Then and Now: Katie Wheeler Library
After Irvine's death in 1886, his older brother George managed ranch affairs until James Harvey Irvine was old enough to inherit the property. George Irvine made many improvements to the home and the agricultural headquarters that surrounded it. He supervised the building of a four mile road that ran from Tustin past the Irvine Family home. The impressive, 80 foot wide avenue was known as Irvine Boulevard.
Between the Irvine Family home and the boulevard was a beautiful garden decorated with iron arbors, rose bushes and an impressive driveway lined with Washingtonian palm trees. The wrought iron entrance gates were built in San Francisco in 1891.
After inheriting the ranch, James H. Irvine, his wife and his three children lived in San Francisco. The devastating Earthquake of 1906 convinced Irvine to move his family to the ranch full time. The home was enlarged and reached its fullest size in 1908 as a rambling, 30-room residence.
The large, Georgian country home was witness to 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 child 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.
Today, a beautiful, white mansion stands once again on the exact same spot where the Irvine home had been before. It is no longer the home of the Irvine Family, but of the Katie Wheeler Branch of the Orange County Library. Design architects studied original blueprints and took great care to insure that the new building matched the former home. It was named the Katie Wheeler Library after the life-long philanthropist and granddaughter of James H Irvine who was born and raised in the original home.
Visitors to the Katie Wheeler Library are treated to a trip back in time, where they can imagine the members of the Irvine Family seated by the fireplace or walking up the main staircase. Portraits and personal photos are on display and there is a self-guided tour available for those who want to learn more about the Irvine Family.
IF YOU GO
Katie Wheeler Library
13109 Old Myford Road
Irvine, CA 92602 Phone: 714-669-8753
Sunday: Noon - 5 p.m.
Monday - Thursday: 10:00 AM - 9:00 PM
Friday - Saturday: 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM