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