Wednesday, April 29, 2009

El Toro Country Store and Tustin home tour

Ken from Outside The Berm, read my recent El Toro/Lake Forest post and shared this 1960 slide of the El Toro Country Store.
The Tustin Area Historical Society will host Old Town Tustin's 2009 Promenade Home & Garden Tour on Sat., May 2, 9am-4pm. Visit their website for more information.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Space Age Orange and Viewliner Ltd.

Today I'm posting photos of two Space Age wonders from the Orange Public Library's history collection. The first image (top) shows the Cinedome movie theater under construction in 1969. The second image shows the Luer Meat Rocket (no jokes please), in Orange's 1956 May Festival Parade. (The Soviets had rockets in their May Day parades too, but that was kinda different.)
Charles Phoenix writes, "Luer was a meat-packing house that started in downtown Los Angeles in 1885. The 1950s era rocket ship was to them what the weenie mobile is to Oscar Meyer. It made countless appearances in local parades, super market grand openings and other civic events promoting their "quality meat" products. You could actually go inside of it... Surprisingly, fifty years later, this rocket still exists. Last I heard it’s old and weathered and sitting in a yard in Prescott, Arizona."
One of my regular reads, the Viewliner Ltd. blog, has had some especially interesting posts lately, including historical glimpses of the Pacific Electric Railway, Knott's Berry Farm, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach, Disneyland, and more Disneyland.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Citrus trucks and Tustin Hills Citrus Association

The images above come from the April 1937 issue of Popular Mechanics. The accompanying article reads, "Constant breaking of trees and bruising of fruit by trucks hauling fruit through the groves has been ended by California citrus growers. On the recommendation of automotive engineers they now use a long slender truck which rolls through the grove without causing damage."
Doug McInstosh, who submitted this item, writes, "If you look closely on the citrus truck door, the letter reads 'Tustin Hills Citrus Association.'"
Also note that the truck is not a flatbed. That isn't a big trailer on the back -- It's a perfect stack of field boxes -- full of fruit.
There's another 1930s photo of the truck (along with the rest of the fleet) on James Lancaster's "Historic Packing Houses and Other Industrial Structures in Southern California: Virtual Tour of Orange County" website.
Tustin Hills Citrus Association was a growers cooperative, organized in 1909. They had a packing house in Tustin, between Holt and Newport Ave. near Irvine Blvd. They later joined the Southern California Fruit Exchange, which eventually became Sunkist.
The aerial photo below comes from the Tustin Area Historical Society, and shows the Tustin Hills packing house around 1950.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

El Toro

Here are two of my favorite things, mashed together: Local history and "California School" watercolor painting. This painting hangs on the wall at the Saddleback Area Historical Society's library, which I had the pleasure of visiting yesterday. (More about that at a later date.)
A paper tacked up next to this painting reads, "Edgar Gerry Starr (1908-1971) was born in Imperial, CA on Sept. 8, 1908. He graduated from high school in Oakland and then atteneded the CCAC [California College of Arts & Crafts] and PAFA [Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts]. Returning to Los Angeles, he studied with Lawrence Murphy and Millard Sheets at the Chouinard School of Art. During the 1930s he was employed at Disney Studios while exhibiting in juried shows in California and Arizona. He made many sketching trips with Sheets to Mexico. After 'discovering' Puerto Vallarta, he and his wife settled there in 1954. His Disney work includes 'Pinocchio,' 'Fantasia,' and 'Song of the South.'"
The painting depicts the old Santa Fe depot at El Toro, which was built in 1887. Sadly, it is long gone.
Recently, someone called me out (in a "mostly kidding" way) for referring to Lake Forest as El Toro. I do so because it was called El Toro for over 153 years (since at least 1838). It's only been Lake Forest since 1991. The only lakes or forests in the area are completely manmade.
As my friend Jeremy Tweet points out, "There's another Lake Forest, CA. It's located at Tahoe. Where they have things like lakes and forests."
On the other hand, perhaps we should rename Anaheim "Alpine Falls, California." After all, they have a fake Matterhorn with a fake waterfall on it. And the name Anaheim has only been in use since 1857. The new name would probably help developers sell more condos, too. (I shouldn't give them ideas!)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Joy Zone, Seal Beach

Today's images show the Joy Zone in Seal Beach in about 1917. The postcard image above shows the large wood rollercoaster, The Derby, which came from the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, (as did the "Scintillator Lights" which graced the end of the Seal Beach Pier). The grainy inset image shows Santa Ana's own Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle (left) filming a movie at the same location. The Joy Zone was built in 1916, one year after the city was incorporated. City founder Philip A. Stanton hoped to make his town the “The Coney Island of the Pacific” and the “playground of Southern California.” Indeed, at its height, as many as 20,000 visitors came to Seal Beach each week -- Many of them arriving on the Pacific Electric's Red Cars.
Amenities at the base of the wooden pier included a bathhouse, a dance hall, concession stands, and the Jewel City Cafe. The pier itself (built in 1906) was billed as the longest south of San Francisco.
The Joy Zone sort of fell apart with the onset of the Great Depression. People stopped coming, the Derby burned down, and the whole place fell into disrepair. But by that time, Seal Beach had also developed a reputation as a haven for speakeasies, gambling and other illicit forms of entertainment -- Making the whole town into another kind of "joy zone" for years to come.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Santa Ana Tin Mining Co.

The photos above show the shafts of the Santa Ana Tin Mine, in Trabuco Canyon, on March 20, 1903. Tin was first discovered in the canyon in 1877, but it was over a decade before anything was done about it. . 

In A Boy’s Book of Bear Stories (Not for Boys), Jim Sleeper writes, “In April of 1901, J. A. Comer located 54 claims (purporting to have tin) in Trabuco Canyon. …The Santa Ana Tin Mining Co. was incorporated two months later … By November, the mill and most of the major buildings… were erected.” 

The company was owned by geologist J. A. Comer, his brother, L. C. Comer, and New York dairy magnate Gail Borden, III of the Borden Milk Company. Borden wanted the tin for containers to replace wood buckets, which had recently been outlawed for milk storage purposes. (To this day, an eagle appears on cans of Borden’s Milk – The same eagle that served as the logo of the Santa Ana Tin Mining Co.) Unfortunately, no tin was ever taken from the mine. Some say it was too difficult to separate the tin from the various other minerals in the ore. Others say there wasn’t enough tin to bother with. Either way, after an investment of $1.5 million, tin mining operations ceased in 1906. After digging more than 1,000 feet of shafts and tunnels, it took only a month and a half of ore refining efforts to determine that the mine was a failure. . 

That failure did not, however, keep the mine from being sold and re-sold to a series of hopeful owners, each with their own scheme for getting rich. For instance, one owner, Glenn S. Gunn, tried to extract mercury from the ore. None of these efforts proved enormously fruitful either. .

Assistant District Forester L. A. Barrett wrote in a 1912 report, "I have had personal knowledge of these claims for twenty years and know that the only money ever made from them has been secured through sale of stock and transfer to new owners." . 

Eventually, the Santa Ana Tin Mine did produce at least one mineral treasure – a small sample of an extremely rare mineral called arcanite. It was not found in the ore however, but was embedded in a pine railroad tie in Tunnel #1. . 

In 1969, the Orange County Historical Landmarks Project panel concluded, “Of the many mines and mill sites that have existed in Orange County, this one is the best preserved. Not only are the old shafts and cut tunnels preserved, but the old mill, laboratory, black smith shop, and a few other old buildings still stand.”

I'm told the site has since been scraped clean by the National Forest Service.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Today's post is all Santa Ana, starting with the photo above, which is a detail from a 1946 postcard showing North Main St. The Horton Furniture building and the adjacent Arcade are still standing. A Jack In The Box now stands at the corner of Civic Center Drive, where the California Hotel was. The dome in the background was the Congregational Church.
The two construction/demolition photos above and the court photo at right came from the same set of 1936 images of Santa Ana (which I sadly did not win on Ebay). The two above show construction at what appears to be Santa Ana High School. New classroom and shop buildings, designed by Allison & Allison, were built that year. I have no idea where the bungalow court is/was located, but it's a nice contemporary image of that style of building.
The historic Floral Park Neighborhood will host their annual Home & Garden Tour on Sat. and Sun., April 25-26, 10am-4pm. In addition to tours of the area's vintage homes and gardens, there will also be an antique/collectables sale and a classic cars display. Tickets are $30 and will be sold at booths at Flower St. & 19th St. and at Santa Clara Ave. & Victoria Dr.
The Old Courthouse Museum's new exhibit is "Past Tents: The Way We Camped," which explores the history of camping in California from the mid-1800s to the 1950s. Not much O.C. content yet, but I understand some may be added later. The exhibition runs through June 5th.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Huntington Beach library, Fullerton & Norton Simon

There is a plan afoot in Huntington Beach to tear out the Main Street Branch Library (1951) and the surrounding park area and replace it with a bunch more buildings. Last week, the City's Historic Resources Board decided to send a letter to their City Council laisons asking that the site be studied more to assess its historical value. The Huntington Beach Downtown Residents Association encouraged this action and presented their own historical research to the Board.
The building clearly meets the age requirements for a historic structure, and it has certainly played a significant role in the community. I've even heard rumors that it may be the second tilt-up concrete construction building in California. However the facts of the case shake out, I'm sure there will be a battle.
With or without historical significance, it would be a crying shame to lose a very functional and attractive library as well as the only green spot or open space between Lake Park and the ocean.
Travis K. writes, "...One of our writers put up an interesting piece on how Norton Simon was ready to build his museum in Fullerton and how we lost it back in 1974. It would have been at the Hunt Library, which was designed by the famous William Pereira."

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Eichler homes, Alan Hess, Julius Schulman, etc.

Modern Architecture is now officially historic, and no better proof exists than the tract homes built by developer Joe Eichler in the 1950s. They brought the best of Modern residential design within reach of the average home-buyer. Today, like the Victorian houses a century ago, they are being rediscovered for preservation and restoration. (The photo above shows an Eichler home at 5122 E. Elsinore Ave. in Orange.)
Alan Hess will discuss "Near History: the Eichler Tracts of Orange County," at the May 14, 2009 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society. The meeting will be held at 7:30pm at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange. I threw together the map below for the OCHS newsletter, in hopes that people would take time before the meeting to explore nearby Eichler neighborhoods.
There is also an Eichler tract in Fullerton, called "Fullerton Grove," but that seemed a bit off the beaten path for this particular event.
I'm promoting this event a little early because, 1) I'm really interested in the subject, 2) I helped organize the program, and 3) Because Alan Hess is part of the reason I'm working in local history today. It was Alan's first book, Googie: Fifties Coffee Shop Architecture, that got be back into photographing and documenting historic architecture -- Something I hadn't done since I first got hooked on local history in high school. Those photo safaris and my resulting website were important early steps on the road to my current job and to this blog.
Alan Hess is an architect, historian, author, and prominent California architecture critic. His books document and interpret neglected mid‑century, popular and Modern architecture. His most recent books are Oscar Niemeyer Buildings, Frank Lloyd Wright: The Buildings, Forgotten Modern: California Houses 1940-1970, and Julius Shulman: Palm Springs. Other books include Googie Redux, Viva Las Vegas, The Architecture of John Lautner, The Ranch House and Palm Springs Weekend.
Hess has been active in the preservation of roadside and post‑War architecture. He qualified a number of buildings for the National Register of Historic Places, including the nation’s oldest McDonald’s (Downey, 1953), Bullock's Pasadena (1947), the 1956 Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale, AZ, and the Stuart Pharmaceutical Factory by Edward Durell Stone (1958). He is currently researching the architecture of Irvine.
Also of interest to my fellow Mid-Century Modern fans: The Fullerton Museum is now hosting an exhibit called, "Forever Fullerton: Julius Shulman," featuring 40 works by the most famous photographer of Modern architecture, along with period furniture and decor. In the 1950s and 1960s, Schulman did extensive work in Fullerton documenting houses and other buildings in town. Below is an exhibit poster by Orange County's own Josh "Shag" Agle. (I want a copy for my wall!)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Orange County Probation turns 100

Today, the Orange County Probation Department held a party at the Lamoreaux Justice Center to celebrate their agency's 100th year. There was a nice display of historical artifacts and documents, including this great portrait (above) of David R. McMillan, who served as Chief Probation Officer from 1939 to 1967. (During World War II, Carl S. Warner served as interim Chief until McMillan's return from military service.)
The exhibit (see photo below) also included such documents as the log of the County's juvenile detention facility, with entries as early as 1910. My favorite entry from the first page: "May 24, 1910. Ida S____. Age 14. Incorrigible. Sent to the Orange County Detention Home, May 25 by order of Judge West. ...Ida [ran] away with a Mexican and lived with him as man and wife for six months."
Said one wisenheimer, after reading this entry aloud, "I think they call that 'Spring Break' today."
In the photo below, County Supervisors Nguyen and Moorlach and Chief Probation Officer Colleene Preciado were among the many dignitaries wishing the agency a happy birthday.
The many historical documents unearthed by the Probation Dept. in preparation for their centennial will soon be given to the Orange County Archives, where they will be available for current and future generations of historians. The history of law enforcement agencies is usually pretty interesting, and this is no exception.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

El Toro, CSUF, TRW test site, Capistrano, etc.

This 1915 promotional brochure for Orange County seemed like a good pick for my first post-Easter post.
The kick-off for the new "Farmers to Flyers" exhibit at the O.C. Agricultural & Nikkei Heritage Museum (at CSUF) will open Saturday. This display will interpret the impact of the El Toro Marine Air Station on the development of Orange County and covers the time period 1930-1955. Admission is free and visiting hours are Saturdays and Sundays, 11am to 3pm.
Northrop Grumman announced that it will close the Capistrano Test Site that gave us Apollo lunar landing rockets, laser weapons, satellite communications equipment, and other space age technology. The facility was opened by TRW in 1963 and has been dealing with secret technology ever since. (The road adjacent to the facility offers the best photographic vantage point of historic Christianitos Canyon, but I know better than to bring a camera out there.)
Richard O'Neill's funeral at the Basilica at Mission San Juan Capistrano was already historically noteworthy. But having two former governors as pall-bearers (and Nancy Pelosi as a guest) underlined how politically significant O'Neill was. The Register gave it front page coverage.
Speaking of Capistrano, t-shirts with postcard images of San Juan Capistrano are now being sold to raise funds for various activities during Historic Preservation Week (May 10-16). The shirts are now available for $10 at SJC City Hall and at the O'Neill Museum.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Happy Easter!

The photo above shows the First Presbyterian Church in Anaheim at Easter around 1892. The church was built in 1873 at what is now the corner of Anaheim Blvd. and Sycamore St. The photo below shows the exterior of the church a few years later.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Silverado Elementary School

The Orange Unified School District has slated Silverado Elementary School for closure, and the locals are fighting it. Although the school has been moved and rebuilt over the years, the school traces its roots back a long, long way.
The town of Silverado was formed when silver was discovered in the area in 1878 - eleven years before the County of Orange was formed. The inset photo at right shows an old mining cart that sits in front of the school today.
The Silverado School District was founded in 1881. According to Phil Brigandi, the district "lapsed in 1907, but was re-established in 1916." The photo immediately below shows all the students of Silverado Elementary School in 1919. The students (L to R) are Evelyn Schulz, Joseph Holtz, Henry Mayer, Walter Johnson, Judd Miller, Evelyn Johnson, Vernon Schulz, Alban Holtz, Dorothy Mauerhan, Ray Mauerhan, Alice Schulz, Charles Miller, Ray Johnson, Margaret Holtz and Florence Schulz. (The names came from Silverado Canyon by Susan Deering.) Notice that for 15 students, there were only six surnames.
Originally, the school began as a small building that was moved back and forth between Silverado and Modjeska Canyons - wherever the most students lived at any given time. In 1903 the little building landed for good on Silverado Canyon Rd. and became the Silverado School. In time, three rooms were added to the original one-room schoolhouse.
The photo at the top of today's post shows the school as it appeared in the 1930s. During the Depression, the WPA expanded the school and gave it a Mission/Deco facade. In 1953 the school joined the new Orange Unified School District, and in 1957 the building was replaced with a modern 6-room school.
This last photo shows the school's students in the 1930s. All the black and white photos in today's post came from

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Richard O'Neill

Richard Jerome O’Neill died Friday of natural causes at age 85. Marty Wisckol at O.C. Buzz has a whole list of links to information about the "former head of the Rancho Mission Viejo land company and bigtime Democratic activist."
All the photos in today's post were taken at the dedication of O'Neill Park on June 18th, 1950. The O'Neills donated many acres of their ranch to the creation of this County park. The photo above shows Richard O'Neill (center) with his mother, Marguerite "Daisy" Moore O'Neill; his sister, Alice O'Neill (Moiso) Avery; and young Tony and Jerome.
In addition to being a major landowner, Richard O'Neill also owned the El Adobe restaurant and was a key supporter of historical preservation in the San Juan Capistrano area.
I wish I could see who was sitting at the head table at this dedication day picnic, but the image resolution isn't that good -- even in the original negative.
Wisckol writes, "O'Neill was the grandson of Richard O'Neill, the founder of Rancho Mission Viejo. In 1882, the family owned, in partnership with other families, 200,000 acres in south Orange County. About two-thirds of the land became Camp Pendleton in 1942. The cities of Mission Viejo, Rancho Santa Margarita and the communities of Las Flores and Ladera Ranch later were developed on their ranch lands."

Monday, April 06, 2009

Orange County Historical Society, Silverado, etc.

I just launched a new Flickr photo account for the Orange County Historical Society (OCHS) this weekend. We're starting out small, with a handful of images that were already scanned and available. Hopefully we'll add more content later, reflecting a broader range of locales throughout the County. The OCHS photo above shows the Ringling Brothers Circus parade going down 4th Street in Santa Ana in September 1910. There are photos of this parade scattered through a number of collections throughout O.C., and someday it would be fun to gather copies of them all together and do a slide show.
The Orange County Historical Society's previously announced April 9th program, "Remembering the Golden Bear" has been cancelled, due to circumstances beyond their control. In leiu of that program, Jo An Ardanaz of the Yorba Linda Historical Society will present a discussion on the Suzanne Bixby Bryant Ranch in Yorba Linda. This should also be an excellent program, so I hope you won't shy away just because we've switched from bears to bulls (or rather, cattle). The meeting will still take place Apr. 9, 7:30pm at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange.
Just when I think I've heard of every historical group in Orange County, another one appears on my radar screen. While searching for something totally unrelated, I stumbled across a website for the Orange County Jewish Historical Society.
This note appeared in the comments for my previous post: "Do you know what the oldest elementary school in Orange County is? Just wondering... I'm working to save Silverado Elementary which dates from 1903...(at two different sites, yes)."
I'm afraid I don't know what the oldest school is in O.C., but perhaps one of our readers does. Anyone?... Anyone?... Bueller?...

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Disneyland concept map

Today's images show artist Peter Ellenshaw's 1954 concept map of Disneyland. Walt Disney used this illustration to introduce the theme park (under development) to the public on his Disneyland television show. If you look carefully, you'll notice differences between the concept and the final product. The first image (top) shows the art as it appeared in Look magazine. Thanks to Vintage Disneyland Tickets for the source material. (I tried to cobble the two-page spread together in Paint Shop Pro, but in some places I had to just leave a white stripe.) [Update: I've corrected the attribution on this image, and also posted a higher resolution version.]
The photo below comes from the always enjoyable Daveland website, and shows Ellenshaw actually creating the map.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Photo Potpourri from Doug McIntosh

No time for a fancy post today, so I'm just going to share some really cool photos sent in by Doug McIntosh. The first shows a flooded Westminster in about 1960. Flooding was still a pretty common problem for that town back then.
Here's the tower at Huntington Beach High School in 1937. It was designed by Allison & Allison, who also designed the recently demolished tower at Newport Harbor High School.
And finally, here's Doug himself, in the courtyard of Knott's Berry Farm's antique shop in 1969. The courtyard and statue are still there (behind the Calico Saloon), but the public seldom gets to access that area anymore. I took a photo of it recently and posted it to Flickr.
Thanks for the great photos, Doug!