Thursday, September 30, 2010

Anaheim, wine, hiking trails, bears, etc.

I was 97% sure I read somewhere that the Anaheim Founders Park -- which features the Victorian Wolke-Stoffle House, the Mother Colony House, and a huge fig tree -- celebrated its groundbreaking recently. But now I can't find that article for the life of me. Very annoying. However, I do have two verifiable bits of news from that park:
1) A trail through the park is now marked as the "O.K. Trail" in honor of of the delightful Opal Kissinger. Opal ran the History Room at Anaheim Public Library for many years, and has continued to be an active part of the historical community since her retirement. She's had a hand in a lot of good things in recent years, but her portrayals of historical figures like Helena Modjeska have been especially well-received.

2) The vines behind the Wolke-Stoffle (a.k.a. Red Cross) House are growing the same kind of grapes cultivated by the German vintners who founded Anaheim. Don Dobmeier of the Orange County Historical Society and Orange County Historical Commission has been tending them carefully. (He's in the photo at the top of today's post.) Now, with the help of the fledgling Anaheim Brewery, for the first time in a LONG time, there will be genuine Anaheim wine. Read more about it on the Anaheim Brewery's blog.

.Karin Klein of the L.A. Times has a new book out, entitled, 50 Hikes In Orange County. I haven't read it yet, (it only came out this week), but I know she researched the history of our local back country. As someone who enjoys going out and exploring historic sites on foot, I'm looking forward to seeing what she has to say.
Karin also has an article about the late bear population in Orange County in today's Times.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Father Serra, Capistrano, OCPAC, Seal Beach, etc

On this day in 1776, after an aborted first attempt a year earlier, Father Junipero Serra received permission to establish Mission San Juan Capistrano. The statue of Serra shown above is over the entrance of to Mission San Buenaventura, in Ventura, California. Is it just me, or does this look like the work of the WPA?
On this day in 1986, the Orange County Performing Arts Center formally opened with a peformance by the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Seal Beach will celebrate it's 95th birthday in October with a series of special events. Check out their Founders Day website for more information.
The thread in the comments section of my Monday post is still going strong. Click over and read/contribute if you haven't already.

Monday, September 27, 2010

"They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot."

I need your help. I'm trying to list some of the best Orange County historical sites that are now parking lots. The Mission Yard and Reservoir site (at El Camino Real and El Horno St.) in San Juan Capistrano is a good example. Used as a watering hole, a reservoir, and a staging site for construction for well over two centuries, it's now a paved parking lot for the library.
Another example is the parking lot at 5th St. and Sycamore in Santa Ana (shown above). At this site, in 1869, town founder William H. Spurgeon climbed a Sycamore tree so he could see above the tall mustard and get an overview of the land he'd just purchased. A younger sycamore tree has been planted in one corner of the parking lot.
So,... What significant historic sites in your community (or others you know about) have been turned, completely or partially, into parking lots? Please leave your thoughts by clicking the "comments" link at the bottom of this post.
Once I have a longer list of sites, I have a fun idea for what to do with them all. Details will follow after I flesh out the list a bit. Thanks in advance for your suggestions.
(Update: Even if you don't have anything to add to the list, be sure to read some of the discussion in the "Comments" section. What a great thread! Thanks, everyone! Keep those ideas coming!)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Have A Great Fall

Stuntmen Gary Salisbury and John Casino dramatize the beginning of fall in this photo from Knott's Berry Farm taken in the 1970s.
The Wagon Camp opened in Knott's Ghost Town in 1949. It served as a venue for live performances of Western and folk music until 1974, when the stage was altered for the new Wild West Stunt Show. A version of the show is still popular today.
In 1980, Universal Studios Hollywood opened the Wild Wild Wild West Stunt Show -- which may or may not have actually been three times as wild as the Knott's version.
(And yes, today is the first day of Fall.)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

San Clemente, Museum Day, O.C. Archives, etc

Just for fun, let's take a little tour of 1950s San Clemente, courtesy Tom Pulley's amazing postcard collection. We'll start with a view of Downtown, looking north on Avenida Del Mar. At least some of these buildings are still standing. But there's a lot more clutter on those hills today.
This postcard shows us interior and exterior views of Buddy Cole's Panorama Apartments at 420 Monterey Lane in San Clemente. They were (are?) "luxuriously furnished" for "vacation or permanent living." Those are some nice looking Modern apartments! Style and design really have been all downhill since the mid-'60s, haven't they?
Here's an aerial view of San Clemente from the 1950s, showing how little was inland of Coast Highway. Below is a postcard from a local car dealership, Bowle Stamp Ford, at 535 N. El Camino Real, with their new models on display.
This Saturday is Museum Day, sponsored nationwide by Smithsonian Magazine. Locally, a number of historical institutions will open their doors free to the public, including Mission San Juan Capistrano, the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum, the Fullerton Museum Center, the Bowers Museum, the Howe-Waffle House & Museum, the Old Courthouse Museum, and of course, the Orange County Archives.
Some of these locations require you to print free tickets from the Smithsonian's website, so check before you go. The Old Courthouse and County Archives are always free to the public, and Saturday is no exception -- We just usually aren't open on Saturdays. The Archives will be open both for research and for behind-the-scenes tours. Stop by and see us!
It's been a while since I caught up with the Bowers Museum's blog. A few Orange County items have popped up since I did. These include a painting of Helena Modjeska at Arden, a Maze Stone from Trabuco Canyon, and the business ledger of Don Tomas Yorba.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

San Juan Capistrano & Father St. John O'Sullivan

I know I'm on a bit of a San Juan Capistrano kick here, but bear with me. Today's images come from another promotional booklet from the collection of William Hockinson. This booklet (cover shown below) is from 1915, and includes a couple interesting images of Capistrano in a more rustic state.
The image above is one I haven't seen before. It shows a tortilla maker plying her trade in the great outdoors. Very cool.
The image below shows part of Mission San Juan Capistrano as it appeared in the teens.
I recently picked up a small book from the San Juan Capistrano Historical Society entitled, Little Chapters about Father St. John O'Sullivan, by Jan Schlan Siegel. It's an excellent introduction to the man who overcame a variety of challenges and restored the ruined Mission into the beautiful historical site we have today. He became quite the expert on historic restoration and was a great help to other California mission with their own projects. The book is $5 at the O'Neill Museum, and is definitely worth picking up.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Walnut Grove Restaurant, San Juan Capistrano

In 1946, three Long Beach motorcycle cops and their wives opened the Walnut Grove Restaurant at 32065 State Highway 101 (now Camino Capistrano), in San Juan Capistrano. The owners were Fred L. and Lorraine Newhart, John A. and Lucille Janton, and Mr. & Mrs. H. A. Harvey. There was both a restaurant and a gas station, with the wives running the 18-seat diner and the men pumping gas. Later, it seems Newhart family became the sole owners.
Much as the padres had planned almost two centuries earlier, San Juan Capistrano served as a good stopping-off point on the trek between San Diego and Los Angeles. In an area with few restaurants, the Walnut Grove was soon a hit with truckers and other travelers.
The food was traditional American fare, including steaks, pot roast, turkey, fried chicken, and meatloaf. (Also note the abalone steaks advertised on their awning in the photo above.) They eventually operated their own bakery as well.
The place was busy -- especially in the summer -- and Hollywood stars were among their "regulars." The room in the back featuring slot machines probably didn't hurt their popularity either, but the police shut down the gambling in 1951.
Perhaps somewhat ironically, the restaurant was popular with law enforcement officers. It's also worth noting that the future Orange County Sheriff Brad Gates had his first job at the Walnut Grove, bussing tables.

By the mid-1950s, the place was popular enough that a second restaurant, called The Walnut Grove Coast Restaurant, was opened in Dana Point. (The pink, two-story building shown above.) It didn't last. But the original Capistrano restaurant thrived, even after moving, in 1960, to a larger location at 26871 Ortega Highway (shown below).

The place suffered a fire in 1979, (from which it bounced back), and the death of original owner, Fred Newhart, Jr., in 1994. By the 1990s, Ben and Sharon Newhart were operating the place.
Over the years, the Walnut Grove became less of a highway diner and more of a family restaurant. Their customers were now more often locals and regulars rather than truckers and travelers.
But many things also remained the same. As their website pointed out, "Some of their servers have been there since 1946. And, they can run circles around the young ones."
Unfortunately, declining business and "extraordinary time demands" forced the closure of the Walnut Grove in 2005.
Today, even the building is gone, soon to be replaced by something called the Plaza Banderas Hotel Project. This new development, which also takes in the footprints of the old Mission Inn Motel and an Arco Station, will include a 124-room hotel, a restaurant, and 6,509 feet of commercial space. Plans show Mission Spanish Colonial style buildings, designed to not clash with the Mission across the street.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Capistrano, Tustin, Dana Point, Scouts, etc.

Thanks to the San Juan Capistrano Historical Society for putting on a great BBQ yesterday -- Good music, great food, and a lot of nice people. The photo above shows Buck Bean of Rancho Mission Viejo (in cowboy hat), with Nola (center) and Jim Sleeper (right). Among the 300 attendees were many of the pioneer families of Capistrano. A direct descendant of Don Juan Forster was standing in front of me in line for lunch.
This annual event is held at Amantes Campground on Rancho Mission Viejo, which makes it also a great opportunity to get a little glimpse of the Ranch. It's important to have occasional reminders that there are still beautiful and rugged parts of Orange County left.
The Amantes Campground is a regular stop for El Viaje de Portola. This El Camino Real bell (actually fitted with a clapper!), and the monument full of plaques are reminders of this annual event. The enormous fire pit must be impressive at night.
Nearby is the Rancho Mission Viejo Cemetery, established in 1987. It only contains a handful of graves thus far. Among them are the graves of Richard and Donna O'Neill. Just outside the cemetery are grave markers for beloved horses and dogs from the ranch.
Author and Tustin News “Remember When” columnist Juanita Lovret will speak at the Tustin Area Historical Society’s meeting, Sept. 20, 7pm, at the Tustin Senior Center’s lounge, at 200 South C Street.
Local historian Phil Brigandi will discuss the history of the Boy Scouts in Orange County at the Buena Park Historical Society’s next event, on Oct. 2, 2pm, at the Buena Park Library District, 7150 La Palma Ave. He will also be available after the talk to sell and sign his latest book, On My Honor: A Century of Scouting in Orange County.
The following day, Oct. 3, the Dana Point Historical Society will host their annual Home Tour. Sites on Street of the Blue Lantern and Valencia Place will be featured in this year’s tour. I imagine they’ll be posting more details on their website soon.
Dick Metz’ talk on the history of surfing in O.C. was a big hit at the Orange County Historical Society’s meeting last week. About 80 people packed themselves into the Central Patio Room at Sherman Library & Gardens. Folks had a great time, learned a lot, and had many good questions at the end of the program. Thanks to Dick, the Surfing Heritage Foundation, Dr. Hendricks of the Sherman Library, and to everyone who attended.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A glimpse of 1905

This morning, at a meeting of Compadres con Libros, William Hockinson gave an interesting talk on the "Balloon Route" trolley excursions in the early 1900s. He also brought with him a wonderful collection of Southern California ephemera from that era, including the 1905 booklet featured in today's post.
The advertisment for Sunset Beach, above, is similar to newspaper ads I've posted here before, but the image is a little more refined and detailed.
The ad for Huntington Beach, below, highlights the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic) encampment at the Methodist Tent City and the easy access from Los Angeles via the Pacific Electric Railway. The Huntington Beach Company (developers of the town) and the Pacific Electric were, of course, both majority owned by Henry Huntington.
Little promotional booklets like this can be a real treasure trove. I may post a few other images from Hockinson's collection in the coming days.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Back in the saddle again...

Sorry about the long lull on this blog. I've been on vacation, visiting the Central California coast, including beautiful spots like Montana de Oro State Park (shown above).
On this day, Sept. 9th, in 1850, California officially became the 31st state. Happy Birthday, California!
Hope to see you all at tonight's Orange County Historical Society meeting.