Irvine Blog - Posts from Local Experts
Long before it was a bustling, master-planned community, Irvine was an agricultural ranch.
It was owned by generations of the Irvine Family, who managed operations from the agricultural headquarters on the northwestern border of their ranch.
The site was chosen in 1876, because it was close to the stagecoach station in Tustin City.
James Irvine authorized the construction of the house that would become the home of his descendants for decades.
The house was the central point of the agricultural headquarters that surrounded it. There was a small office off the front hall and workers would eat meals on the screened porch
Soon, buildings were added as ranch operations expanded. A Mess Hall, Bunkhouse, Blacksmith Shop and Carriage Barn all sprang up at the intersection of Irvine Blvd and Myford Road. For years, this was the nerve center of an agricultural powerhouse.
Today, a visit to the Irvine Ranch Historic Park takes you back to the city’s roots; when the primary crops were lima beans and citrus instead of residential villages and business towers.
Located on the corner of Jamboree and Irvine Blvd, The Irvine Ranch Historic Park features a collection of original structures from simpler days.
The 1906 Mess Hall is still there, where Irvine Company employees heard the clanging of the cook's triange before lunch.
Meals were served "ranch style" and, after the Irvine Company headquarters were moved nearby the late 1960's, there would be as many as 125 people at a setting.
When former Irvine Company president invited distinguished guests from Farnce, they were delighted to enjoy the kitchen specialty of enchiladas, tacos and beans.
It was also the place where James H. Irvine hosted annual Christmas Dinners for his veteran employees.
The Irvine Ranch Historic park is a collection of old structures, silent reminders of a very different time.
The Bunkhouse still stands, near a row of Foremen Houses. The paint on the red Carriage Barn has worn a bit over the years, giving it a vintage charm.
Design architects consulted original blueprints and took great care to ensure that that new building matched the former home.
The large, Georgian country home witnessed many of the joys and tragedies of the Irvine Family.
It was in this home that James H. Irvine’s first grandchild, a girl named Katie, was born in 1920. Four days later, Katie’s mother Kathryn became ill with pneumonia and died.
Over the years, the home was the setting for decades of holiday celebrations and family dinners.
It was also the place where Myford Irvine, the sole surviving son of James H. Irvine, died tragically in his basement office. His suspicious death, due to multiple gunshot wounds, was ruled a suicide.
In 1965, the iconic home was severely damaged by fire.Three years later, it was demolished.
The Katie Wheeler Library was built on the former home site and opened to the public in 2008.
It seems fitting to stroll among booths of fresh fruits and vegetables in the heart of the former agricultural ranch.
After all, it’s only a few steps from the home of James Irvine, who considered himself a farmer first, landowner second.
13042 Old Myford Rd.
Irvine, CA 92602
Irvine Farmers Market – Tuesdays
It started as a simple remembrance; a collection of wooden monuments displaying the names and faces of fallen troops.
In 2003, neighbors in the Village of Northwood wanted to find a way to acknowledge members of the military who had been recently lost in Iraq and Afghanistan.
They took it upon themselves to create a memorial in their community park, decorating it with flags and yellow ribbons and lovingly lighting it with candles.
What began as a personal community statement of remembrance became the Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial, the only place in the nation that honors those who died serving their country during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Today, thanks to volunteer efforts and funding from the City of Irvine, the homemade wooden memorials have been replaced by five granite sentinels that are engraved with over 6,000 names. They stand prominently at the corner of Bryan and Yale Avenues, acting as a silent but constant reminder of service for those who cross this busy intersection every day.
On Sunday, November 11, there will be a Veteran's Day ceremony to express gratitude for those who have served their country and to honor those who were unable to return. It will be a time to feel pride for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. But it will also be a time to feel pride for the community that chose not to forget them.
A few feet behind the granite sentinels stands a lone, wooden stake displaying a hand-written letter. It was written by Sgt. Jacob Lee Butler on April 1, 2003; two hours before he was killed in action.
"Dear Mom and Dad, If you are reading this, I did not make it."
The letter ends with a simple sentiment that could be echoed by all of those whose names are written here.
"I love you. Don't forget me."
Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial
4531 Bryan Avenue
Veteran's Day Ceremony
Sunday, November 11, 2pm
The Orange County Great Park is getting back to its roots.
Long before the El Toro Marine Base hosted its squadron of fighter jets, this vast acreage was the most valuable growing field on the Irvine Ranch.
At one time, James H. Irvine could boast that he had the "largest privately held bean field in the world," supplying the troops in World War I with the protein rich food.
Today, thanks to the OC Park's Farm and Food Lab, things are growing again on James Irvine's old bean field.
Here the public can learn about sustainable farming and ways they can improve their own backyard gardens. Plus, vegetables grown in the Farm and Food Lab are donated to local food banks like Second Harvest and the Orange County Food Bank.
This Fall, The OC Great Park will host Gardening Workshops that are free to the public.
Saturday, October 27th 10 - 11am
"Garden of Eatin'"
Kay Havens, UCCE Master Gardener of Orange County
One of the benefits of living in a Mediterranean climate is year-round produce grown in your own garden! Learn what to plant and how to incorporate edibles into your gardening repertoire. Discover roots, shoots and fruits to liven up your plate, plus bountiful berries, fresh herbs and healthy greens.
Saturday, November 3rd 10-11am
"Colorful Flower Baskets for the Cool Season"
Kathy Moine, Green Thumb Nursery, Advanced Certified Nursery Professional
Banish the winter blahs! Your garden landscape and home decor will thank you. Learn how to make your garden an oasis of color and your home floral retreat. Discover which annuals and perennials to grow and how to incorporate them to create a beautiful, bountiful basket of cool season color.
Of course, if you prefer to have other people do the gardening for you...
The OC Great Park Farmers Market is open every Sunday from 10am - 2pm.
For more information, call (949) 724 - 7420.
Your 5 senses will be heightened by the many exciting and educational cultural activities, entertainment, and refreshments available! Don't miss out on this 1-day festival!
Location, location, location! If you are looking for a jumping off point to explore all that Orange County has to offer, there is no better place to call home base than Irvine. At the center of OC, Irvine offers easy access to the best that Orange County has to offer with a travel time of 30 minutes or less! Here are 5 fun and easy daytrips from Irvine.
1. Enjoy the Laguna Beach art scene
Photo via Flckr user Neil Kremer
If you dream of a cultural hot spot in a beautiful seaside setting, look no further than Laguna Beach. This beach town borders Irvine to the west and has had a thriving art scene since the 1920s. With over 100 art galleries and artists' studios as well as a cute downtown area made for strolling, Laguna Beach is the perfect place to find the next masterpiece to hang on your wall or just window shop. During the summer months The Pageant of the Masters, a live interpretation of famous works of art put on by over 500 volunteers, is a definite must-see. The city is also home to several art festivals including the Festival of Arts and Sawdust Art Festival. Before you leave this artful city be sure to spend time at one Laguna Beach's beaches. They are amongst the most beautiful in the state.
2. Explore the vibrant history of San Juan Capistrano
Every March the swallows return to Capistrano from Argentina via air but those visiting San Juan Capistrano from Irvine should consider arriving via rail. The ride from the Irvine station to San Juan via Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner may take just 13 minutes but when you step off the train and cross the tracks into the Los Rios District, you have entered a neighborhood that is centuries in the making . Los Rios is the oldest continuously inhabited neighborhood in all of California, occupied since the original adobes were built in the 1790s to house mission workers. These days Los Rios is home to three original adobes as well as charming restaurants, unique shops, a cute tea house, and a fun petting zoo. On the other side of the tracks, Mission San Juan Capistrano is open daily for tours of its gardens and structures. Living history demonstrations and various festivals take place on select weekends.
3. Take to the water in Newport Beach
Photo via Flickr user Mastery of Maps
Directly west of Irvine lies Newport Beach, brimming with diverse opportunities for water based fun. Newport Bay is very popular with wealthy yacht owners but if you don't have a boat of your own don't fret- you can still take to the waters on one of the many boat cruises offered by various local operators. If you prefer to operate the watercraft yourself, everything from yachts to paddleboards is available for charter. Those looking to stretch their surfing muscles (or just want to watch the experts at play) should check out "The Wedge", a popular surf spot capable of producing 30 foot waves during storms. If you prefer more placid waters, consider a guided kayak tour of Upper Newport Bay. This ecological reserve is one of the largest in Southern California and serves as home to up to 35,000 birds during the winter months.
4. Bike your way to a classic beach day in Huntington Beach
The "Surf City" that Jan and Dean sang about back in 1963 is none other than Huntington Beach, a classic Southern California beach town. The best way to explore the city's main beachfront drag is via bicycle. Several outfitters will rent you everything from beach cruisers to surreys which are perfect for riding the 12 mile sand front trail. Be sure to hop off your ride to join in on a game of beach volleyball, walk the length of the pier (and grab a shake at Ruby's), play with the pups at the Huntington Beach Dog Beach, or play in the surf at one of the cleanest beaches in the USA.
5. Spend time at the Happiest Place on Earth
The center of Irvine is just 15 miles south of the Disneyland Resort, meaning an entire day's worth of fun with Mickey and his friends is just a quick jaunt up Interstate 5. 2012 has been a banner year for the Disney California Adventure which just completed a billion dollar renovation. The biggest highlights of this transformation are Cars Land, a 12-acre land based on Pixar's Cars movie franchise, and Buena Vista Street which is themed to look the 1920's version of Los Angeles that Walt Disney encountered when he first came to California. The original Disney theme park, Disneyland, has plenty to offer guests as well including a newly revamped Matterhorn and the new version of Star Tours which features 54 different 3D adventures.
Sharlene Earnshaw is the Editor in Chief of Trekaroo, a website dedicated to travel with kids.
Summer brings fun times like watermelon eating contests, days at the beach and backyard barbeques, but if you want to give your family a bit of culture, head over to the Irvine Museum to view the current exhibit of California Impressionist Artwork entitled Paradise Found: Summer in California.
The exhibit, on display through September 20, features a selection of paintings by California Impressionists that show various familiar views of California as they appeared nearly a century ago, before the great population growth of the late twentieth century.
I love Impressionism and can't wait to meander through the halls of the Irvine Museum to pause and ponder the beauty of my state, as captured by talented painters such as Louis Betts (1873-1961), Maurice Braun (1877-1941) Guy Rose (1867-1925)
The Irvine Museum
18881 Von Karman Avenue, Suite 100
Irvine, CA 92612
Click here for direction
Irvine is privileged to have one of the nation's finest universities right in its own backyard.
When the city of Irvine was conceived in the early 1960's, The University of California at Irvine was always at its heart.
Architect and Planner William Peireira intended for the school and the town to have a symbiotic relationship; the students would benefit from the surrounding community and the new city would be enriched by the intellectual vitality.
On Saturday, April 21st, UCI will hold its annual Open House, "Celebrate UCI:2012" . This special event is a chance for prospective students to tour the campus. From 10am until 5pm, the campus will be alive with a variety of activities.
It is also an opportunity for those who live in the Irvine community to learn more about their home town university.
This year will be the 41st annual Wayzgoose, UCI's oldest campus event .
Over 125 student groups will fill Aldrich Park with live entertainment, food booths and carnival rides.
And as if Campus Tours and the Wayzgoose Festival weren't enough fun for one day,
The UCI University Police Department is sponsoring a Classic Car Show and Competition.
More than 100 specialty cars will be on display. The firendly competition will include awards for Best of Show, Best Truck, and Best Muscle Car.
Best of all, Celebrate UCI is a free event, with free parking available as well.
So, Irvine, go back to school this weekend and celebrate the university that's at the center of it all.
The OC Great Park is a 1,300 acre blank slate; a precious parcel of land with an ambitious future.
The Park is twice the size of New York's Central Park, and with so much open space available,
the sky's the limit.
Most people know that The Great Park sits on land that used to be the El Toro Marine Base.
But few know what was there before the squadrons of fighter jets came to stay.
The Great Park was once part of Jame H. Irvine's beloved ranch, the 100,000 acre landholding than extended from the Santa Ana Mountains all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
Even though James Irvine, Sr. was one of the most successful men in California, he saw himself as a farmer.
Unfortunately, the land he inherited had a limited water supply. Before he developed irrigation systems on the ranch, he looked for crops that could grow in the dry climate.
The answer was lima beans.
Lots of them.
In fact, by 1911, the Irvine Ranch boasted the largest lima bean field in the world, with about 18,000 acres planted. This bumper crop of lima beans came just in time to aid the World War I war effort. The nutritious and easy-to-store beans were shipped to the troops.
The beans were harvested in large threshing operations that set up out in the field to separate the beans from the stalks.
The bags of beans were then transported to the warehouse near the Santa Fe railway for storage and transport. These historic structures are still standing today in Old Town Irvine.
Inside the warehouse, beans moved along conveyor belts so that "bean pickers" could separate the good from the bad.
The OC Great Park sits on what was once James Irvine's most productive lima bean field.
A view from the Great Park Balloon shows the size of this former agricultural jewel.
Today, visitors to the park can find a bit of Irvine's agricultural heritage at the Farm and Food Lab.
The Farm and Food Lab offers educational programs on sustainable home gardening, which make the most of limited space and water resources.
Crops from the Farm and Food Lab are harvested and delivered to local food banks such as Second Harvest and The Orange County Food Bank. At retail prices, the Farm and Food Lab has donated crops valued at more than $30,000 to help offset serious local food shortages.
James Irvine would have appreciated that.
Farm and Food Lab
Check Website for Schedule of Monthly Classes
In 1960, William Pereira was presented with an unprecedented opportunity. Not only had he been assigned to design a major university, but also to master-plan the entire community of which it would be a part.
The concept of the new town, a residential environment that contained all of the elements needed for its citizens, was a revolutionary idea at the time. Similar communities had been created across the country with encouraging success. Irvine was to be the largest.
The university was intended to be the heart of the new community that would soon surround it.
Pereira wrote that "The "starfish shape" of the campus will allow the university to penetrate into the surrounding community, drawing strength from it and infusing it with intellectual vitality."
After the University of California-Irvine was completed, Perieira moved his attention to developing the master plan for the city that would surround it.
In 1963 he wrote, "In recent years, we here in California have become rather expert at abusing our land and our resources. Here we have a tremendous opportunity to point people's tastes and expectations in another direction. And we can do it-the sheer size of the place makes almost anything possible."
On March 19, 1970, Irvine Company President William Mason and Vice President Ray Watson announced plans for the largest totally planned city in the western hemisphere.
The City of Irvine, comprising 53,000 acres, would be twice the size of the City of San Francisco.
It would be home to 24 separate residential villages, over 4,000 acres of industrial development, and 2,400 acres of open space for parks.
But Irvine's most unique feature was not the quantity of its acreage, but the quality of life it offered.
The LA Times wrote, "...The plan presents an encouraging awareness of life values to go along with property values. Its accent is not as much on size and growth as on the quality of the environment."
Today, over 40 years after its incorporation as a city, William Perieira's ideas are still receiving raved reviews.
The award winning school district, diverse corporate community, and its "safest city" designation, did not happen by mere coincidence.
It was all part of the plan.