Thursday, May 31, 2012

Anaheim Historical Society, Diann Marsh & Knott's

Remember my post last March about the Anaheim Orange & Lemon Association? Me neither. But the newly (and I do mean NEWLY) restored 1919 packing house I highlighted in that post is the location for the Anaheim Historical Society's annual dinner, June 14, at 5:30pm. Better still, the speaker is historian and preservationist Diann Marsh, who co-founded the Anaheim Historical Society and accomplished so many other good things in the name of Orange County history. The $30 ticket also includes a tour of the packing house and dinner at the new "Good Food Hall." To attend, send your check to Anaheim Historical Society, PO Box 927, Anaheim, CA 92815. For more information email

I wish I could attend, but I will be attending to about a thousand details in advance of the Orange County Historical Society's annual dinner at Knott's Berry Farm the following evening. But there's no reason you can't attend both!

Speaking of Knott's, keen theme park observer Dana Hundley tipped me off that the music in Ghost Town is about halfway fixed. Let me explain,...

Recently, Knott's has made some distinct improvements/restorations to Ghost Town -- except they also replaced the traditional Western music usually piped into its "dusty" streets with modern rock and pop hits! Naturally, it put a major damper on the area's theme and ambiance. Guests were confused by it. Knott's fans and Knott's employees hated it.

So as of this week the modern music has been replaced (cue the cheering and applause),... with old-timey fiddle-music covers of modern rock and pop songs! (Cue sudden silence, followed by puzzled grumbling and raised eyebrows.)

But sometimes half a victory is better than none at all. And as I've pointed out before, the positive infrustracture changes at Knott's are a lot more important than the music. Music can be changed with the flip of a switch. Basic infrastructure is a serious investment, which is certainly appreciated by those of us who care about the things that make Knott's special. They get a big thumbs up for details like returning the old water pump to Main St., bringing back the concrete dance hall girls (Marilyn and Cecelia, still sitting on their bench), repainting and repairing buildings as needed, fixing effects on the Calico Mine Ride, removing visual clutter, and "repaving" the streets with natural-looking decomposed granite -- which looks a lot more authentic than pavement. Way to go, Knott's Berry Farm! Each new step lately seems to be in the right direction!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Laguna artwork recovered from the 1920s

I noticed this bronze at what used to be The Pottery Shack (now the "Old Pottery Place") on Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna Beach last week. The plaque below reads, "Julia Bracken Bronze Relief: The plaster original for this bronze relief was completed in 1924 by Julia Bracken Wendt, a nationally known sculptor active in Laguna Beach at the time and married to local plein air painter William Wendt. The plaster mold was found severely damaged at a yard sale and purchased by local resident Anne Frank for $50. Recognizing what was once apparently a beautiful work of art, she researched its origin with local sculptor Marvin Johnson. Through the help of authenticator Dewitt McCall, they were alble to identify it as the work of Julia Bracken. Painstakingly restored by sculptor Johnson and with funding provided by The Community Art Project and Laguna Beach Books, the bronze was once again cast in 2006 for display at the Old Pottery Place."

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

New O.C. history resource hub now online!

At long last, the Orange County Historical Society has a new website! Thanks to Daralee Ota, (of Olive Through The Ages fame), who did the design/build work, it's not only easily navigable, attractive, and up-to-date, but it's also downright useful!

OCHS' website committee got their heads together to decide what should and shouldn't appear on the site, and I think they hit the nail pretty much on the head. A few sections will be added later, but the crucial stuff is up already. Many, many more historical articles and materials will also be added later, although there's already some good stuff you can start reading. My favorite bits of the site?
  • Orange County History Articles - Watch for this one to grow in the coming months. Phil Brigandi, with help from the rest of the committee, led the effort to round up interesting content for the whole site. This page has some of the best.
  • Search Engine - The fun part is that it also searches the articles on tons of County Courier back issues. Lots of local history content to explore! I'll be even more excited about this when we have all our newsletters back through the 1960s scanned, OCR'ed, and posted.
  • History of OCHS -  A surprisingly interesting story in its own right.
  • Photo Gallery - Historical photos are always interesting. Member Betsy Vigus rounded up some great examples of images from OCHS' large collection.
  • Q&A - At every board meeting, our official Society historian, Ken Leavens, reads the queries he's received and also his responses. It's always fascinating. This new interactive section captures some of that.
  • Suggested Reading - Don't know where to start with local history? This list gives you some great places to start.
  • Publications - OCHS has a lot of great books for sale that you aren't likely to find on Amazon and or at Barnes & Noble. Now it's super easy to find them and order them via mail or PayPal. There's some very cool stuff on this list, and hopefully it will now end up in readers' hands.
  • Basics - Perhaps most importantly, the site tells you pretty much anything you want to know about the Society, including what they do, who they are, how to get involved, and what events are coming up.
Sorry to ramble on, but I've been wanting to see OCHS do this for a long time. And now that the first stage is done and online, it's already better than I'd hoped. My thanks to everyone involved.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Los Alamitos mystery dude, Anaheim tour, etc.

I stopped past the Los Alamitos Museum today. It's quite an interesting array of stuff they have in that old County Fire Station. (More on that later.) I was curious about this painting, (shown above), which was on display with no identifying information. The docents, who were otherwise quite helpful and friendly, couldn't tell me about the painting either. I'm wondering if anyone reading this will have an answer for me. The painting appears to be on wood and seems quite old. But I am not an expert on these things.

The Anaheim Neighborhood Association will hold a Historic Home Tour, May 26-27. See their website for details.

Architect Richard Dodd will present the program "TheEvolution of Architectural Styles in Orange County: 1776 to the Present," on June 6, at 7pm, in the Central Patio Room at Sherman Gardens & Library in Corona del Mar. The program is free if you RSVP to (949) 673-2261.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

He had a key. But his plumbers still had to break in.

On September 4, 1969, President Richard Nixon received the "Key to Orange County" at his Western White House in San Clemente. (Who else has received these keys?) The key, quoth the AP, was "presented to him by William Hirstein, chairman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors in a ceremony... The President also holds a framed resolution authorizing the giving of the 'gold key' to the President. The resolution had been presented to him by Alton Allen, (right) 5th District Orange County Supervisor."

I always get Alton Allen mixed up with Mr. Slate from The Flintstones.

Speaking of Richard Nixon, did you know that Orange County only has two National Historic Landmarks: The ModjeskaHouse and the birthplace of Richard Nixon? One of my friends at OC Parks, Carey Baughman writes, "There is currently a photo contest for National Historic Landmarks. Winning photos are placed on a national website and printed in a calendar. Each photographer can submit up to ten photos, but only one photograph from each site." The contest runs until June 13.  Photos should be submitted to the following flickr group:, which also includes entry rules and other contest information.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Hewes Park

 There's a lot to be learned from an artifact as simple as a citrus crate label. In this case, I'm posting three labels featuring Hewes Park. David Hewes was most famous as the man who provided the golden spike for 1869 ceremony at Promontory Summit, Utah, which completed the building of the transcontinental railroad. He'd become rich as a grading contractor in San Francisco during the Gold Rush, and in the early 1880s he brought himself and his wealth to Orange County.
Hewes purchased a large ranch between Tustin and El Modena and had much of it planted in citrus groves in 1892. According to Phil Brigandi's indispensable, Orange County Place Names, A to Z, "In 1905 [Hewes] began development of Hewes Park on a small hill above the northwest corner of Esplanade Street and La Veta Avenue. It was a private park, built for the public as a gift from Hewes."

The park was designed by Robert G. Fraser, who also designed the original Busch Gardens in Pasadena. Hewes Park was soon an important Orange County landmark and even appeared on many postcards and in promotional brochures for the region. Its beautiful trees, flower gardens, and barbeques were later joined by a miniature golf course, a Japanese tea garden, and other amenities.
Hewes built two citrus packing houses and his fruit bore labels reading, "D. Hewes, El Modena Highlands." After his death, the business was managed by D. E. Huff, who reorganized the operation as the David Hewes Realty Corporation in 1920. The land was subdivided for sale in 1923, but the packing operation continued under the name David Hewes Orange & Lemon Association. The packing houses both burned in 1947.

Hewes Park also met its end in the 1940s when it was purchased and large homes were built on the site. I'm told one of the homes sitting atop the park today is that of Robert Schuller of Crystal Cathedral fame.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Anaheim, Esther Cramer, Doris Walker, citrus, canyons, etc.

 I took all of the photos in today's post at the Orange County Historical Society's outstanding tour of the Anaheim Cemetery yesterday. Local historian Cynthia Ward (also on the board of the Orange County Cemetery District), led the tour. That's her in the photo above, wearing her Victorian hoop skirt.
I was once a bit skeptical about cemetery tours, but they really are an excellent way to not only appreciate the grounds and design, but also to provide a framework to talk about the individuals and families that built and grew a community over the centuries.
Speaking of memorials and remembering those who were important to the community, services for Esther Cramer will be held at 11am, June 9th at La Habra United Methodist Church. The parking will undoubtedly be tight. If you're young and spry, you may want to park a good way off, to let the older folks park near the church.

Another remembrance of a beloved Orange County historian came recently in the form of a sculpture, approved by the City of Dana Point, in honor of Doris I. Walker-Smith. Read more about it in the O.C. Register.

The Metabolic Studio made a grant of $10,000 to the Save Our Orchard Coalition's legal defense fund to save the Sexlinger property in Santa Ana. This land includes the remnants of one of the last orange groves in central Orange County. The current owner of the land wants to build 24 homes there. If the Coalition gets some bigger donations, perhaps they can buy the land outright and everyone will be happy.

A tour of the gardens of Modjeska and Silverado Canyons will be held May 19. The garden tour will be held 9am-1pm. A catered lunch and tour of the historic Helena Modjeska house and gardens will be held from noon to 3pm. Tickets are $20 and raise funds for the Silverado Children's Center and the Modjeska house. To purchase tickets, contact Bonnie Smith at (714) 649-2382.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Preserving historic buildings, and a tour of the Anaheim Cemetery

Local historian Cynthia Ward will speak on “Historical Preservation: Thinking Outside the Box,” at the Orange County Historical Society's next meeting, Thursday, May 10, 2012, 7:30 p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange.

As California's economy shifts, and local governments lose redevelopment funds, preservationists must find new avenues to maintain and restore our historic legacy. Join us for an open discussion of how communities and non-profit groups may be moving forward in the future. Cynthia will also present examples of how others have used creative thinking to preserve our built environment.

(The photo below shows a historic home on Pine St. in Orange. The Clabaugh House (1880), shown above, is on Olive St. in Anaheim.)
Cynthia Ward is a preservation consultant, and owner of Cynthia Ward Historic Preservation Consulting. She specializes in research and documentation of historic homes for Historic Register applications, and Mills Act tax reduction program filings. She also designs restorations and adaptive reuse for both interior and exterior changes to vintage homes. She and her husband Richard are currently restoring their own second historic home, the 1908 era Owens House, in the Anaheim Colony Historic District.

On the following Saturday, May 12th, Cynthia will also take the Orange County Historical Society (and you, if you'd like to come along) for a tour of the historic Anaheim Cemetery, co-sponsored by the Orange County Cemetery District.

The cemetery, founded in 1866, is the final resting place of thousands of early Orange County settlers, over 500 war veterans, and members of families still living in the area. Recently, a number of the historic mausoleums and other structures have been restored. The photo below shows the historic entry gate.
The cemetery tour is free and will begin, rain or shine, at 11:00 a.m. in front of the cemetery’s office at 1400 E. Sycamore St. No reservations are required.

Just one of the interesting things you'll learn is that early Anaheim had a Chinatown. The photo below shows one of Anaheim Cemetery's Chinese grave markers. According to the Anaheim Public Library, the top of marker most likely "depicts the name of a city or town (not readable in photo)." From top to bottom, the text reads "PEI (white) / SA (sand) / CHUN KAN HU (Hu-Kan village, guarding or surrounding ditch) / LING (place name) / AN OUN (name or title of respect) / HUANG (family name) / KUNG'S (elder, senior, grandfather level) / FUN MO (grave)."

I hope to see you at both OCHS events later this week!

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Neutra masterpiece still in the crosshairs

The effort continues to screw up one of Orange County's great buildings -- Richard Neutra's Mariner's Medical Arts Building (1963) in Newport Beach. Documents are now available on the city's website.

Architect John Linnert writes, "Yesterday, I received the official Notice of Preparation (NOP) for an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) pertaining to ...the proposed abomination at Mariners Medical Arts. ...Please contribute any type of comments so as to let the City know your thoughts. Deadline is by May 25th, 2012."

"Public" means you an me, folks. Not just Newport residents and architectural historians.
Richard Neutra's son, architect Dion Neutra, has posted several petitions on his website which you're also invited to sign. He writes, "Last year I mounted an exhibition we called 'The Amazing Neutras in Orange County'. It opened in Claremont, was seen at Barnsdall in Hollywood, and closed at the Old Courthouse Gallery in Santa Ana. The hope was that a patron would emerge with the funds to buy out this developer and operate the facility as a non-profit, restoring it to its former glory. A partnership with a local museum was hoped for, so that at least this example of our work in Orange County might survive. To date no such savior has emerged. It would appear that we have scarcely a month to rescue this from this final step towards oblivion. Everyone realizes that this would only be the first of the incursions, ultimately to be followed by further demolition to make room for more multistory development."
I've found that no photos of this complex really do it justice. You need to walk around it, and even go into the offices to get the full effect. It captures the spirit of Modernism and of Newport Beach in the 1960s, and is one of the most attractive and relatable examples of Richard Neutra's work I've ever experienced. (Another was the Art Center at Orange Coast College, which was demolished years ago.) It has a very carefully thought out scale and sense of place which will be destroyed if they start remuddling the site and adding tall buildings.

Know anyone who wants to buy and preserve an architectural masterpiece?

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Changes coming for the Santora Building?

NEWSONG, a self-described "young vibrant community/church of artists, creative, innovators, entrepreneurs, and community development leaders," has announced that they are in the process of buying the historic Santora Building (1928) in Santa Ana from developer Mike Harrah. This sale, like the sale of Original Mike's and the Santa Ana Masonic Temple is almost certainly an effort to raise funds for Harrah's dream of building a 37-story tower in the middle of historic Downtown Santa Ana. (For most guys, buying a big truck would be enough.)

The Santora is currently part of the "Artists Village" and visiting the beautifully preserved building is like a timewarp back to the 1920s. Shaun King, NEWSONG's Director of Communications, says NEWSONG wants the Santora to be "a regional and even an international hub for the creative community. Our dream is a harmonious community partnership at every level and we want to preserve the historical integrity of this beautiful building."

I'm glad to hear they don't want to screw it up. But do they just mean the exterior, or will they also keep the pristine interior intact? And what is this NEWSONG anyway?

According to an article in OC Weekly, the church targets people it calls “misfits” who they recruit to "change the world."

According to their own press release, NEWSONG's founder, Dave Gibbons, "actively advises artists and executives in New York City, Los Angeles, Seoul, Thailand and Brazil."

In a Facebook post, Gibbons called the Santora “an effective and efficient training space for equipping the next wave of misfit leaders especially artists, business people, and community development specialists. ...[Our leaders] will consider the development of a 300+ seat meeting facility that could accommodate weekend services as well as training during the week.”

I'm not sure how you accomplish that and still preserve the historic interior. Let's keep our fingers crossed.