Costa Mesa Historical Society

The Costa Mesa Historical Society is a 501(c)3 organization founded in 1966. The society is not a city department. It is, rather, a 100% volunteer organization staffed by private citizens dedicated to fulfilling the society’s mission: preserving and promoting the history of Costa Mesa. The society accomplishes its mission through regular public events, community collaborations, and its collection at two museums. The collection comprises over 70,000 items, including 1,500 books, 30,000 photos, and 100 GB of newspapers, as well as countless personal archives, maps, oral histories, digital media, textiles, and more. The society shares its collection with a broad audience through permanent and temporary exhibits. Exhibits are meant to engage and excite the public about the historical society’s collection by highlighting representative or unique objects on a particular topic. Exhibits don’t have to be in a museum. Metro Car Wash, for instance, displays some fifty pictures from the society’s collection. The society’s books, newsletter, and website are other “venues” for the collection. If you care about local history and want to share your love with others, consider becoming a member or volunteering. We'd love to have you.

Mission: The Costa Mesa Historical Society is committed to promoting and preserving the community's history. The society operates two museums, hosts monthly lectures, and holds regular public events to share our city's unique heritage.

Heroes Hall
07/11/2019

Heroes Hall

In 2004 Mark Cernich of Newport Beach unearthed dozens of military dog tags at a construction site on the former Santa Ana Army Air Base. Cernich was constructing a new building at 2777 Bristol Street in Costa Mesa when he discovered a dump site about 10-20 feet underground that contained trash from the old Army air base. He collected the dog tags and created a wooden cross to hang them on. He wanted to make sure they got a good home, so he donated them to Heroes Hall this week. Thank you, Mark, for your thoughtful donation! Keep a look out for the dog tags to be incorporated into our SAAAB Story exhibit at Heroes Hall this fall.

07/09/2019
Songs About Costa Mesa - Costa Mesa Historical Society

Join us tonight in Fairview Park for the opening night of this year's Concerts in the Park! Pre-show begins at 5 p.m., and DSB, the Journey cover band, takes the stage at 6 p.m.

Speaking of music, did you know there are some two dozen songs that name-check Costa Mesa? We compiled a list below. Be sure to let us know if there’s anything we missed!

Did you know that over two dozen songs have name-dropped Costa Mesa? Over ten of them have appeared in the past five years alone. And in a variety of genres, too: rock, reggae, alternative, Christian, electronica, you name it. Everyone loves to sing about our town. Let us know if there's anything we...

You can find Costa Mesa's Cinderella Homes in the College Park area near OCC. Original brochures promised "your every wi...
07/08/2019

You can find Costa Mesa's Cinderella Homes in the College Park area near OCC. Original brochures promised "your every wish for a home... come gloriously true."

A wonderful post shared by Christian Lukather...

Meet Jean Valjean Vandruff. He's 97 years old. Jean is the original designer and builder of the Cinderella Homes. These charming tract homes can be found in Anaheim, Tustin, Placentia, Costa Mesa, San Fernando Valley - throughout California - as well as Kansas and Texas. Jean built his first custom home in 1950 in Downey, CA. Through a franchise deal, other contractors were able to build Cinderella Homes - from the 1950s thru the 1960s. His homes are still loved and cherished today. Over 6,000 Cinderella Homes were built.

I met with Jean on Sunday as we toured some of the homes he designed in Placentia, CA. We've made several field trips to his homes over the last few years, with Jean and his wonderful family. Jean is very articulate, energetic, has a great memory, and, believe it or not, still drives a car!

I'm currently writing a book on Jean Vandruff and his magical Cinderella Homes. He is a true treasure, a tract home legend, and a very warm and caring person. He's also a veteran of WWII, flying missions in B17 and B24 Bombers.

I'm honored to know Jean and his family. The legend lives on ... Do you know someone who lives in, or lived in, a Cinderella Home?

Happy birthday, America!
07/04/2019

Happy birthday, America!

City of Costa Mesa
07/03/2019

City of Costa Mesa

Today's the day! #CelebrateSafely with us from 5 - 11 p.m. at the OC Fair @ Event Center.

Enjoy food eating contests, bike decorating, family-friendly games and activities, giveaways and prizes, community booths, live music and a pet-friendly pyrotechnics show.

So bring your own picnic, lawn chairs, and blanket and create a memorable day as we celebrate our nation’s independence!

Food and drinks will be available for purchase. Glass containers and bottles are prohibited. No hard-sided coolers or outside alcohol permitted.

Learn about our part of American history this holiday weekend! Our museum will be open Friday, July 5, from 10 a.m.- 3 p...
07/03/2019

Learn about our part of American history this holiday weekend! Our museum will be open Friday, July 5, from 10 a.m.- 3 p.m. and the Diego Sepulveda Adobe will be open this Saturday, July 6, from 12 noon - 4 p.m.

The Costa Mesa Historical Society Museum, located at 1870 Anaheim Ave, houses a mind-boggling array of artifacts from 5,000 years of Costa Mesa history — from native peoples to the City of the Arts. Special exhibits focus on the boatbuilding industry, the Santa Ana Army Air Base, and Costa Mesa music history.

The Diego Sepulveda Adobe, located at 1900 Adams Ave., lets you explore one of Orange County’s oldest buildings in its idyllic setting in Estancia Park. Each room's furnishings evoke a different period of our local history.

Note: Both locations will be closed on Independence Day.

Heroes Hall
06/25/2019

Heroes Hall

On this day in military history: In 1950, forces from North Korea crossed the 38th parallel and invaded South Korea, which set off the 3-year Korean War.

Often called "the forgotten war," Heroes Hall remembers all those who served in the Korean War, including a commemorative plaque in our Walk of Honor.

06/24/2019

We are very interested in anything related to Costa Mesa history, especially of places that don’t exist anymore. This might be an item, such as a sign, theater ticket, merchandise receipt, yearbook and so on. It might also be a photograph of a place, people or thing. These are all pieces of history. Unfortunately, many of these pieces of history wind up in a thrift shop or dumpster. That is when history is lost. When it’s gone it’s gone.

If you have a historic item, we would appreciate a picture of it. Bring it in and we’ll take a picture of it. If you have an old photo which relates to Costa Mesa and you don’t want to part with it, we’d be happy to scan it for you. We’re asking you to help us preserve history. Don’t wait till it’s too late.

Newport Beach Historical Society
06/22/2019

Newport Beach Historical Society

Did you know that today was the start of the "Great Race" that begins at the Mission Inn in Riverside and ends in Tacoma, Washington? One of Newport’s locals, Dennis Holland Jr., is participating in this exciting event. Dennis Holland drives a 1909 Buick that was one of the very first registered vehicles in Orange County. Dennis Sr. participated in this race with his daughter, Julie, years ago. Their vehicle was once owned by the Ellis Brothers, another local family. For more details and photos of the race check out this link: https://www.greatrace.com/route

Did you catch this survey of Costa Mesa's contemporary art scene? It doesn't cover everything --  it omits, for example ...
06/21/2019
Costa Mesa Visual Arts Scene Starting to Make Waves

Did you catch this survey of Costa Mesa's contemporary art scene? It doesn't cover everything -- it omits, for example the Arts District Sculpture tour and Isamu Noguchi's renowned California Scenario -- but it describes an exciting future in the City of the Arts.

Looking back at the history of Costa Mesa's arts, we think of Jack Otterson, the Oscar-nominated Supervising Art Director at Universal Pictures. While a cadet at the Santa Ana Army Air Base here in Costa Mesa during WWII, he produced two stunning murals: "The Activities of the Gremlins." The murals, given to the Costa Mesa Historical Society by the Air Force, are on view at the Orange Coast College Art Center.

In more recent times, we remember that Orange County Fine Arts started right here in 1964 as the Costa Mesa Art League.

Were you a member of the Costa Mesa Art League or know someone who was?

Who are some of your favorite Costa Mesa visual artists from yesterday and today?

#costamesa #costamesaca #orangecounty #orangecountyca

Led by the West Side, the scene is emerging from the shadows of shopping centers, the performing arts and action sports industries.

WANTED: HISTORY LOVERS AT THE ADOBEWould you like to learn more about the 2nd oldest building in Orange County — and s...
06/19/2019

WANTED: HISTORY LOVERS AT THE ADOBE
Would you like to learn more about the 2nd oldest building in Orange County — and share that knowledge with others? We’re looking for part-time volunteers to prep and show visitors around this historic treasure. It only takes a few hours per month and we’ll train you on everything you need to know. This is a really rewarding way to get involved. Join us!

If you're interested, please call us at (949) 631-5918 or use the contact form at the link below. Thanks!

https://www.costamesahistory.org/contact-us/

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HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!#onthisday in 1953, the citizens of Costa Mesa voted to become a city.The home rule group (advocates ...
06/16/2019

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!

#onthisday in 1953, the citizens of Costa Mesa voted to become a city.

The home rule group (advocates for incorporation) thought the community should be free to make its own decisions on issues affecting its quality of life. This motivation gained urgency with the rise of two threats to the Costa Mesa landscape: a proposed dump on one side and proposed oil drilling on the other. Without incorporation, major decisions like these were left to the county.

Home rulers also argued incorporation would lead to more control over the city’s growth, better fire and police protection, and greater civic pride.

Opponents, meanwhile, claimed that taxes would go up. They also argued Costa Mesa should annex to Newport Beach if it wanted better public services.

After months of heated debate, Costa Mesans finally took to the polls on June 16, 1953 and settled the question for good. Incorporation won with 1888 votes for and 1446 against.

The same election saw a couple more big winners: the city manager style of government and Charles TeWinkle. TeWinkle earned about 500 more votes than his nearest competitor for city council. He would soon be selected the first mayor of Costa Mesa.

#costamesa #costamesaca #ochistory #costamesacalifornia #orangecounty #orangecountyca #orangecountycalifornia

In June 1928 the residents of Harper Street in Costa Mesa successfully petitioned to have their 50’ foot thoroughfare ...
06/13/2019

In June 1928 the residents of Harper Street in Costa Mesa successfully petitioned to have their 50’ foot thoroughfare renamed "Broadway".

Harper, of course, was the old name of Costa Mesa. And Broadway was the name of fancy streets like the one in Santa Ana. At the time, the street was home to several medical offices as well as houses. Additional property was soon advertised on "the new wide paved street" for $900 per lot.

Broadway is the only street in Costa Mesa without a street type designation in its name. It’s not Broadway Ave., Broadway St., Broadway Blvd, or Broadway Way. It's already built in. Just Broadway.

Broadway would later make the news from time to time. Costa Mesa has always dreamed of opening passage to the sea. Newport Beach, on the other hand, has always delighted in thwarting Costa Mesa’s hopes. In the 1940s a proposal was made to extend Broadway to Upper Newport Bay. But, like all of Costa Mesa’s plans for a water route, the plan never, um, set sail.

Broadway, first paved in 1928, is believed to be one of the last streets in the city to have retained its original concrete. Only recently was it covered in asphalt, with traffic suppressing blocks added to make the street less... broad. Hm, does Harper Street have a nice ring to it? ;-)

This June we remember June -- Roy E. June, that is. A Montana native, June first came to Costa Mesa as a cadet at the Sa...
06/11/2019
Tales of Roy E. June - Costa Mesa Historical Society

This June we remember June -- Roy E. June, that is.

A Montana native, June first came to Costa Mesa as a cadet at the Santa Ana Army Airbase. He returned in the late 1950s with a law degree in hand. Soon he was working for Costa Mesa as city prosecutor under Donald Dungan and later became city attorney himself.

Community-oriented, he is said to have set a record at the time for incorporating the most nonprofits in Orange County. The Costa Mesa Historical Society is one of them.

June sat down with the historical society in 1979 for an oral history. He clearly had a knack for storytelling and must have been a joy to talk to. In the link below, we've chosen a few of our favorite tales. The entire oral history can be read at the historical society museum.

In 1999, the Costa Mesa Historical Society awarded June the Living Memorial Award for his work both on behalf of the city and on behalf of volunteer organizations throughout the area.

Roy E. June was a city attorney for the city of Costa Mesa and a great storyteller. We've compiled a few tales from his 1979 oral history.

Here’s an interesting post from the Friends of Fairview Nature park talking about some of the changes the Santa Ana Ri...
06/07/2019

Here’s an interesting post from the Friends of Fairview Nature park talking about some of the changes the Santa Ana River has seen through the years. Even locals are sometimes surprised to learn that the present outlet is entirely artificial. The river used to meander around what is now Hoag and empty through Newport.

Here's a cool map. Not only does it show the route for the Pacific Electric Railway in 1912, it also shows how incredible the Santa Ana River Delta was.

The Santa Ana River is shown along with the town of Fairview and other areas that would later become Costa Mesa.

There are two lagunas. The laguna west of the Santa Ana River included parts of Banning Ranch and was called Bitter Lake. The laguna east of the river was and is still called the Back Bay. Both lagunas were connected up until 1920 when the county built Bitter Point Dam. Not only did it end that connection, it moved the mouth of the river from the entrance of the harbor 5 miles north to where it is today.

It makes sense most of the hunting clubs were located near the Bitter Lake laguna as there was much more wildlife, especially waterfowl. That's also why there were railway stops for hunting clubs such as Gamewell, Surf Gun Club (same stop for Newport Gun Club), and Pacific Gun Club.

In the case of the Santa Ana River Delta, it wasn't hunting that eliminated 95 percent of the birds in the area, it was flood control and the infill of wetland and tideland that destroyed 95 percent of their habitat.

Fairview Park lost all of her lower wetlands except for the areas that were recreated in the last 10 years. However, you can still see evidence of the historic wetlands from all of the shellfish shell fragments that are along the bluff trail. First People tribes collected the shellfish from lower Fairview and Talbert and threw away what was leftover on the mesa.

Just another reason why Fairview Park and the last of our open space is so important.

One of the great things about history is the way it helps us see things we didn’t notice before. Take the somewhat non...
06/06/2019
5 Facts About the College Center Office Building - Costa Mesa Historical Society

One of the great things about history is the way it helps us see things we didn’t notice before. Take the somewhat nondescript office tower at Harbor and Adams. There’s actually an interesting story behind it, and not just because it’s the oldest “high rise” in Costa Mesa.

What are some of your favorite places around town that have more meaning to you because of their history?

What places would you like to learn more about?

#throwbackthursday #tbt #throwback

College Center is a $2 million shopping complex that first opened in 1965 on the corner of Harbor and Adams near OCC. It is perhaps best known as the site of the West Coast’s first Howard Johnson’s Restaurant (later a Ground Round and now Coco’s) and as Pier 1 Imports’ home for the past 49 ....

NOW SHOWING: Nancy Pedersen, curator of the Historical Society’s "Hull Story" exhibit on the boatbuilding industry in ...
06/05/2019

NOW SHOWING: Nancy Pedersen, curator of the Historical Society’s "Hull Story" exhibit on the boatbuilding industry in Costa Mesa, has a new show: the historic photographs of boatbuilder Robert Dorris.

The show features classic Newport Harbor sea-craft as well as celebrity cameos by Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, with whom Dorris sailed in the 1940s. It is running at Alta Coffee Shop — which happens to be the home of one of the Dorris’ earliest workshops and residences.

Be sure to stop by and enjoy a delicious brunch while surrounded by history. The well-received exhibit runs through June. Alta Coffee is located at 506 31st Street, Newport Beach.

Costa Mesa Historical Society's cover photo
06/03/2019

Costa Mesa Historical Society's cover photo

Heller based Catch-22 on his war experiences, which included his pre-flight training at SAAAB - the Santa Ana Army Air B...
06/03/2019

Heller based Catch-22 on his war experiences, which included his pre-flight training at SAAAB - the Santa Ana Army Air Base which was located in Costa Mesa.

Are you watching the series, "Catch-22" on Hulu? It's based on the novel by Joseph Heller, who was stationed at the Santa Ana Army Air Base in 1942 during World War II.

Heller based Catch-22 on his war experiences, which included his pre-flight training at SAAAB.

JOIN US TOMORROW!* Free tours of the second oldest building in Orange County* Free talk on the 250th anniversary of the ...
05/31/2019

JOIN US TOMORROW!

* Free tours of the second oldest building in Orange County
* Free talk on the 250th anniversary of the Portola Expedition by historian Phil Brigandi
* Free mobile recreation booth and games for the kids
* Free kid-friendly activities. Make your own corn husk dolls and friendship bracelets and visit the coloring station.
* Free folk music by the Sweetwater Creek Band
* Free cookies and sample Coffee Bean iced drinks
* PLUS $2 TACOS from El Toro Bravo!

We hope to see you there!

DETAILS
* Early California Days
* Hosted by the Costa Mesa Historical Society
* Saturday, June 1, noon-3 p.m.
* Estancia Park, 1900 Adams Ave, Costa Mesa, at Placentia and Adams.
* Free parking, admission and refreshments

REMINDER: Join us in Estancia Park this Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. as popular historian Phil Brigandi speaks on a land...
05/28/2019

REMINDER: Join us in Estancia Park this Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. as popular historian Phil Brigandi speaks on a landmark event in Orange County history: Gaspar de Portola’s journey through Southern California 250 years ago.

At this FREE event, Costa Mesa's 200 year old adobe will also be open for tours, a mobile recreation van will entertain the kids, the Sweetwater Creek Band will supply the tunes, and adults can power up with a pleasant jolt courtesy of the Coffee Bean. We hope to see you there!

This year the Mesa Verde Country Club turned 60. We took a look at the club's first year, 1959, which culminated in the ...
05/08/2019
Mesa Verde 
Country Club: 
Year One - Costa Mesa Historical Society

This year the Mesa Verde Country Club turned 60. We took a look at the club's first year, 1959, which culminated in the first Orange County Open Invitational Golf Tournament. Did anyone attend the tournament, and see, perhaps, the two holes-in-one?

For its 60th birthday, we go back to 1959, the first year of the Costa Mesa institution.

Address

1870 Anaheim Ave
Costa Mesa, CA
92627

Opening Hours

Thursday 10:00 - 15:00
Friday 10:00 - 15:00

Telephone

(949) 631-5918

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