Orange is a city located in Orange County, California. It is approximately 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) north of the county seat, Santa Ana. Orange is unusual in this region because many of the homes in its Old Town District were built prior to 1920. While many other cities in the region demolished such houses in the 1960s, Orange decided to preserve them. The small city of Villa Park is surrounded by the city of Orange. The population was 139,812 as of 2014.
After the Mexican–American War, Alta California was ceded to the United States by México with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, and though many Californios lost titles to their lands in the aftermath, Grijalva’s descendants retained ownership through marriages to Anglo-Americans.
Since at least 1864, Los Angeles attorneys Alfred Chapman and Andrew Glassell together and separately, held about 5,400 acres (22 km2) along both sides of the Santiago Creek (Glassell also had a 4,000-acre (16 km2) parcel where Costa Mesa is today). Water was the key factor for the location of their townsite (bordered by Almond Avenue on the south, Lemon Street on the west, Glassell Street on the east, & Maple Avenue on the north). Glassell needed a spot he could irrigate, bringing water down from the Santa Ana Canyon and the quality of the soil may have influenced his choice. Originally the community was named Richland, but in 1873 Richland got a new name. In the book, “Orange, The City ‘Round The Plaza” by local historian Phil Brigandi, it states, “In 1873 the town had grown large enough to require a post office, so an application was sent to Washington. It was refused, however, as there was (and is) already a Richland, California in Sacramento County. Undaunted, the Richlanders proposed a new name – Orange.”
The small town was incorporated on April 6, 1888, under the general laws of the state of California. Orange was the only city in Orange County to be planned and built around a plaza, earned it the nickname Plaza City.Orange was the first developed town site to be served by the California Southern Railroad when the nation’s second transcontinental rail line reached Orange County.
The town experienced its first growth spurt during the last decade of the 19th century (as did many of the surrounding communities), thanks to ever-increasing demands for California-grown citrus fruits, a period some refer to as the “Orange Era.” Southern California’s real estate “boom” of 1886–1888, fueled by railroad rate wars, also contributed to a marked increase in population. Like most cities in Orange County, agriculture formed the backbone of the local economy, and growth thereafter was slow and steady until the 1950s, when a second real estate boom spurred development. Inspired by the development of a region-wide freeway system which connected Los Angeles’ urban center with outlying areas like Orange, large tracts of housing were developed from the 1950s to the early 1970s, and this continues today, albeit at a much slower pace, at the eastern edge of the city.
Points of interest
Orange is home to parks, lakes, a small zoo, a university, and a wildlife sanctuary.
The Outlets at Orange, a large, outdoor shopping and entertainment center, is located on the western edge of the city. It features Neiman Marcus Last Call Old Navy, Hollister, Ann Taylor Factory Store, and Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5th as well as high quality entertainment venues including AMC Theatres, Dave & Buster’s, Vans Skatepark and Lucky Strike Bowling Center.
Historically, the plaza has been primarily home to a wide variety of antique shops—and has become a well known destination amongst antique collectors. A more recent trend has brought clothing boutiques, and several casual and upscale restaurants. It also features two Starbucks locations, mirroring each other on opposite ends of the plaza, Wells Fargo bank, a Masonic lodge, and is within walking distance of Chapman University and the newly reconstructed public library. Films such as That Thing You Do starring Tom Hanks, Accepted starring Justin Long, and Big Momma’s House, Ghost Whisperer, Black Sheep were all filmed in the historical Old Towne Orange.
The Woman’s Club of Orange Organized February 1915, is located near the plaza in the Old Towne District. Their clubhouse, built in 1923–1924, is entered in the National Register of Historic Places. In 2009 Woman’s Club of Orange, a member of the General Federation of Women’s clubs, is still a very active and vibrant club of 180 members. Their annual Flower Show, celebrating its 72nd year in April is a major city event.
Since 1973, during Labor Day Weekend, the plaza plays host to the Orange International Street Fair. Friends, families and neighbors get together to experience a variety of food, music and dance from cultures around the world. The profits from the event go to non-profit charities that help people in the community.
The “Villa Park Orchards Association” packing house, located along the former Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (now BNSF Railway) mainline, is the sole remaining fruit packing operation in Orange County.
The Lewis Ainsworth House is the city’s only restored house museum.