Thursday, July 31, 2008

Huntington Beach, Chris Epting, KOCE, etc.

Today's "before and after" photos come from Chris Epting's new book, Then & Now: Huntington Beach, published by Arcadia. It features about 90 scenes of old H.B., followed by modern photos from the same sites.
In reference to the photos above, Epting writes, "Ms. Billie Kennedy grew up in Huntington Beach and in the 1930s she lived in this house, located at 905 England Avenue. She told me all about what is was like to live here back then, when the area was more open and the local baseball team played just behind where the house sits today. Billie lives in the area still, and from time to time drives past the old house to relive, even just for a moment, a wonderous childhood spent by the beach."
Much like Doris Walker's Orange County Then & Now, (published a couple years ago in a very different format,) Epting's new book is fascinating to spend time with.
You can catch up with some of Chris Epting's other local adventures in the following KOCE historical segments with Maria Hall-Brown:

Local Nikkei history exhibit wins national award

Stephanie George and Carlota F. Haider are the recipients of the 2008 Award of Merit from the American Association for State & Local History. They won the award for creating the 2007 exhibit, Sowing Dreams, Cultivating Lives: Nikkei Farmers in Pre-World War II Orange County - the inaugural exhibit of the O.C. Agricultural & Nikkei Heritage Museum.
As the curator and designer (respectively), Steph and Carlota created the exhibit by pouring in ridiculous amounts of their own time, expertise and elbow grease, as well as investing thousands of dollars of their own money. Although the exhibit is no longer on display, they’re working on a catalog which should be available through CSUF’s Center for Oral & Public History around October. (For more photos and information, see CSUF's press release.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Earthquake, Modjeska, Arden, amusement parks

Yes, I know. One more minute of coverage of today's earthquake will send you over the edge. But I'm covering a different earthquake, so it's okay. Specifically, today's photo is a glimpse of the aftermath of the big 1933 earthquake. Unlike most post-quake photos that feature damaged buildings, this photo shows one of the many big cracks that opened up in the earth. This particular scene was in the Westminster area, "south of Ocean and Hansen." (Even if you don't care about the hole in the ground, it's still a nice image of rural Westminster.)
A new exhibit, entitled "All the World's a Stage: Modjeska's Arden" will open at the Old Orange County Courthouse Museum next week. The exhibit, detailing the life and canyon home of famed stage actress Helena Modjeska, will kick off with a special reception on Aug. 7, 5:30-7:30pm in the 3rd floor Exhibit Gallery. RSVP to (714) 973-6610 if you'd like to attend.
Werner Weiss of Yesterland recently reviewed Richard Harris' new book, Early Amusement Parks of Orange County. I'm looking forward to seeing a copy of this book myself.

Harriet Burns (1928-2008)

I just heard the news that artist Harriet Burns, the first woman to become a Disney Imagineer, died on July 25th at age 79. She contributed greatly to most of Disneyland's best attractions. For a lengthy obituary, see today's entry on the Register's "Around Disney" blog. When I had lunch with Harriet in May, she was charming, fascinating, down-to-earth, and (as you see in this photo,) still looked like a movie star. (The glamorous kind, not the modern scruffy kind.)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

"I don't have to show you any stinkin' badges!"

Recently, William J. Wallis sent me this photo of a Fullerton “Special Police” badge. He got the badge from a "seasoned" Fullerton Police Dept. retiree a few years ago, who told him it came from the Citrus Strike of 1936. The badge is marked on the back with, "L.A. Stamp and Stationary Co." I thought it was an interesting artifact.
On a related note, I spotted what appears to be an 1890s O.C. Deputy Sheriff badge on eBay yesterday. Here it is:This is the style of badge that was used until 1899. I know there are lots of badge forgeries out there, but if this is a fake, it's a very good one.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Santa Ana, new Arcadia books, Native Sons, Brea

I just received a copy of Roberta Reed's new book, Images of America: Santa Ana, 1940-2007, and it's quite good. In addition to selecting great photos like those above, Roberta picked the brains of numerous local historians to provide additional information for her detailed and meaningful captions. This book was written in conjunction with the Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society (SAHPS), of which Roberta is currently secretary. [Update: Guy Ball writes that the Society only gets some of the proceeds if you buy the book from the Society - Which you can do by going to the SAHPS website.]
Today's photos come from the aforementioned book and originally came from the collection of Rob Richardson. The first image (top) shows the Pacific Electric Railway depot at 426 E. 4th St., prior to that line's demise in 1950. The second photo shows popular 1930s/'40s hangout, Mary's Malt Shop, on S. Main St near Chestnut Ave. I'll post a couple more photos from this book in the near future.
Several other O.C. history books from Arcadia Publishing have also debuted in recent weeks, although I haven't had the chance to read them all yet. They include Cleveland National Forest by James Newland, Early Amusement Parks of Orange County by Richard Harris, and Then & Now: Huntington Beach by Chris Epting. I'll comment further after I read them.
The Native Sons of the Golden West will dedicate a plaque at the historic Brea American Legion Building (1924) on Saturday at 2pm. The building is located at Brea Blvd and Elm St, and is currently home to the Brea Museum & Heritage Center.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cypress, cows, Newport Beach and preservation

Today was the 52nd anniversary of the incorporation of the City of Cypress. Today's photo helps explain why Cypress originally incorporated under the name "Dairy City." Like its neighbor, La Palma, Cypress incorporated largely to keep housing developments out and to allow the existing dairy farms to stay. Ultimately, the ploy was unsuccessful, but it's an interesting and rare example of a city being formed with the intent to keep people out and keep cows in. The photo above was taken in Cypress in June 1969. The guy in the lower right-hand corner worked for the County Roads Dept.
Two years late, the City of Newport Beach has installed a 2,000 lb. monument to their history at the foot of the Newport Pier. The giant orb looks really cool, but I wish they'd put that $510,000 toward preserving the recently demolished Allison & Allison tower at Newport Harbor High School, or toward the preservation of other important historical sites in Newport.
Does it make sense to demolish your history and simultanously build a monument to it? I'm reminded of that U2 line: "All kill their inspiration and sing about their grief."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

San Juan Capistrano, County Planning Dept., etc

In my day job at the Archives, I've spent a lot of time lately collecting materials from the County Planning Dept. They're moving, and a small mountain of their older, historically-relevant materials are coming to the Archives. I'll be an old man before we get ALL of it processed, but I thought I'd share some of the interesting stuff I'm finding along the way - starting with this image (above) of San Juan Capistrano. Today's photo was taken in March 1978 and shows San Juan Creek, the 5 Freeway, the now-defunct Capistrano Airport and (in the distance) Dana Point Harbor. (As always, click on the image to enlarge it.)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

O.C. Q&A: Laguna Beach Edition

Downtown Laguna Beach, circa 1954.

Q:  Is that area just north of Laguna Beach spelled "El Moro" or "El Morro?" 

A:  "Morro" is the correct spelling of the Spanish word for a rounded promontory -- in this case a reference to nearby Abalone Point. Both versions appear on early maps. But there was some "creative spelling" early on. Historian Don Meadows wrote about "Morro Bay" and the adjoining "Moro Canyon," splitting the difference. He noted that the "Moro" misspelling is now the traditional name for the canyon. As for the cove, there are vocal proponents for both spellings. Should I stir the pot by mentioning that the area is also historically known as Scotchman's Cove?

Q:  Why is Laguna Beach the only O.C. coastal city without a pier?

A:  The dramatic surf that makes Laguna Beach so scenic also destroyed its many piers. One of the best known was built of eucalyptus logs in the late 1890s. It began near the current Heisler Park gazebo and extended 500 feet. It was rebuilt in 1911, blown down in a storm, and replaced in 1926 with a new 1,150-foot pier that bit the dust in a 1939 hurricane. Bits of the pilings are still visible on Bird Rock. The last pier in Laguna, at Aliso Beach, was built in 1971 and required regular repairs until storms in the late 1990s spelled its demise. Officials finally stopped fighting nature, and Laguna remains pierless.

Q:  Which Laguna came first: Beach, Hills, Woods, or Niguel?

A:  When we old-timers say “Laguna” we still mean Laguna Beach. That town – named for the lakes at the top of Laguna Canyon (Cañada de las Lagunas) – was born in the 1870s. The hills above it have been called the Laguna Hills since at least the 1890s, but that didn’t become a community name until further development in the early 1960s. In the late 20th Century, everyone wanted the Laguna Beach aura to rub off on their new communities. The neighborhoods adjacent to Leisure World incorporated as Laguna Hills in 1991, while Leisure World itself incorporated as Laguna Woods in 1999. The name Laguna Niguel was created by developers in 1959 and it too became a city in 1989. And don’t forget the 1980s’ Laguna Audubon development (no connection to the Audubon Society), where residents sued, saying they were sold houses in plain old El Toro (now called Lake Forest) when they thought they were buying in ritzy-titzy Laguna Beach.

Q:  How long has the Shake Shack stood above Crystal Cove?

A:  This beachfront landmark appeared not long after the adjacent segment of PCH opened in the late 1920s, when little date shake and orange juice stands were synonymous with roadside Southern California. Early on, it was the Laguna Beach Hot Dog Stand. By the 1940s and ‘50s the focus was on orange juice, although nuts, shakes, and dried fruit were also sold. 

The shack was heavily remodeled in 1968. In the mid-1970s Virginia McKinney took the reins, renamed it Sunshine Cove, and added health food options to the menu. The State bought the land as part of Crystal Cove State Park in 1979, and the stand became a park concession. 

The Ruby's diner chain held the concession from 2006 until about 2020, and continued to serve the classic date and “Monkey Flip” (chocolate-banana-date-and-peanut-butter) shakes. And after a brief dalliance with a white a blue paint job, the building was returned the building its traditional bright yellow. It's unclear who has the concession from State Parks now, but the Monkey Flip doesn't seem to have made the cut. 

[This post originally consisted of just the photo above. The Q&A was added on 1/6/2014.   --CJ]

Monday, July 21, 2008

Boy Scout Jamboree, Portola & "Daybreak OC"

Today's photos are scenes from the 1953 National Boy Scout Jamboree, which was held this week (July 17 to 23) fifty-five years ago on the Irvine Ranch. The encampment sprawled through what is now Newport Beach - from the Fashion Island area down toward Upper Newport Bay. Jamboree Road was built during the preparation for the event. The first photo (top) shows the "Avenue of the Flags," including a replica of the Liberty Bell that would later grace the front of the Scout Council office in Santa Ana for many years. The strange figure in the upper right-hand part of the second photo is the back of a large cut-out image of King Neptune, created by well-known cartoonist (and Newport resident) Virgil Partch (a.k.a. "VIP").
Tomorrow, (Tuesday) July 22, is an important day in local history. In fact, it marks the 239th year of recorded history itself here in Orange County. On July 22, 1769 Gaspar de Portola and his men camped at Christianitos Canyon (on the county line in what is now Camp Pendleton). They were the first Europeans to set foot in Orange County, and their travel journals give us the first written record of what the area was like. Also of note, the expedition conducted the first baptisms in California at an Indian village in Christianitos Canyon.
Thanks to La Palma historians Ron and Elfriede MacIver, who pointed out the following series of short local history videos from KDOC's "Daybreak OC" TV program:

Orange County Fair of '49, cheesecake & SAAAB

Today I'm posting more images of the Orange County Fair in 1949. The first image shows County Supervisor Willis Warner crowning Betty Trichler as the Fair Queen. Grinning in the background is Bill "El Generalissimo" Gallienne, head of O.C.'s Associated Chambers of Commerce.
The second (and third/detail) image shows a little of the midway, Fair employees at work, a couple beauty pagent contestants, and the old Santa Ana Army Air Base water tower. It's interesting to note the searchlight in the background - already (in 1949) associated with special events rather than Japanese bombers.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Disneyland, Walt, and two kings

I wanted to post one more nod to Disneyland's 53rd birthday before the day ended. Both of today's photos were taken aboard the Disneyland Railroad in 1960. In the first photo (top), Walt and Lillian Disney give King Mahendra of Nepal and his wife a tour of a different kind of kingdom. The second photo shows Walt climbing aboard the C.K. Holliday with King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand. (He's been king since 1946, making him the longest-ruling head-of-state in the world today.)
Kevin Kidney sent Disneyland the perfect birthday message via his blog today. Also, Disney maven Al Lutz of MiceAge has posted color aerial photos of the park from its first year of operation. And in case you haven't stumbled across it yet, a version of author Don Ballard's historical tour of the Disneyland Hotel is available on YouTube - See both Part 1 and Part 2.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Birthday dinosaurs, Disneyland and El Modena

As any boy in first grade will tell you, the best way to celebrate birthdays is with dinosaurs. Today we're celebrating the 53rd birthday of Disneyland and the 38th birthday of Hollingsworth, the beloved stegosaurus at the children's section of the El Modena Branch Library in Orange.
The first photo (top) shows an appropriate "birthday" scene from Disneyland's "Primeval World" audio-animatronic diorama. This scene was originally created by Disney for Ford's "Magic Skyway" show at the 1964 New York World's Fair. When the Fair ended, the dinosaurs came home to Southern California and became scenery along the route of the Disneyland Railroad.
The other photos today show Hollingsworth, "the library dinosaur," all dressed up for his 38th birthday party, which was held this afternoon. He is made of book covers (paper mache) with a wood and chicken wire frame underneath. Local artist Katie Schroeder of Schroeder Studio Gallery volunteered her time painting, patching (with new book covers), re-inforcing, and generally refurbishing Hollingsworth in time for his birthday. The word stegosaurus means "roof-lizard," so I suppose it's appropriate that this fellow stands over the chidren's section of the El Modena Branch Library like a roof.

[Update. 10/2023: Hollingsworth has passed on to the big Jurassic Park in the sky. Appearantly he rotted from the inside out. One can only hope another dinosaur takes his place someday.]
Jumping back to Disneyland for a moment, it was announced today that the walk-through exhibit in Sleeping Beauty's Castle will reopen. But rather than re-opening with the 1970s scenes we're used to, Disney want's to re-create the original 1957 displays, adding just a little high-tech wizardry to sweeten the pot. The wizardry part, naturally, will be no problem for Disney. But the re-creation part is more difficult, because very few images of the original exhibit can be found. Luckily, they've put Imagineer Christopher Merritt in charge of the project. Chris is not only an excellent artist, he is also an excellent theme park historian. His long-anticipated (and painstakingly researched) book about Knott's Berry Farm should be coming out around Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Polynesian pop, Fair, Port Theater & Seal Beach

Today I'm posting two more older images from the Orange County Fair in Costa Mesa. The first photo (top) is a postcard from about 1964. Clearly there was a Polynesian/Tiki theme that year. It appears that O.C.'s own "Original Beachcomber," Eli Hedley (wearing a hat and standing under a tiki banner) both helped with the decor and also had a booth from which to hawk his wares. Based on the design, I'd guess he carved the moai on the right side of the image himself. Today's second photo shows the Fair's entrance sign in 1963.
Speaking of the South Seas craze of the 1960s, there's a fun blurb in today's Register discussing how one neighborhood in Huntington Beach got its Polynesian-themed street names. (No, it's not in Fountain Valley.) The end of the article mashes-up two separate points. First point: Island-themed names were yet another way for the developers to highlight the tract's proximity to the ocean. Second point: Developers applied popular themes (e.g. Polynesia) to 1960s tracts for marketing purposes -- And they do the same thing today (e.g. Tuscany).
The Port Theater in Corona del Mar is no longer doomed. But is it being restored or remuddled? The facade has been torn off and will be replaced with a more modern-looking glass wall. Inside, the seats are being removed and other interior features are being stripped out. Last Friday's Register included an article with more details about the project.
The Seal Beach Historical Society will hold Red Car Day on Aug 23, 10am-4pm, at their Red Car Museum on Electric Ave near Main St. The 38th anniversary of the museum will be celebrated with music, cake, prizes, and more.

Disneyland, Autopia, Cecil Rospaw, Jean Whitney

Depending on which theory you subscribe to, either Thursday or Friday is the 53rd anniversary of the opening of Disneyland. (July 17th, 1955 was the televised dedication ceremony, but the park opened to the public on the 18th.) Today's photos show one of the first Disneyland attractions being assembled.
Walt Disney put Robert H. “Bob” Gurr (“Director of Special Vehicular Development") in charge of making Autopia a reality. Gurr had recently helped design the Lincoln Continental for Ford, so he was well-prepared to design Disney's 5/8 scale sports cars. Meanwhile, the chassis and drive were developed by Johnny Hartman of the Hartman Engineering Co. in Montrose, and forty fiberglass car bodies were built by the Glasspar Co. of Costa Mesa. Finally, in the last weeks leading up to the park's opening, the cars were assembled and tested at Mameco Engineering, Inc. (seen above) in Newport Beach.
In the photos above, Mameco's Ed Martindale and Ted Mangels are seen showing off their handiwork. In the background, you can see the Snug Harbor Cafe and what appears to be the old Western Canners Co. cannery. The small inset image is a detail showing the engine compartment. (For much more information about the development of Autopia, see this great post on Vintage Disneyland Tickets.)
On a sad (but unrelated) note, I learned today that two former Orange County Historical Commission members died recently: Cecil Rospaw and Jean A. Whitney. (Click on the links to learn more about them.)

Monday, July 14, 2008

O.C. Fair, citrus book & Neutra/Mariners update

I took today's images on Saturday at the Orange County Fair. The first photo shows the Archives/Clerk-Recorder's booth in the Orange County Building (Building #16), which will be there through this week. Information about the County Archives is available, historic photos are on display, and you can have your own photo taken pretending to be Walter and/or Cordelia Knott in a covered wagon.
The second photo shows the Fair's Administration Building, which is one of the few remaining structures from the Santa Ana Army Air Base. Three cheers for adaptive re-use!
John Adams' new book, Then and Now: The Vanishing Orange in Southern California, should be available in the next week or two. Although it leans heavily toward tales of Rialto, it sounds like it will also give a good general "look back at orange growing and orange growing towns in Southern California in the first half of the 20th Century." (I particularly like that his second chapter is titled, "OSHA Would Have Had a Fit.") The book is based on Adams' "interviews with hundreds of old timers during the past 20 years, including many experts from Riverside's Citrus Experiment Station." He has also drawn on his "own experiences as a third-generation Southern California orange grower." (Note: No, this is not the John Adams of OCPL fame.)
Mariners Medical Arts Center Update: Richard Neutra's son and partner, Dion Neutra, (a renown architect in his own right,) emailed a lengthy thank you note to everyone involved in the preservation effort thus far. After thanking everyone and offering some preservation advice, he wrote:
"I know my dad would be heartened to realize, in this instance, how much our good works have come to be appreciated. We called our building ‘Medical Arts’ for a reason; we hoped it would epitomize how medicine might one day be practiced on a broader scale. We must always keep clear that extant physical examples like this are disappearing fast and furiously including our work in Orange County. Witness the loss of the Police Building [in Santa Ana]; the La Veta Medical building; our two residences in Balboa Island, the water features at the Courthouse; other elements there that have been neglected; you name it. Also our house in La Habra, school work at Alamitos School District, the Buena Park Swim Stadium, and even my library at Huntington Beach where I worry about further desecration. What about Orange Coast [College]; any one looking out for those examples?"
Who wants to tell him that his father's work at OCC has also been disappearing in recent years?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Neutra building spared! (for now)

Late breaking follow-up: The City of Newport Beach has suspended demolition of Mariners Medical Arts Center! To his great credit, City Planning Director David Lepo reviewed the project and found the CEQA analysis inadequate. See the Daily Pilot article for details. This Modern gem isn't safe yet, but now it has a prayer.

O.C. Fair, Ms. Ransom, Orange & Sam's Seafood

Today's images are from the 1951 Orange County Fair. (Today was the first day of the 2008 O.C. Fair.) Based on these photos by Bob Geivet, I'd guess the theme for that year was "Rodents, Pirates, Ostriches & Cheesecake." But I could be wrong.
The Santa Ana Black Historical Society's next meeting will be held July 17, 6pm at the Corbin Center, 2115 W. McFadden Ave. Their guest speaker will be Ernestine Ransom, who will talk about her 70+ years in Santa Ana, and who will be honored for her community involvement. Our pal Bob Johnson says there will be cake and plenty of opportunity to socialize afterward.
The Orange Community Historical Society will begin their next walking tour of old Downtown Orange on Saturday at 10am at the Ainsworth House, 414 E. Chapman Ave. The tour is 90 minutes. The suggested donation is $5. Email for more information.
Ever since it began as a small fish market in the 1920s, Sam's has been called "Sam's." It was once called "Sam's Sea Food Spa" and later it became "Sam's Seafood Restaurant & Hawaiian Village," and eventually just "Sam's Seafood." But the name always paid tribute to the business' founder, Greek immigrant Samuel Arvenites. Tonight, the landmark Sunset Beach restaurant will be renamed "Kona." Recent years of frequently-changing owners have not been kind to Sam's once excellent reputation, so the change is understandable. Tiki carver Crazy Al Evans (who appeared on this blog in January,) will bless the newly re-christened restaurant, and the Tikiyaki Orchestra will perform. Sam's is the last mostly-pristine tiki/"Polynesian pop" establishment left in Orange County, and the new owners are making a real effort to do things right - both in terms of the food and the themed atmosphere.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

O.C. Fair & Wintersburg Presbyterian comments

Today we have two more photos (and another closeup detail) from the 1949 Orange County Fair. Speaking of the Fair, I'll be manning the O.C. Archives/O.C. Clerk-Recorder booth in the Fair's government building this Saturday, from 3pm to 7pm. Stop by and say hello if you happen to be around that day. We should have some fun history-related displays, including a look back at the old Pitchur Gallery at Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park. You'll even be able to get your photo taken on a "covered wagon." (BYO camera.)
There hasn't been much to report lately regarding the threatened Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church complex at Warner Ave and Nichols St in Huntington Beach. However, my earlier posts on the subject still spark the occasional memory. For instance, C. Morse writes,...

"I've been hoping that the church would still be there, and taken care of. My children and I lived in an apartment on Oak St in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It took a while, but I started noticing the neighborhood and putting things together - the flowers, the Furuta house (and Mr. Furuta, who was pretty nice unless the neighborhood kids chased the frogs around his ponds), and a few frame houses left from the ones that must have been here since the early 1900s.

When I finally found the plaque on the church, it all fell into place. I'm a Presbyterian, and when I saw that marker I could almost see the church as it was, surrounded by homes and farms and flowers...

"I remember a house that had been abandoned for quite a while, farther south and by the railroad tracks. There were still clothesline supports--the old-fashioned kind--in the back yard, and fruit trees, and I looked inside to see beautiful built-in cabinets with beveled glass doors, and closely fitted hardwood floors. I think it was torn down; I tried not to know, or to go by there after a while for fear of what I would, or wouldn't, see."

Update 2: Neutra/Mariners Medical Arts Building

A quick report from the meeting tonight:
The good news is that we had a great show of support from some very eloquent and impressive people.
The Arts Commission was sympathetic, but they don't have the power to change the situation, and they seem quite dubious about the City Council taking any action. The Commission did, however, offer suggestions on navigating the City system to make ourselves heard.
It appears that the City Planning Dept issued permits to the developer without asking for a historical study or jumping through the appropriate CEQA hoops first. And it sounds like the developer plans to start demolishing things as early as next week, beginning with the landscaping. Building demolition begins in earnest by August 1st, if not earlier.
Sadly, it appears this situation may require the preservationists to communicate with the city and developers in the only way people understand these days: litigation. But I still hope (probably foolishly) that it can be resolved without bringing lawyers into it.
To clear up some earlier statements by City officials, the Mariners Medical Arts complex IS, in fact, on the City's historic inventory.

Update/Reminder: Neutra/Mariners meeting today

The first stop in the crusade to save Richard Neutra's endangered Mariners Medical Arts complex (1963) will be tonight's Newport Beach Arts Commission meeting. Join us at 5pm at the Newport Beach Central Library, 1000 Avocado Ave, and show your support. (We'll also be having dinner at Ruby's in Corona del Mar afterward.)
In a related Register article on the 7th, architect John Linnert said, "Buildings from this era are the most important part of the county's design legacy, and we're neglecting them." About the threatened demolition he said, "...They'll destroy this masterpiece to create two glass boxes that are mundane and have zero significance to history."
Later in the article, the president of the AIA's Orange County chapter said Mariners Arts is significant and that "Neutra was one of the most significant architects of the century, and he has a major body of work in Southern California. This building is a good example of what he was trying to accomplish in his work."
Newport Beach councilman Donn Webb replied, "About 15 years ago a committee was put together. They went around town and noted buildings that they considered to be of any significance. I don't think this building was on that list. I live in the neighborhood and go past that block regularly. It's not a building I've ever noticed or one that seems like anything special compared to everything else along there. They're all just flat-roofed offices and stores."
Where do I begin? First of all, the fact that Mr. Webb is at least semi-oblivious to Modern architecture is irrelevant to the question of the complex's importance. So is the fact that it's a flat-roofed commercial building. But what really raises my eyebrows is his reliance on 15-year-old survey (a little out of date!) by an unidentified committee. Who was on the committee, what were their criteria, and were they ready - 15 years ago - to accept the fact that post-WWII buildings could have serious historical or architectural significance?
For more on this subject, read Christine Madrid French's execellent letter (MS Word document) in support of saving this important part of O.C.'s architectural heritage.
And come say hello if you see me at tonight's meeting.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

O.C. Fair, SAAAB, Harris Co., Placentia, etc.

With the Orange County Fair opening in just a few days, here are a few images of Fair plans and preparations in 1949. That was the first year the Fair was held at the current Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa. You can see how much of the old Santa Ana Army Air Base (SAAAB) was still standing as the conversion process began. Today, the footprint of the SAAAB is now occupied not only by the Fairgrounds, but also by Orange Coast College and Vanguard University. (In fact, a few original SAAAB buildings can still be found at the Fairgrounds and Vanguard.)
The images above date from May 1949, and come from the Bob Geivet Collection at the Old O.C. Courthouse Museum. (Digital scans are available through the O.C. Archives.) The second image shows animal pens being built. The third image is a background detail, showing some of the the SAAAB barracks.
The Harris Company department stores of the Inland Empire actually got their start in O.C. as dry goods merchants Phil Harris & Bro. in Santa Ana and Harris & Falkenstein in Anaheim around 1900. Arcadia Publishing has just released a new book about the chain, which closed in 1999.
A recent Register article featured the 100-year-old John Wagner House in Placentia.
The topic at the next meeting of the South O.C. Genealogical Society will be “Newspapers: A Gold Mine of Information.” The meeting will be held July 19 at 10am, at the Family History Center, 27976 Marguerite Pkwy, in Mission Viejo. The speaker will be Connie Moretti. For more information, call (949) 581-6292.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Capistrano, Harvey's Broiler, Judge Fergueson, etc

Today's images show the (pre-restoration) ruins of Mission San Juan Capistrano. The color postcard image is undated, and the second image (from the Library of Congress) is dated circa 1907. Flashing forward 100 years, it's amazing how much remains and also how much has been added. A recent Register article detailed the past five years of the historic Mission under the administration of Rev. Arthur Holquin.
Reconstruction of the old Harvey's/Johnnie's Broiler in Downey (which I mentioned months ago) has begun. Mr. "Downey Conservancy" has posted a bunch of photos on Flickr from this morning's groundbreaking ceremony. I also stumbled across a documentary about the destruction of this Googie landmark, called "Killing History."
Former Judge Warren J. Fergueson of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal has died at age 87. His first judicial appointment was to the Municipal Court in Anaheim (1959-1961), after which he served Orange County as a Superior Court judge (1961-1966).
Anaheim Life has graced us with a look back at Anaheim's 1901 4th of July parade.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Villa Park, Kelloggs, Cleveland National Forest, etc

Those who ordered copies The Hidden Jewel – a history book about Villa Park – should get them by the end of July. For more information, call (714) 998-1500. All proceeds go to the Community Services Foundation's historical, cultural and educational programs. One hopes that some of it will go to save the only historic buildings in the city (which are currently threatened with demolition). Today's photo shows the Villa Park area (looking south) in about 1890.
The descendants of O.C. pioneer Hiram Clay Kellogg held a family reunion yesterday at the historic Kellogg House in Santa Ana. The house is now part of the Centennial Heritage Museum.
The Huntington Beach Centennial Celebration Committee is asking longtime residents to share their photos and stories of their city in preparation for H.B.’s 100th Anniversary in 2009. Stories can be up to 2,000 words, and photos can be up to 500KB. Details are available on the Committee’s website.
Speaking of centennials, July 1st marked the 100th anniversary of the federal designation of the Cleveland National Forest. For more information about related centennial happenings, visit the forest’s website. (Yes! The forest has a website! I wonder if it’s maintained by squirrels and scrub jays.)

Friday, July 04, 2008

Laguna Beach, Anaheim, Fiscus cottage & July 4th

Happy Independence Day! Today's photo shows a very busy Laguna Beach on July 4, 1924. The inset image shows a detail from the photo so you can read some of the signs. (As always, click on the images to enlarge.)
Another win for the good guys! The ranch foreman's cottage from the Fiscus Ranch in Anaheim has been saved from the bulldozer, thanks to the City's Preservation Office, and the vocal support of the Anaheim Historical Society, the Anaheim Neighborhood Association and the ANA's Historic Preservation Committee. Cynthia Ward has posted more details on her Anaheim Life blog.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Richard Neutra building in Newport threatened

I was going to post some sort of upbeat 4th of July-type post tonight, but this late breaking news from my friends at the Recent Past Preservation Network needs immediate attention:
"Mariners Medical Arts, designed in 1963 by world-renowned modernist architect Richard Neutra, is threatened with demolition to make way for a new medical office complex. Located at 1901 Westcliff Dr. in Newport Beach, Mariners Medical Arts consists of three structures connected by serene gardens and covered walkways. Lush plantings and shallow reflecting pools complement classic Neutra design elements, including vertical metal sun louvers and "spider legs" made of steel I-beams.
"In 2002, the Orange County chapter of the American Institute of Architects recognized Mariners Medical Arts with a 25 Year Award of Excellence. The current owner of the property is proposing to construct a new, larger medical complex on the site by systematically demolishing the existing structures and replacing them with parking lots.
"Local architect John Linnert is concerned about the potential demolition of Mariners Medical Arts, and fears that Newport Beach is on the verge of losing one of its most significant architectural landmarks. 'It just makes you feel great walking amongst the buildings that were created, composed, and articulated by such an architectural master,' says Linnert.
"Dion Neutra, son and partner of Richard Neutra, says he 'considers this the best example of this kind of project the practice did during its heyday. It would be a tragedy if this example were lost. Instead, it should be rehabilitated and brought back to its earlier glory replete with the water features...'
"Interested members of the public are encouraged to attend the next scheduled Arts Commission meeting for the City of Newport Beach and speak on behalf of preserving this important Neutra building. Each member of the public will have three minutes to comment on non-agenda items of public interest. The Arts Commission advises the Newport Beach City Council on all matters pertaining to historical and cultural aspects of the community and participates in the designation of historical landmarks.
Next meeting: July 10, 2008, at 5:00 p.m.
Location: Newport Beach Central Library, 1000 Avocado Ave., Conference Room
Letters of support can be mailed to: Newport Beach City Arts Commission, City of Newport Beach, 3300 Newport Blvd, Newport Beach, CA 92663
"...The complex appears to eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, as the property has achieved significance with the past 50 years and represents the work of a master. Mid-twentieth century architectural resources are threatened nationwide, and Mariners Medical Arts is a particularly well-preserved and intact example of Richard Neutra's classic modernist expression. Demolition of the complex will result in the loss of an essential component of Newport Beach's history and built environment.
"Any organization interested in knowing more about the preservation campaign to save Mariners Medical Arts from demolition is encouraged to contact [Devin Colman at] the Recent Past Preservation Network. "
Everything they say is true, folks. This is one of O.C.'s best-hidden architectural jewels. As a child, my pediatrician's office was in this complex, and it's one of the key places that inspired my love of Mid-Century Modern. Any other suggestions on how to save Mariners Medical Arts?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Knott's, Buena Park & the Newport Pop Festival

We've all heard of Walter Knott, and most of us have seen photos of him. But you don't often see film of him. Here's a rare example from the 1960s.

The Buena Park Historical Society has added short photographic tours of the Bacon House and Whittaker-Jaynes House to their website.

Jeff Overley of the Register is working on a story about the Newport Pop Festival's 40th anniversary. If you attended the show "back in the day," he'd love to hear from you. (Thanks to for this item.)

It's a slow day, so I thought I'd remind everyone that you're welcome to join and add photos to the O.C. History group on Flickr.