Santa Ana Travel Guide

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Santa Ana is located in Orange County, south of LA County, and is the biggest city in the OC. Santa Ana has a population of just over 300,000 people. It is located thirty-three miles south of Los Angeles and twelve miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. The Santa Ana River and its smaller tributary Santiago Creek are usually dry but are unpredictable in wet years.

The land that became Santa Ana was covered with tall yellow mustard when William H. Spurgeon from Kentucky rode through on horseback October 10, 1869. So high was the wild growth that he climbed a sycamore tree to view the land. He liked what he saw and paid Jacob Ross, Sr., $595 for 74.2 acres. Here he built his city.

Many of Santa Ana's pioneers were known for their cultural pursuits. The Woman's Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.) ladies early collected books to keep in a downtown office. An Ebell Society was formed in 1894, and their members also worked actively to obtain the Carnegie Library, which was built in 1903 on land donated by Spurgeon at the northwest corner of Fifth and Sycamore streets. Church groups put on various socials and entertainments.

From the early years there was an opera house, which often changed location; the most elegant one was built by Charles E. French, who also owned the most elegant house in town. A newspaper would start up, soon to be followed by another. The men had their lodges and took pride in their fast-stepping horses. The quiet Charles W. and Ada E. Bowers left their property to the city in 1924 with the understanding that it would be used for a museum building and "that the Orange County Historical Society should have free use of the building." The Bowers Museum opened February 15, 1936. It was expanded a few years ago.

The "Old Orange County Courthouse" as it is now called is a tangible reminder of William H. Spurgeon. In 1893, several offers of land for a county courthouse were made. It was his offer that was accepted for the site. The city paid $8,000 for the block east of West St. and north of Sixth St., promising to erect the courthouse within ten years. It was completed, dedicated, and opened for business in September, 1901. Since then many movies have been filmed there.

The Courthouse withstood the 1933 Long Beach earthquake well, although its weakened cupola was removed as a precaution. In the 1980s the Courthouse narrowly escaped being torn down. It had become inadequate for its purpose. The Hall of Records building behind it could not alleviate the situation. After the failure of St. Anne's Inn just across Broadway during the Great Depression years, that building had become a courthouse annex. (The Inn had been a resort of glamorous Hollywood stars some of whom were married at the Courthouse to avoid publicity.) In 1968 a new courthouse eleven stories high opened on Civic Center Drive (the former Eighth St.). Through the valiant efforts of many, especially Adeline Cochems Walker and the Orange County Historical Commission, the old Courthouse was spared. Totally reinforced and renovated, it now stands as California Registered Landmark No. 837 and appears on the National Register of Historic Places.

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March 14, 2005 change by giorgio

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