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Orange County History: Modernization in the early 20th Century

Dawning of the Twentieth Century

In 1880 the region that is now Orange County still belonged to Los Angeles County. The population was growing rapidly with the sprouting of many new small towns. Anaheim and Santa Ana were already important population centers. It has been said that Santa Ana was second only to Los Angeles in importance. However, the residents of the southern part of then Los Angeles County were frustrated with their county government. For instance, Orange Co. 
Courthouse, 1901 (24.9KB), From LA Times there was only one bridge that crossed the mighty Santa Ana River, which just wouldn't do because it was that river that separated Anaheim and Santa Ana. Also, residents of Orange County disliked making the long trek to Los Angeles to carry out official business. Many of the county offices were held by Los Angelinos, and these residents felt they were not getting the attention they deserved, so they proposed to form a new county. After much bureaucratic red tape, the State Legislature approved the formation of the new county of Orange, in 1889. The residents of the new county voted on the new county seat, a title competed by both Anaheim and Santa Ana. The race was close, but in the end Santa Ana was named the new seat. At the time of the formation of the new county, there were only three incorporated cities: Anaheim (1878), Santa Ana (1886), and Orange (1888).

The famous Red Cars of Southern California helped encourage growth in the newly formed county of Orange. The trolleys made the trip to jobs in Los Angeles shorter and more convenient. The first line to be built in Orange County came from a split in the Long Beach Line. It went along the coastline through Seal Beach, Huntington Beach, and terminating at Newport Beach (Balboa Peninsula). This line opened through Huntington Beach in 1904, and was finished to Newport Beach in 1906. The second line went from the split at the Watts Towers to Santa Ana, which was built around the same time as the Newport Beach line. The third and final line was built in North Orange County, through Fullerton and ending in Yorba Linda. In fact, the line ran through what was Richard Nixon's childhood backyard in the early part of this century.

As the Railroad Barons were rapidly building their tracks, a new mode of transportation became prominent in American society. It was the automobile. Roads in Orange County at the turn of the century were pretty dusty and unimproved. County drivers demanded upgrades in the road infrastructure, and it came with the pavement of the "State Route." It connected Santa Ana with Los Angeles. It was funded by the State of California and travels along the route of today's Interstate 5 from Santa Ana, then along Harbor Blvd., and Whittier Blvd. (today's SR-72). Other important roads to be paved included Pacific Coast Highway. The road was nearly complete by the late 1910's, with the exception of the length between Corona Del Mar and Laguna Beach, which was completed in 1925.

Orange County was home to pioneer aviators as well. Glenn Martin accomplished his first flight on the dawn of August 1, 1909. This flight covered 100 feet (Walker, 1989:119). Martin also made the first water-to-water flight in the world when he flew his modified plane from Newport Beach to Catalina Island. This flight in May 1912 also broke records: the longest flight over water (79 minutes) and the fastest over water (53 mph). Unrelated to Glenn, Eddie Martin also became a great figure in Orange County aviation history. In 1923 Martin began flying passengers out of land owned by James Irvine. Martin eventually leased 80 acres from Irvine and formed the Eddie Martin Airport and flying school.

There's more to come, but in the meanwhile, here are some pictures that are up...

Between the Two World Wars

In 1941, the Army began construction on 410 acres of land south of Santa Ana (in present day Costa Mesa). The land would become the Santa Ana Army Air Base, more popularly known as SAAAB. In the end, the army erected 145 buildings that could house 25,000 men at one time (Walker, 1989:123).

More will be added later...
Here are some of the pictures that are up...

Created by Kenneth Kao.