Life in the Past Lane


or a glimpse at what life was like in Orange County between the late 1800s and the 1930s, head over to Old Towne Orange. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the neighborhood blends turn-of-the-century charm with the high-octane energy and modern comforts of a city firmly rooted in the new millennium.

Snugged into the center of Orange’s one square mile, 130-year-old, Old Towne Orange is the largest residential historic district in the state. With more than 1,300 original homes and buildings, the area boasts an impressive concentration of turn-of-the-century structures.

A balmy Mediterranean climate. Forty miles of world-famous beaches. Safe neighborhoods, great schools, innumerable parks and open spaces and a slew of strong, diverse cultural offerings. What’s not to love about Orange County?

“Orange is a prototypical example of an early California settlement that evolved from an agricultural to an urban community,” said Hoffman. “Old Towne is most famous for its period revival architecture, primarily Craftsman bungalows built between 1915 and 1930. But visitors will also find beautifully preserved examples of Spanish Colonial, Tudor, French, Mediterranean, Prairie and Victorian architecture.”

Old Town Orange

Every structure with a historical designation must adhere to stringent guidelines set forth by the Old Towne Preservation Association and the city of Orange. Homes and other buildings require approval for modifications such as paint color, renovations and landscaping.

Plaza Square Park, with its tiered bronze fountain dating to the late 1800s, is encircled by an old-fashioned roundabout at the crossroads of Chapman Avenue and Glassell Street. The roads honor Alfred Beck Chapman and Andrew Glassell, Los Angeles attorneys who were instrumental in Orange’s development in the 1870s.

Over time, the town grew, thanks in large part to the weather. “Visitors from the Midwest and the East loved the climate and decided to stay,” explained Hoffman, adding that many streets are named for the citrus fruits—oranges, lemons, limes—that thrived in the temperate conditions.

Old Towne Orange today is known for its variety of restaurants and its impressive antique stores. Even locals have trouble choosing between Mediterranean, Italian, French, Spanish and Cuban food, not to mention some of the best pizza, cheeseburgers and desserts around. A recently refurbished mainstay, Watson’s Soda Fountain and Café, opened its doors in 1899. Antique collectors and window shoppers can browse more than a dozen shops within a five-minute walk of Plaza Square Park.

For tours, visit The Orange Community Historical Society also offers docent-led walking tours; visit and select “Walking Tours.” For all things Old Towne, visit

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