The Fascinating History of Orange County: From Mission San Juan Capistrano to the Irvine Spectrum

Orange County, California is a place of immense history and culture. From its earliest days as Mission San Juan Capistrano to its modern-day developments, the county has seen many changes. Northern Orange County, which includes Anaheim, Fullerton, Garden Grove and Santa Ana, was the first part of the county to develop and is culturally closer to neighboring Los Angeles County. The city of Santa Ana is a bustling urban area with close ties to the founding of Orange County, since it is the county seat and still contains major government facilities, such as the Superior Courthouse and the Civic Center.

When Richard Henry Dana visited the coast in the 1830s, as amusingly described in Two Years Before the Mast, Orange County's trade consisted of hides, which fell off the cliffs of Capistrano and other points and were transported across the Horn of Africa on sailboats. The Orange County Plain Dealer (January 1898 to May 8, 1952) was a newspaper based in Anaheim, and successor to The Independent. Around 1870, some landowners on the other side of the river, encouraged by the example and success of Anaheim, began to subdivide their large tracts and sell them in small plots to settlers who planted them with grapes, oranges, apricots, plums, peaches and other fruits. The only major airport in Orange County is John Wayne Airport; its abbreviation (SNA) refers to Santa Ana, the closest large city in the early 20th century.

In 1969, Richard Nixon, a native of Orange County born in Yorba Linda, became the 37th president of the United States. With home games played at Championship Soccer Stadium in Orange County's Grand Park, Orange County SC is a United Soccer League team and is the only professional soccer club in Orange County. When the Santa Fe railroad crossed the county on the “boom days” of 1887, Fullerton was located about two miles north of Anaheim and in immediate contact with orange and walnut groves of Placentia. There are no other cities or towns in Orange County but there are several towns and locations that deserve to be mentioned.

Older cities such as Tustin, Santa Ana, Anaheim, Orange and Fullerton have traditional centers that date back to the 19th century while new commercial developments or peripheral cities extend along Interstate 5 (Santa Ana) between Disneyland and Santa Ana and between South Coast Plaza and the Irvine business complex. The Irvine Spectrum is a modern-day development that has become a hub for business and entertainment. A complete telephone system covers the entire county with large local centers in Fullerton, Orange and Santa Ana. In the 1910s, Orange County agriculture was mainly focused on grain, hay and potatoes by small farmers.

The former Orange County Courthouse also serves as a museum and offers regular tours to share the history of the city and Orange County. Visionary men and women have shaped cities on the beaches, ranches and farmland of Orange County for centuries. The waters of streams have been diverted to rich lowlands while large English walnut and orange orchards offer a setting of beauty to travelers.