Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fox Fullerton, Disneyland Hotel, and Bowers

The still-under-renovation Fox Theatre in Downtown Fullerton recently took on a whole new look when the distinctive triangular marquee and the ticket booth were removed from the front. They've both been there for almost 60 years. However, the plan is to replace them with a 2-dimensional marquee like the one that was in use in the 1930s. See the Fox Theatre's website for more information.

I hear the D23 (read Disney fanatic) Convention in Anaheim this weekend was a bit toned-down from earlier years. Still, I hear there was some sort of ceremony for recently inducted "Disney Legends," including the late Jack and Bonita Wrather, who created the Disneyland Hotel. Our pal Werner Weiss recently wrote about their induction on his Yesterland site.

On a related note, Don Ballard's second book on the history of the Disneyland Hotel is now available for order. His first book was a beauty. I expect no less from this one.

Catching up: I missed this post on the Bowers Museum blog about Mrs. Ada E. Bowers and her memorial fountain. (The one in need of repair.) They mention how the Bowers left their land and money for the purposes of building a museum. Can you guess what details of the Bowers bequest are not mentioned in the article? Drop us a note in the "Comments" section if you know the answer.


Anonymous said...

If I recall correctly, it was to dedicate the museum to either Santa Ana or Southern California art and/or history. (Sorry, coffee hasn't kicked in yet.)

OCKid said...

The Charles W. Bowers Memorial Museum (to give it its proper name), began through a trust created by Charles and Ada Bowers in 1924, which left their home at Main and 20th and any other assets to the City of Santa Ana to provide for a local museum. If there were not enough funds to pay for a proper building, the city was to make up the difference.

Interestingly, the trust stipulates that if the City of Santa Ana declined the offer, the property was to be sold, and the funds offered first to City of Orange on the same terms, and if they declined, then to any Orange County city with 5,000 or more inhabitants that agreed to meet the requirements of trust.

Charles Bowers died in 1929 at age 86, and Mrs. Bowers followed him in 1931. Four days later, Santa Ana accepted the offer (Ord. 939), though it took five years (in the depths of the Depression) to build, furnish, and open the museum.

I have seen only a few excerpts from the trust, but it seems clear that the idea all along was that the Charles W. Bowers Memorial Museum would first of all be a local history museum.

In the trust, the Bowers stipulate that the “Historical Society of Santa Ana” should “be permitted to assist in the furnishing of displays, furniture and fixtures of the building,” and also provided that they be given “free use of the building for their meetings.”

(Since there was no “Historical Society of Santa Ana” in 1924, this was always taken to mean the Orange County Historical Society, the only historical society in the county at the time, and headquartered in Santa Ana. And in fact, the OCHS met at Bowers for decades, and even today is apparently welcome – provided they are willing to hold their meetings during regular business hours.)

Bolstering the local history connection, when Santa Ana accepted the terms of the trust in 1931, they appointed a “standing committee” for the museum, made up of Terry Stephenson, the leading Orange County historian of his generation, Dr. C.D. Ball, the longtime president of the Orange County Historical Society, Col. S.H. Finley, one of the founders of Huntington Beach, Lula Minter, the daughter of a pioneer Santa Ana family, and Robert L. Brown, owner of the Santa Ana Book Store.

Add to that the fact that Bowers Museum was run as a local museum for decades, highlighting local history (including local Indian artifacts and an incredible collection of material from the days of the Mexican ranchos here) and local artists.

For a good summary of all this, see Leo J. Friis, "The Charles W. Bowers Memorial Museum and its Treasures" (1967).