised their Mills Act filing fees from $419 to $4,249, crippling one of the key tools used to encourage historical preservation. By way of comparison, Anaheim charges no filing fee. Until now, Orange charged the highest filing fee: $1100.
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This reflects really, really badly on Santa Ana. Let’s hope this apparent anti-preservation situation is reversed quickly, so we can all write it off as a big misunderstanding.
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(Today's photo shows the old Santa Ana City Hall on Main St. as it appears today.)

Friday, June 05, 2009

R. M. Schindler in Dana Point?

R.M. Schindler's famous Lovell Beach House in Newport Beach is known as one of the most architecturally significant buildings in Southern California. But did Schindler also design another house here in Orange County?
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John Howell sent me these images (above and below), wanting to know more about the "Residence for Mr. & Mrs. Haines" which was purportedly built at 5112 Alicia Drive in Dana Point in 1934-'35. He says he's also seen a photo of the house, so he knows it was actually built SOMEwhere at SOMEtime. The house also shows up on many lists of Schindler's projects. And one website even claims the place is "in good condition."
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But Howell says there's nothing on Alicia Dr. that looks like this design. To add to the confusion, some sources spell the street name "Alishia" or "Alisha", but no such street exists. It also appears that the street numbering has changed over the years, so there is currently no 5112 address. However, Alicia Dr. is at the top of a hill with an ocean view, which is exactly where you'd build a house like this.
So, was this residence actually built in Dana Point? If so, does any of it still stand? And why haven't we heard this story until now?
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If you can shed any light on this mystery (or just feel like adding your two cents,) please leave a note in the comments section of this post.
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UPDATE: Jennifer Whitlock of The U.C. Santa Barbara Art Museum's Architecture & Design Collection looked at the drawings of the Haines House in their collection and wrote...
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"I found one note which is a bit cryptic, but says 'Haines' at the top and then next to it (but appears to have been written at a later time) '1675 ANGELOS'. Underneath underlined 'RO 7966' (perhaps Haines phone number?) and underneath that 'Mail: Doheny Park'. Then there are a few sketches and notes about the house (room measurements, floor plan). At the bottom it says 'Dana Point.' This page is taken from a series of notebooks that Schindler kept. I have no other context for this information. This information could be notes to Schindler for contacting the client during the project (they obviously must be living elsewhere while the house is being built)."

Monday, June 01, 2009

Villa Park, December 1965

All three of today's images show Villa Park in December 1965, and come from the Orange County Archives. The first image (above) shows Bruno's Villa Park Market near Wanda Rd. and the railroad tracks.
Here's Villa Park High School in its second year of existance. Sorry about the obstruction in the foreground, but I know our Spartan friends (know to their rivals as "the weenies on the hill") will appreciate this photo anyway.
Here's a packing house adjacent to Wanda Rd. There was still enough citrus to keep the packers busy, but notice the sign pointing toward a new development called "Oakwood Park." If Mid-Century Orange County had a theme, it was "agriculture giving way to suburbia."