The SoCal Landmarks Project

Interested in local historical landmarks? Learn about the ongoing SoCal Landmarks documentation project from project manager Andy Schmidt at the December 14, 2023 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30p.m., Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange. All are welcome. Landmarks are so very cool!!!!

Lovell Beach House, 1926, Newport Beach- a favorite landmark of one of the OCHS Board members!
(courtesy of SoCal Landmarks)

SoCal Landmarks is an ongoing photography project documenting the myriad sites, buildings, structures, monuments, and other natural and historical points of importance/interest that are considered landmarks in the ten southern counties of California. Since the launch of the project in February 2020, a small, dedicated group of photographers has contributed content for the project’s archives, its website (, and presence on five social media platforms.

Balboa Pavilion, 1906, Newport Beach
(courtesy of SoCal Landmarks)
Casino San Clemente, 1937
(courtesy of SoCal Landmarks)

Project manager Andy Schmidt moved to Orange County in late 2005. As a member of the Photographic Society of Orange County, he was involved with the Slice of Orange photography project organized by John Bare of Laguna Niguel, for which he provided administrative and technical assistance. In mid-2019, Andy approached John and one of the other photographers in the Slice project, Al Russell, about helping organize and administer an open-ended project focusing on historical landmarks. Already, the project has documented more than 600 landmarks with many more still to go.

Southern Counties Gas Co, 1923, Santa Ana
(courtesy of SoCal Landmarks)

We look forward to seeing you on Thursday, December 14, 2023 at 7:30p.m., at the Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange. You do not want to miss this presentation!

Elephant Packing House, 1924, Fullerton
(courtesy of SoCal Landmarks)

OCHS AUTHORS NIGHT, November 9th, 2023

Come to Authors Night 2023 at the November 9th meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30p.m., Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in the City of Orange. Among the featured authors slated to discuss, sell, and sign their books are Eric Plunkett, Martin Brower, Robert Stoffel, Ted Dougherty, Donna Friess, and Doug Westfall. Their books span a wide array of local historical topics, from Junipero Serra and San Juan Capistrano to Knott’s Scary Farm, the Irvine Ranch, public safety radio, the Weesha Club, and the Jewish experience in Orange County. The public is welcome.

Martin A. Brower

After WWII, Orange County’s Jewish population grew from a small enclave into a vibrant community in excess of 100,000. O.C. now boasts 30 synagogues, a Jewish Community Center, one of the nation’s largest Jewish day schools, and an excellent Jewish home for the aging. In Orange County Jew: A Memoir, Martin Brower superimposes this growth over the amazing development of Orange County itself, using as a framework the story of his own 36 years as an O.C. resident and business leader. In his other book, The Irvine Ranch: A Time for People, Brower describes the excitement, accomplishments, and conflicts of developing the Irvine Ranch into America’s largest master-planned community. Brower was Director of Public Relations for The Irvine Company from 1973 to 1985. He published the “Orange County Report” (1985-1999) and writes a real estate column for Coast magazine.

Eric Plunkett

Franciscan friar Junípero Serra y Ferrer led the effort to establish the California Missions. He was a key figure in the development of Alta California, was canonized in 2015, and his life remains a lively topic of debate today. Eric Plunkett is the leading authority today on Orange County’s Spanish and Mexican Eras. His book, St. Junípero Serra and the Founders of Mission San Juan Capistrano and Orange County, uncovers never-before tales of Serra’s time in our area and sheds new light on the man and his work. Plunkett teaches in the Placentia Yorba-Linda Unified School District. A native of Placentia, he graduated with a degree in history from CSU Fullerton. He has published several articles and co-authored a book about the Portola Expedition with Phil Brigandi. He blogs about the early history of O.C. at

Donna L. Friess

San Juan Capistrano’s history and its longtime efforts to preserve of its frontier heritage and equestrian culture are the topics of Capistrano Trails: Ride for the Brand by historian, fourth-generation Californian and retired Cypress College educator Donna L. Friess, Ph.D. Another of her books, Whispering Waters: Historic Weesha and the Settling of Southern California, with co-author Janet Tonkovich, she explores the history of the historic Weesha Country Club, founded on the Santa Ana River in 1910 by such Orange County pioneers as Charles Wagner, Albert Bradford, John R. Gardiner, Peter Weisel and John Tuffree. Friess is the author of six books and is reknown for her work raising awareness of and strengthening laws against child abuse. She maintains a website at

Ted Dougherty

Celebrating the 50th anniversary Knott’s Scary Farm this year, Ted Dougherty’s The History of Knott’s Scary Farm tells the lavishily illustrated story of how this annual Halloween spectacular became not only a beloved local institution and financial coup for Knott’s Berry Farm, but also a game-changer for the entire theme park industry. Dougherty is a writer, producer and director for theme park special events and attractions such as Knott’s Scary Farm, Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights and several others. This new book is theoretically a new edition of his 2004 volume on the same subject, but it is essentially a whole new book, with much more information, more photos, and an additional ten years’ worth of haunting history.

Robert A. Stoffel

The History and Heritage of O.C. Communications provides a behind-the-scenes look at how Orange County public safety communications system began and evolved, from radio station KGHX in 1934 to the amazing technological advances of the 2020s. This story is key to the histories of all our local law enforcement, fire, lifeguard and other emergency services agencies. Author Robert Stoffel was Chief of Operations and Emergency Communications Coordinator for the O.C. Public Safety Countywide Coordinated Communications Center. He later served as the Director of the O.C. Sheriff’s Communications & Technology Division. After thirty years of service to the County and its first responder agencies, he retired in 2016.

Douglas Westfall 
Publisher, lecturer and writer Douglas Westfall will highlight two books from his “All About Orange” series. Santiago Creek: The Memoirs of John Gietzen is a walking tour of Santiago Creek, includes a guide, maps and historical information. Rancho Lands: The Memoirs of Alfred B. Chapman is “about the rancho lands that became the Town of Orange.” Born in Los Angeles in 1949, Westfall claims authorship of fifty books and has given presentations in more than half of the United States, as well as Canada, Latin America, Europe and the Philippines. Of his Paragon publishing business, he says, “Some of our books I author, and many are written by selected authorities, while others are reproductions of significant historical publications.”

We look forward to seeing you on November 9th, 7:30p.m., Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in the City of Orange to meet with this awesome group of authors!

The Story of Brea’s Art In Public Places

Linda Shay, Executive Director and Curator of the Brea Museum, will discuss the history of the City of Brea’s Art In Public Places program at the October 12, 2023 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30p.m., Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in the City of Orange. The public is welcome.

Art in Public Places poster

Nestled in the foothills of North Orange County is one of the county’s oldest cities: Brea. Beginning in 1975, Brea has cultivated one of the most extensive public art collections in Southern California. Today there are over 191 monumental statues covering every corner of the 12 ½ mile city. Historian Linda Shay will discuss the story of this unique program.

Linda has lived in Brea since 1996 where she raised three sons who have blessed her with four grandchildren. She holds a BA and MA in History and a PhD in Education. Besides her work at the Museum, Linda is also an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland, where she teaches several courses covering the history of the 20th century. In her spare time, she loves to garden and hang out with her grandkids.

Join us for this exciting program on public art!  We look forward to seeing you on October 12, 2023 at 7:30p.m., at the Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in the City of Orange.


Map of Southern Orange County (courtesy of Chris Jepsen)

Historian Chris Jepsen will share the story of Al Capone’s attempt to buy the Rancho Santa Margarita — including much of South O.C. and all of today’s Camp Pendleton — at the Thursday, September 14, 2023 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30p.m., Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange. (Note that unlike most OCHS season kick-off meetings, this one will be held in Orange.)

Tales of Chicago gangster “Scarface” Capone’s desire to buy the Rancho Santa Margarita have circulated since 1931 but were dismissed by historians for lack of evidence. But for twelve years, Jepsen gathered evidence from newspapers, real estate brokers’ correspondence, Mission San Juan Capistrano’s archives, family members of those involved, and much more. Taken together, it painted a clear picture of Capone’s effort to buy this huge, unguarded swath of California coast, which would have been perfect for landing shiploads of booze from Canada and Mexico. During his program, Jepsen will tell this tale along with related stories of California rancheros, local bootlegging, and Capone’s face-off with the padres of Mission San Juan Capistrano.

Al Capone pulp magazine 1931 pub (courtesy of Chris Jepsen)
OC Sheriff Jernigan destroys contraband liquor, March 31, 1932(courtesy of Chris Jepsen)

Chris Jepsen has been involved in local history work since the 1980s and has been president of OCHS the past twelve years. As an independent historian and “local history evangelist” he has organized tours and seminars, lectured frequently, developed museum exhibits, documented endangered historic sites, organized non-profit groups, and served on the Huntington Beach Historic Resources Board. He writes articles for historical journals, his own O.C. History Roundup blog, county publications, and was Orange Coast Magazine’s “O.C. Answer Man” for six years. For the past twenty years, his day job has been serving as the Assistant Archivist at the Orange County Archives. Chris is a graduate of Cal State Fullerton, but says his greatest education came from five years of daily mentorship as assistant to California historian Phil Brigandi.

See you on September 14th at 7:30p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange! 

Saving Historic Sites with Adaptive Reuse

Balboa Theater, Balboa Blvd, Newport Beach (Courtesy Orange County Archives)

Hear some of Orange County’s greatest recent historical preservation success stories directly from Linda Sadeghi – who made them a reality – at the May 11, 2023 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30 p.m., Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange. “Adaptive Reuse” of historic buildings (repurposing them to make them functional for a new generation) is one of the most reliable means of ensuring their long-term survival, making this the perfect topic for National Preservation Month.

Linda Sadeghi is the owner/operator/designer of Little American Business (LAB), Inc. Some of her past projects she’ll discuss include The Anaheim Packing House (1919), The LAB (factory built 1955 in Costa Mesa), The Casino San Clemente (1937 dance hall), and Cottage Industries (housing small businesses within residential homes in Garden Grove, built 1914-1950). She also plans to discuss her forthcoming project: The Balboa Theater (1927).

Anaheim Packing House, 2014 (Courtesy Chris Jepsen)

A Pratt Institute of Brooklyn graduate, Linda is a self-described “artist in search of medium” whose career started in the fashion industry. After twenty years designing for apparel brands like Ocean Pacific and her own children’s clothing line, Itigraffiti, Linda and her former partner started both a family (three sons) and a family business with the creation of The LAB Anti-Mall in Costa Mesa, finding a new design medium in brick and mortar. The LAB became an iconic addition to Orange County – a youth driven haven/hangout for aspiring creatives as well as a community of budding entrepreneurs. “Our ongoing goal was to feature small, creative, unique businesses in a synergistic environment; almost as an incubator, full of support, comradery and creative energy,” says Linda. “It helped that we didn’t have a rule book for commercial real estate development and were just ourselves; artists.”

Linda and her team continue to rehab and repurpose commercial real estate across Orange County, breathing new life into significant sites that otherwise would have met with the bulldozer.

Casino Building, San Clemente (Courtesy Orange County Archives)

Anaheim Orange and Lemon Association packing house, 1928 (Courtesy USC Digital Library)

In addition to championing historical preservation, throughout her career Linda has also championed the female business owner and is proud of almost 40% of her tenants being female owned and/or managed. “I know firsthand the challenges of raising kids while building a business and keeping creativity alive – not easy!” Please join us for this program!

Vans: An O.C. Institution

Vans-factory-1966 (courtesy Vans)

A panel of experts will discuss the story of Orange County-born Vans and their famous shoes at the April 13, 2023 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30 pm, Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange.

The history of globally renowned sneaker and action sports brand Vans, which was originally founded as the Van Doren Rubber Co. in 1966 in Anaheim, will be presented by Vans’ archivist and brand historian Catherine Acosta. Acosta founded Vans’ official archive at their headquarters in Costa Mesa in 2019. Her presentation will be followed by an intimate talk with Steve Van Doren, Vans’ VP of Promotions and Events and the son of Vans co-founder Paul Van Doren; and Bob Provost, one of Vans’ Global Ambassadors, who has been at Vans for over 40 years.

From 1966 until the mid-1990s, Vans owned and operated its own factories in O.C. and has operated stores here since its founding. Creating a unique cultural identity for itself in the mid-1970s when the company embraced and supported the development of skateboarding with its first skate shoe designs, Vans has become a part of Southern California culture.

Skateboarding with Vans!

Jewish Orange County, Part II: 1940-1980

Orange County Jewish Historical Society archivist Dalia Taft will present “1940-1980: The Jewish Community Comes Together,” at the March 9th, 2023 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society (OCHS), 7:30 p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange. This program is a follow-up to her December 2020 presentation before the Society, which spanned history from 1857 to 1940.


This second program follows the Orange County Jewish community from just before WWII through 1980, when the tiny population more than doubled in size and started to build up community organizations, synagogues, youth groups, and more. Ms. Taft will show how many of Orange County’s Jewish residents were, and continue to be, actively involved in local commerce, culture and politics while still maintaining their Jewish identities. The lecture includes a montage of old photos, period newspaper announcements and vintage advertisements.


Prior to attending this event, OCHS suggests also viewing the half-hour documentary, California Orange Jews: The Story of Jews in Orange County, by Josh Friedman and Dalia Taft of the Orange County Jewish Historical Society. It is available on Youtube. (See

A Bar Mitzvah celebration at Temple Beth Emet, Orange County’s second synagogue, 1950s. (Courtesy OCJHS)

As archivist for the Orange County Jewish Historical Society, Taft is responsible for increasing the awareness of the role Jews have played in the development of Orange County from 1857, when the first Jew settled in Anaheim, to now. She maintains the Society’s archives and is constantly researching and digitizing the growing collection. She lectures regularly and writes a monthly column in JLife, Orange County’s monthly Jewish magazine, highlighting images from the society’s archives. She is also the author of the book Jewish Pioneers of Orange County, which she will be available to sign and sell at the end of her program at OCHS.

Transforming the Irvine Ranch

Irvine, 1960s Photo courtesy O C Archives

Author and former Irvine Co. executive Mike Stockstill will share the history of the Irvine Ranch at the February 9, 2023 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange.

Michael Stockstill’s presentation is based on the book he co-authored, Transforming the Irvine Ranch: Joan Irvine, William Pereira, Ray Watson, and the Big Plan (2022). He’ll tell the story of Irvine Ranch’s transformation from an agricultural empire into the most successful New Town in the U.S. Along the way, the colorful and tragic history of the Irvine family, especially Joan Irvine Smith, will be featured, along with key insights based on the writings and oral history of Ray Watson and a look at the man who created the first master plans for Irvine and UC Irvine, William Pereira.

Michael Stockstill is a native Californian who moved to Orange County in 1972 where he worked for newspapers and magazines before joining the Irvine Co. in 1978. He graduated from Humboldt State University in 1971 with a degree in journalism. After leaving the Irvine Company in 1991 he worked in a variety of public affairs positions before retiring in 2010. He lives with his wife Colleen Clark in Irvine.




Mission Viejo aerial view, circa 1988

Robert David Breton will speak on the history of Mission Viejo at the January 12, 2023 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange. The public is welcome!


Mission Viejo, CA logo

Former Mission Viejo Mayor and Mission Viejo Heritage Committee member Robert Breton will share the history of the master-planned community he calls home. He will focus on the early rancho days, the formation of the Mission Viejo Company, its purchase of the land from the O’Neill family, the master planning process, and the city’s incorporation and growth.

Lake Mission Viejo, ca 1988

Robert and his family moved to Mission Viejo in 1976. He has served as a member of Mission Viejo’s City Council, Planning Commission, Municipal Advisory Council, Community Services District, Community Services Commission, Friends of the Library, and many other local task forces and boards. As mayor of Mission Viejo, Breton formed the City’s Heritage Committee and assisted Doris Walker in writing its first history book, Mission Viejo: The Ageless Land. He is currently at work on a new history of Mission Viejo, to be published soon.