Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hobby City, Before & After (Part I)

I love funky roadside attractions, I love local history, and I have a warm spot in my heart for "Mom & Pop" businesses. As such, I was very happy to hear that our lousy economy had spared Hobby City from being demolished to make way for condominiums. Bea and Jay DeArmond started this place, on the border of Anaheim and Stanton, in 1955 -- the same year Disneyland opened. In fact, they passed Walt Disney and his lawyers coming out of the Orange County Clerk-Recorder's office when they went to file their deed. (I need to write a lot more about these enterprising folks sometime later.) In any case, they ran this amalgam of interesting shops in off-beat buildings for many years, and their family continues the tradition today.
I recently stopped by to see how much of Hobby City had survived its near brush with the bulldozer. Many shops have moved out, a couple have moved in, and a number of things are missing altogether. Still, I'd say we're lucky that some of the most interesting bits are still standing and (hopefully) awaiting new tenants. Today is part one of a two-part series on the recent changes to Hobby City, comparing current photos with photos I took several years ago.
The photo at the top of today's post shows the entrance sign. The earlier version focused on "Hobby City" while the update focuses on the "White House Event Center." For those who don't know, the White House replica at the back of the property served as both the DeArmonds' home (upstairs) and the Hobby City Doll Museum (downstairs). First, click here for a video that gives you a glimpse of part of the old doll museum. (I tried to embed the video on the blog, but Blogger is so temperamental.)
.Now, the photo below shows the new events center, which replaced the doll museum. No, I don't know what happened to all the dolls.
For obvious reasons, this series is focusing on what has changed. But there's still plenty left for the roadside connoisseur to enjoy at Hobby City, including buildings that look like a tree, an aquarium, a log cabin, a fairytale cottage, and, of course, the White House. Operating shops include a model shop, a cake shop, a magic shop, a rock and gem shop, an "Old West" gun store, and the popular Adventure City mini-amusement-park for children.
Click through for PART II of this post...


Connie Moreno said...

Ooooooh! VERY cool!

Unknown said...

Man,I loved Hobby City as a kid (this would be the early 70's and later),My favorite was the model railroad place and the bitchin' slot car place with the huge tracks,don't have your own car?Rent one!

walterworld said...

I'm glad the model shop is still there at least!

Heather Stewart said...

Dave, YES, the slot cars!! :) We're talking the same era.

I'm here scanning in some old family photos and came across the ones of my family's flower shop, and decided I'd see if the old Hobby City I grew up at still existed in any way. Looking on Google Maps, I see there's portions of it still whatever form. AND even more fascinating to me personally is that the mobile home park next door still exists along with the house out in front of it on Beach.

My grandmother lived in that trailer park and my mother owned a flower shop (first it was Cottage Gifts & Flowers, then Flowers by Nan) in that house (which appears now to be a Psychic & Tarot reading fits! LOL) The picture I was scanning in just now is one of my younger sister sitting in a wine barrel Easter basket dressed as a bunny in front of our store...dated 1974...a lot of funny family stories behind that Easter basket!! :)

I grew up at that trailer park, the pool in that park and LOTS and LOTS of time at Hobby City. My brother and I each had our own slot cars and spent a lot of time racing each other there. I loved the old Indian store, the gem and coin store, the doll museum, the gun shop? (i was in the back where the White House is now), the cake decorating store (that came in later than the rest) and gosh, I can't remember all what else!

Thanks for the walk down memory lane! :)

Wildsuns said...

My first job was at the Aquarium at hobby city.. Who remembers the terrarium store there ?

Baylor13 said...

I worked at the Metal Art/Welding shop in the 70's for Bob Mella. What a great job, teaching metal sculpture, going to art shows on the weekends and being with friends.

Unknown said...

Does anyone know what became of the glass shop owners.. Bill & Sally Porter? And also the plant shop with Xochitl?

cindy said...

Oh how I remember Hobby City growing up in Stanton (1962 to 1975). My best friend and I used to go there every chance we could. I still have a pair of moccasins, bought at the Indian Store. The lady at the store even helped me sew them.
Such Wonderful memories.
I wish the Old Hobby City was Back.
Yes, I know progress. But, memories.

Unknown said...

I got my first cabbage patch doll there in the 80's! Birth certificate and all. I loved the model store and the rock guy! So many memories with my Grandparents ♡

Michael J. Kouri said...

All of the dolls in Bea's doll museum were sold at auction by her children. Sad, but they couldn't wait to sell the museum and property to developers. Hmn, sounds a lot like the Knott family up the road. But in this case, evidently the real estate deal fell through and Bea De Armond's Hobby City was spared by the wrecking ball. I visited the place many times with my doll collecting mother and her doll club. Bea and her sister were experts in Shirley Temple dolls. In fact, they had an entire building dedicated to the collection of everything Shirley Temple and invited Shirley Temple doll clubs the use of the Dr Armond apartment upstairs for an annual luncheon and event. I spoke at the event a few different times. Bea was a very generous woman, she allowed many of us in the antique doll world to do research with her vast collections in her museum, and in the other sops within Hobby City. I was sad when I learned of its fate after her death, but so glad to learn that it has remained the tests of time and change and I hope it remains for another century. Michael J. Kouri, author of The Ghost of Walt Disney & Me, and Lewis Sorensen - the Master of Wax (the life story and work of Wax artist who worked at Movie Land Wax Museum) A Tale of Two Walters chronicling Walt Disney and Walter Knott's and both of their world-famous amusement parks. Available at ICGHOSTS.COM