Monday, March 31, 2008

The Santa Ana Civic Center and the 1970s

Today's "then and now" images show the part of the Santa Ana Civic Center I like to call "The Salt Flat of the Flags." The concept illustration was done in 1970, shortly after the completion of the Orange County Central Justice Center. I took the "after" photo a couple years ago. Note the State Building which now looms over this mostly featureless plaza.
Thanks to Anaheim native and architecture expert Daniel Paul, I now what to call the angular, massive, rough-surfaced, unpainted concrete structures that were added to the Civic Center in the 1970s. Daniel tells me that the official name for this style of architecture is "brutalism." The State Building and Santa Ana's City Hall are both good examples.
Indeed, look up "brutal" in a thesaurus and you'll find plenty of words that describe these buildings (and 1970s design in general): Coarse, heavy, dull, stupid and cruel. Okay, well maybe it's only cruel if you have to look at it all day.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Old Huntington Beach street names

Our series on changing street names continues in Huntington Beach. I took today's photo a couple years ago at the corner of Lake and Pecan in downtown H.B. Originally, Lake St was known as Railroad Ave, because it ran alongside the railroad tracks. And what's now Pecan Ave was called Magnolia Ave. However, the old street names are still stamped into the old sidewalk at this intersection. (Just another example of how history is all around us.)

[Update 3/15/2019: The city destroyed this section of sidewalk to put in a handicapped accessible ramp. Even though it was already a ramp to begin with.]

The name Railroad Ave. appears on the original Huntington Beach tract map in 1904 and on the 1909 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, but was changed to Lake St. sometime before 1922.
The name Magnolia Ave was changed to avoid confusion with Magnolia St, which had previously been called Cannery St. and Lamb St. The names Cannery and Lamb disappeared when the County began unifying street names from one community to the next.
How's THAT for confusing?
Here are a few more street name changes in Huntington Beach:
  • Ocean Blvd is now part of Pacific Coast Highway
  • Smeltzer is now Edinger Ave.
  • Wright is now Brookhurst
  • Gerhart is now part of Heil Ave.
  • Hampshire Ave. is now Beach Blvd.
  • Los Patos and Wintersburg (like Delhi in Santa Ana) are now part of Warner Ave.
"Railroad Ave" and "Magnolia Ave." both appear on this 1909 map.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Ranchos, cogstones, Bowers, Capistrano, etc.

This map is less detailed than the one I posted yesterday, but it's also more legible. This stylized map is from the 1950s and shows (roughly) the old rancho boundaries. Note that the modern community names on this map include Talbert (instead of Fountain Valley), and El Modeno (instead of El Modena). Also note how few communities appear at all in southern Orange County.
The Bowers Museum has featured a few posts relating to local history recently. Their "Objects of the Week" have included a statue from Mission San Juan Capistrano and the Yorba family, an 1897 painting of a Mission confirmation class, a handful O.C.'s mysterious cogstones, and a photo of Charles and Ada Bowers at their Santa Ana home.

Friday, March 28, 2008

WPA map, Capistrano, it's a small world & wildfires

Today's image is a map created for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in the 1930s. The map shows "Orange County adobes, old roads, trails, ranchos, springs, and other points of historical interest." I wish I knew where to find the original map so I could get a better quality scan. This version comes from a slide found among County Planning Dept records at the O.C. Archives. (Click on the map to see a MUCH larger version.)
Scenes depicted on the map include an Indian village, Portola's expedition, a stagecoach heading up El Camino Real, a bear hunt, Mission San Juan Capistrano, the wetlands at Bolsa Chica and Talbert Gap, McFadden's Wharf, and various adobes. The map also shows some of the cattle brands used by the ranchos.
For those of you following the recent it's a small world debacle, Mary Blair's family has now come out against the proposed changes to the attraction.
And for those following the story of the controversial rectory garden at Mission San Juan Capistrano, the Register has an update about that too.
The Register also posted an interactive database of 37 Orange County wildfires since 1958.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Orange Drive-In, Rob Selway, OTPA, etc.

On this day in 1955, Rev. Robert Schuller preached his first sermon in O.C. from the roof of a snackbar at the Orange Drive-In Theatre. This place was Orange County's first drive-in theater when it opened in June 1941. The photo above was taken in 1946.
Rob Selway is retiring from his long-term gig as head of Historical Parks & Programs for Orange County's Harbors, Beaches & Parks Dept. The rumor of Rob's impending retirement circulates every so often. (One HBP employee said, "It's had more performances than South Pacific"). But this time, the rumor has been confirmed. Congratulations, Rob.
Nominations for the Old Towne Preservation Association's annual Preservation Awards are due April 10th. Individuals or groups can be nominated for their restoration efforts in the community. For more information, visit OTPA's website.
For the record, I just noticed that you can still purchase windows salvaged from the poor old Reuben E. Lee. I only wish I had some use for them.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Irvine Ranch House & Irvine street name changes

With all the interest in the new Katie Wheeler Branch Library (which looks like James Irvine's home), I thought it would be fun to post this 1913 image (top) of the actual Irvine family ranch house. The second photo (in color) shows the ranch in 1976, transitioning from agriculture to its current state. This aerial view overlooks the industrial part of Irvine.
Where street names have changed, old maps can be difficult to compare to modern ones. Nowhere in Orange County is this more true than in Irvine. Compounding this difficulty is the fact that some of the streets that do retain their old names are now in somewhat different locations. A few examples of Irvine street name changes follow:
  • Central Ave is now Sand Canyon Rd.
  • Como Rd is now Harvard Ave.
  • Crosstown Rd is now University
  • Lane Rd is now (more or less) Main St.
  • Laguna Rd is now Laguna Canyon Rd.
  • Myford Rd is now Old Myford Rd. (and another Myford Rd has been created.)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Disneyland's Wonderful Wizard of Bras

Today's photo shows what may have been the earliest robotic figure in Disneyland: “The Wizard of Bras.” The Wizard was the mascot of the Hollywood-Maxwell Brassiere Co., and hosted a display in their Intimate Apparel shop on Main Street, U.S.A. (The exterior can be seen in a recent post on Gorilla’s Don’t Blog – The same post which inspired me to research this stuff.) The shop was open on Disneyland’s opening day, but was one of its shortest-lived features. It closed in January 1956, and was replaced by the "China Closet" shop.
The photo above, which ran in a July 15, 1955 insert to the Register, shows C.V. Wood (left) vice-president and general manager of Disneyland, along with Herndon J. Norris, president of Hollywood-Maxwell.
Here are a few excerpts from the article that accompanied the image:

“[The] exhibit features the Wonderful Wizard of Bras on a revolving stage, on one side of which is a complete re-creation of the fashions and intimate wear of the 1890s, and on the other side a showing of the fashions of today… On stage, acting as master of ceremonies, via a tape recorder, is the Wonderful Wizard,…

“The exhibit will portray a typical 19th Century shoppe. The Wonderful Wizard and modern day clothing will occupy one-half. The remaining part will be devoted to a Victorian ‘front-room’ complete with period fireplace, drapes, large mirror, sofa, and old fashioned showcase. A most unusual… part of the display will be an authentic Singer Sewing Machine circa 1860. In addition, 3-D illusion boxes will be featured depicting both outer and intimate apparel of the by-gone era.”

The image below shows the Wizard as he appeared in a Hollywood-Maxwell ad in the same newspaper supplement – but not as he appeared in the Main Street display. Copies of the Wizard’s audio-taped spiel were once sold via the “Disneyland Forever” CD kiosks in the park, and copies continue to float around the Internet.

Speaking of Disneyland, there's yet another new blog involving the park's history: Disneyland Nomenclature.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

This is a rare image of a statue of Jesus by Claude Bell, based on Paul von Kleiben's painting of "The Transfiguration of Christ." The painting, and its accompanying audio-visual show elements, opened as a Knott's Berry Farm attraction in 1941. After retiring from Knott's, Claude Bell moved to Cabazon and built two enormous dinosaur-shaped buildings that still stand vigil over the highway.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter at Knott's Lagoon

The color photo (top) was taken at Knott's Berry Farm's Lagoon area, and appeared on the Spring 1972 cover of the Knotty Post employee magazine. The "bunny" is Pam Burton - a clerk in Knott's PR Dept.
Knott's Lagoon stood across Highway 39 (Beach Blvd.) from the rest of the "farm." It opened to the public in 1958 and featured rowboats and a miniature train courtesy of ride-meister Bud Hurlbut. Attractions were added over the years, including a merry-go-round and the Cordelia K "steamboat."
The black and white photos (above) were taken in 1964, when the steamboat (also constructed by Hurlbut) was brand new. Today, the Lagoon has mostly been converted into parking lots and picnic grounds.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Olinda Oil Museum

This morning, the Olinda Oil Museum & Trail in Brea became the 50th location to be designated a historic site by the O.C. Historical Commission. Those attending the event included County Supervisors Campbell and Moorlach, State Parks representatives, volunteer docents, the Brea City Council, the Olinda Oil Museum & Trail Task Force, and members of the O.C. Historical Commission. On the left side of the group are Commissioners Paul R. Simons (Chair), and Pamela Harrell. Watching from the front row is Commissioner Esther Cramer and her husband, Stan. Quoth the press release:
"Olinda was once a booming little village that grew to about 3,000 by the turn of the century. Oil production eventually slowed and much of the acreage was turned into citrus groves and subsequently, in the present day, to housing. However, preservation of a 12-acre parcel under a partnership between the City of Brea and California State Parks led to creation of a small museum that continues to collect artifacts representing the life and work of local pioneers. A unique natural heritage is also appreciated with a two-mile hiking trail into the hills."
My Olinda correspondent tells me that the most glaring absence at the dedication event "was that of John Cooper, who recently died after suffering a heart attack in September. A committed and driving member of the [Olinda Oil Museum & Trail] Task Force, he had contributed his time and expertise to the museum and trail since the Task Force was created in 2002."
The park is open Wed. and weekends, 9am-4pm, and the field office is open Wed., 10am-2pm. To schedule a group tour, contact Sean Matlock at (714) 671-4447.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Glass Blowing in Ghost Town

And now, for no particular reason... A tribute to the Glass Blowing Shop at Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park. The concept art is from the 1940s, the exterior photo is from about 1949, and the interior photo is probably from the 1950s. This building still stands, but it's used as an extension of the General Store. However, you can still watch glass blowing at the Grist Mill near what's left of Boot Hill.

When the swallows come back to Capistrano

It's March 19th, so the swallows should now have returned to Capistrano from their annual trip to Goya, Argentina. The image above shows San Juan Capistrano in 1856, just six years after California joined the Union.
And now for a few Capistrano links:

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tustin, Dana Point, more Phil, and more Sam

Today's photo shows Main St. in Tustin, circa 1890. On the left is the First National Bank. A hotel can be seen in the background. [Update: Juanita Lovret writes, "This is Main and D (now El Camino Real) streets."]
Just a quick reminder that Phil Brigandi will be giving a slide presentation tomorrow at noon on the subject of Mid-Century Orange County. See my Feb 22 post for details. (That $7 lunch is optional, by the way. You can just come for the presentation.)
A set of two DVDs entitled "Dana Point... My Home Town" was recently created with the help of the Dana Point Historical Society. The DVDs are aimed at third graders and teach about the area's history. The set was produced by Ross Teasley, Nancy Jenkins and Adam Richman. Does anyone know how to purchase a copy?
Speaking of Dana Point, the Dana Plantation Motel (now the Dana Marina Motel) on PCH will soon be demolished to make way for 22 new homes. The motel was built in 1948, and is something of a local landmark.
Remember last week's post about Sam's Seafood in Huntington Beach? Well, now I'm trying to find out more about the place's history. If you have any old photos or bits of information, please drop me a line.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Early Buena Park

Today's photos take us back to Buena Park as it looked in the teens. The first photo (top) is a view up Grand Ave. from the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks in 1914. The second photo was taken in front of the old Whitaker General Store (by that point, owned by Perry & Co.) in 1911. The store also served as the town's post office.
The Buena Park Historical Society's annual "Old Tyme Picnic" will be held April 12, 11:30am to 3:30pm at the Whitaker-Jaynes Estate Park, 6631 Beach Blvd. (Park in church lot off 10th St.) In addition to the picnic itself, the historic Whitaker Jaynes House, Bacon House and Stage Stop Motel will be open for tours. Visit the BPHS website for more information.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Old Mill Stream, Knott's Berry Farm & Tustin

Today's images show The Old Mill Stream attraction at Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park. The color image was taken sometime around 1960. The black and white photo from 1958 shows Walter Knott catching both a rainbow trout and the attention of a large audience. For a close-up of the building, click on the third (small) image.
This post comes on the heels of two related posts on different blogs. Both Gorilla's Don't Blog and Outside The Berm have recently featured The Old Mill Stream, and who am I to fight an Internet meme?
The Tustin Preservation Conservancy will hold their annual Preservation Awards Dinner on April 28, 6:30pm, at the Beach Pit BarBQ in Old Town Tustin. Visit their website for more information.
In an email to me, Linda Jennings wrote, "I'm president of the Tustin Preservation Conservancy, a group formed in 2004 after the Tustin City Council demolished the old Utt Juice Building for new development. We are particularly interested in preserving our architecture and our neighborhood."
Those sound like worthwhile goals to me!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Sam's Seafood and Ken Avey

We just thought Sam's Seafood -- the last authentic 1960s tiki-themed establishment in O.C. -- was saved from the bulldozer. Perhaps not. The landlords held a meeting last night to discuss replacing this Sunset Beach icon with generic retail spaces and condos!
Chris Garland of TikiCentral went to the meeting and reported back. His entire post is worth reading, but here are a few snippets:

"About 25 people showed to the 'informal' meeting held by the owner of the land Sam's sits on... I think the coup de gras came when I asked if they had contingency plans if the Sam's building became a designated landmark. The partner looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language! His 'deer in the headlights' look showed everyone that ...they had not considered this a potential obstacle!

"...If the [restaurant] owners hooked up with some historical society members and some tiki freaks, they could (and should) pursue the idea of turning the Sam's building into an historical landmark. The current managing partner of Sam's seems wiling to do what it takes to make the restaurant become successful again. ...I'll keep optimistic about the immediate future of the last remaining tiki temple in the O.C."

Many of you know Sharon Avey from her many years at the Old Orange County Courthouse Museum, her book, or her many other historical projects and activities. Sadly, Sharon's husband, Ken Avey, passed away recently. The funeral will be held on Saturday the 15th, in Independence, California. However, there will also be a memorial held locally on Sunday, March 30, 2pm at Key Ranch in Placentia.
My personal thanks to everyone who responded to yesterday's post -- in the comments section, via email, and in person. Your moral support is definitely appreciated. I'll write more when I know more.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Knott's, Phil Brigandi, Anaheim & the O.C. Archives

Today's images are both undated photos from the Wagon Camp at Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park. The black and white image comes from Mike Tucker and shows some his family enjoying the show (possibly The Wagonmasters). The second image was shamelessly swiped from M-M's fun LottaLivin' website. By the time I started seeing shows in the Wagon Camp (in the 1970s) it was being used for stunt shows rather than "singin' 'round the campfire."
Phil Brigandi will reprise his talk on the early history of Knott's at the next meeting of the Anaheim Historical Society, Tues., March 18, 7 pm at the Anaheim Ebell Club at Cypress and Helena St. Unlike some earlier versions of the talk, he'll be adding period images and film footage to the mix. It should be interesting and fun.
There's still no word on who will replace Phil as Orange County Archivist. If only I had a nickel for everyone who's asked me, incredulously, "They're not just going to give you the job?!?" I greatly appreciate the sentiment, but government hiring doesn't work that way. The job was posted, a group of finalists will be interviewed, and so forth. And it's probably good that it works that way. I just hope the "deciders" note that I've been involved in every aspect of Archives operations for almost 5 years; that I've run the place single-handedly since Phil left; that our patrons are happy; that I've brought important collections to the Archives; that I've done a ton of public outreach work, and that I know local history.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Harbor Blvd, Santa Ana, Dana Point, surfing, etc

Today's image is a postcard for Santana Mobile Homes, at 1311 N. Harbor Boulevard, in Santa Ana, in the 1950s or early 1960s. Note that they come in colors ranging from raspberry to lime green.
Harbor Blvd is another street with a significant number of name changes. In Fullerton alone, it was known variously at Spadra, Fullerton Rd, and Palm Dr. It was also known as Palm in Anaheim. To further confuse matters, the northern portion of today’s Harbor Blvd was once also part of Highway 101.
The Dana Point Historical Society will hold a meeting March 26, 7pm, at the Surfing Heritage Museum in San Clemente. The meeting will begin with a guided tour of the museum.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Jumpin' Gyminy! It's Orange County Plaza!

There's just one photo today, but with two close-up views. We're looking at Garden Grove, around 1960. (Update: This was on the 9700 block of Chapman Ave.) In the closeups we see a billboard for "EASTGATE - A Planned Community," an A&W stand, a sign for Jumpin' Gyminy Trampoline Center, ("Fun for Everyone!") and a liquor store sign that was undoubtedly animated. Behind them you can see the remains of a eucalyptus windbreak -- a reminder of the agriculture that was rapidly giving way to everything these signs represented.
My favorite detail, however, is the wonderful sign for Orange County Plaza. If it were still there today, I'd pull over and admire it every time I was in the neighborhood. I hope the shopping center it advertised was even half as snazzy.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Eli Hedley, Midway City, and Beach Blvd.

I loved this photo from the moment I spotted it among the County Road Dept collection in the Archives. It was taken in January 1965, in front of Eli "The Original Beachcomber" Hedley's old Island Trade Store on Beach Blvd in Midway City. I like the cigar-chomping County employee, I like the muddy sidewalk-free glamour of Midway City in winter, and naturally, I like the tikis.

Eli is something of a legend among fans of Polynesian Pop, and his shop featured tikis by such noted carvers as Milan Guanko. Today, Hedley's grandson, Ben Bassham, runs a similarly-themed shop in Huntington Beach, called Bamboo Ben's.
Before the big street-name unification effort in the 1960s, Highway 39 (Beach Blvd.) had many different names, depending on which community you were driving through. From the beach past downtown Huntington Beach, it was called Hampshire Ave. North of that, it was called Huntington Beach Blvd (the source of the current name) until it reached the intersection of Trask Ave. and became Stanton Ave. The Highway continued to be on Stanton Ave. until it zigged over onto Grand Ave. in front of Knott’s Berry Farm. And it appears that at one point the northernmost section of Beach Blvd. was once called Buena Park Rd. (Update: "Bulldog 24" writes, "...Beach Blvd was 'La Habra Road' from Stage Rd in Buena Park north to Whittier Blvd in La Habra.")
Today of course, it's all called Beach Blvd., but in some places, remnants of the old street names can still be found. We'll spend a little more time with old and new street names in future posts.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The 1938 Flood (Part 3), Disneyland, Eichler, etc.

Okay, here's another 1938 flood photo, since everyone seems interested. This image of Atwood is a clipping from the Register. Click on the image to read the caption and see more detail.
We knew the classic 1964 "it's a small world" ride at Disneyland had temporarily closed for renovation. We didn't know Disney was changing the content of the ride. Mary Blair's impressively-designed rainforest will be replaced with a cheesy-looking "tribute to America," and Disney cartoon characters will be added throughout the attraction. In doing this, they are not only defacing a work of art -- They are also exchanging the ride's themes of world peace, whimsy and childhood innocence for yet another crass marketing tool. The Re-Imagineering blog has a wonderful opinion piece about the changes.
There's been a lot of flap over the attempt to build a big out-of-place monstrosity in one of the Eichler tracts in Orange. One of the solutions being suggested is to make these tracts historic districts. That's not such a crazy idea.
The Register's recent article about the O.C. Agricultural & Nikkei Heritage Museum's new exhibit begins with the headline, "Exhibit recalls why it's called 'Orange' County." This incorrectly implies that we were named for our citrus industry. But there wasn't a single orange grove in the area when we adopted that name. See this PDF from the O.C. Archives for the real story.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Flood of 1938 (Part 2)

As a follow-up to my last post, here's a photo of the aftermath of the 1938 flood, as it appeared in Atwood (now part of Anaheim). This image comes from the Orange County Archives. I'm also adding some links to other infomation and images relating to the flood.
Articles about the 1938 flood:
Photos of the 1938 flood:

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Flood of 1938

This is the 70th anniversary of one of Orange County's most widespread disasters, the flood of 1938. The photo above shows the overflowing Santa Ana River, near the current MWD plant in Fountain Valley. In fact, the flood covered huge swaths of north and central O.C., taking lives and causing enormous property damage. Read more about the flood in today's Register.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Lawrence Welk, Nixon & Howard Hughes

Today's photo shows Lawrence Welk and some of his fans at Nixon's Restaurant in July of 1957. Richard M. Nixon's brother, F. Donald Nixon, opened his first restaurant in Whittier, followed in 1956 by a second restaurant at 1501 W. Commonwealth Blvd in Fullerton. Eventually, he also opened a restaurant and nightclub at Harbor and Katella (adjacent to Disneyland) in Anaheim.
In Jan. 1957 Howard Hughes loaned Donald Nixon $205,000 to keep the chain of burger joints out of bankruptcy. But it only postponed the inevitable, and soon the business was sold off to pay creditors. Unfortunately, I don't know which of the restaurants is pictured above, but it was taken when the chain was scrambling to get back on its feet.
According to the Arcadia postcard book about Fullerton (Morris/Richey/Thomas), "Donald Nixon's questionable business practices remained a lifelong embarassment to his brother,... and the president had his younger brother's telephone wiretapped in order to monitor his financial activities."

Saturday, March 01, 2008

M.E. Helme, Floral Park, Emilio Martinez, etc.

Today's "before and after" photos show the M.E. Helme Furniture Co. building in Huntington Beach (as discussed in yesterday's blog entry) in 1907 and 2007.
The 2008 Floral Park Home & Garden Tour will be held April 26-27, 10am-4pm and tickets are now on sale. The tour through this historic Santa Ana neighborhood will include homes from the 1920s to the 1950s as well as a display of vintage cars. This is always a fun event.
Gustavo Arellano asked if I’d post a link to his recent O.C. Weekly article about Emilio Martinez, the late O.C. corrido/folk singer. I'm happy to do so. I appreciate Gustavo’s noble goal of highlighting lesser known historical individuals and events, even if I don't always agree with his opinions.
The folks at have been waxing nostalgic over Buena Park's old Cars of the Stars Museum. Stop past to add your two cents.