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19.04.2015
Don’t let the smaller size fool you, Old Town Tustin features many of the activities that make living in a historic area fun. One of the coolest things about buying a historic home in Orange County is the range of sizes, locations and prices.
When looking at historic homes for sale in Orange County, probably the biggest factor never explained on the MLS is the neighborhood.
When people think about Old Town Tustin, most people think about the Chili Cook Off (which we’ll be serving at again this year!) and Tustin Tiller days.
I’ve walked past this gallery on Main street a million times and thought it was just a jewelry store. The South Shaffer Cottages, located in Old Towne Orange, weren’t always such a hotspot with couples and singles seeking their next home. Everything was a mess until owner Hugh Siler purchased the property in May 2011 when the units were barely habitable.
Equal parts vision and persistence are what pulled these homes together and created the stunning living spaces there today. Some may find it difficult to locate a property such as this, especially if one wants to fix it up the way Siler has. When restoring a property such as the South Shaffer Cottages, the value of the property isn’t the only thing that rises. The renovations that have been made to the cottages have not only increased their own value, but have created quite a buzz within the community. After renovations, this charming collection of four historic cottages is in the best shape it’s ever been.
This look has become more popular in newly built homes but has always been a common material found in historic homes. One thing I absolutely love about the historic houses in Old Town Tustin isn’t so much the houses at all but the streets. Something that really amazed me was the amount of attention that homeowners placed on their gardens and outdoor living spaces. While none of this year’s Old Town Tustin Home Tour homes were for sale, there are a number of historic homes for sale throughout Orange County and we maintain a list of active properties.
The Garden Grove Historical Society owns and maintains an impressive museum snugly tucked in amongst modern track housing communities.
The city of Garden Grove is home to a fair amount of early 20th century dwellings, not to mention the many historic homes throughout the rest of Orange County. Grant, a local history teacher and volunteer for the museum, led the tour during my recent visit. Grant led us through the home, describing the daily activities and hobbies of the former residents. Another impressive building is the Fire Station, a replica of the station originally located on Garden Grove Boulevard. The Disney Garage is likely the most famous structure on the property, particularly with Disney fans. The Barber Shop and Electric Shoe Shop structure features a collection of barber tools and electric shoe manufacturing machinery used by the former owners of the building.
Other buildings visited along a tour include the General Store, Schoolhouse, Post Office, Schnitger House and Emerson Hall.
Two trendy restaurants, Umami Burger and Anaheim Brewery now occupy the renovated Packard Building.
The Anaheim Packing District in Downtown Anaheim is a great example of Orange County’s emphasis on community celebration of the past. Visit the Anaheim Packing District website for event information, directions and more details on the historic significance of the area.
Center Street Promenade in Downtown Anaheim bustles with excitement every Thursday afternoon and early evening during the certified farmers’ market and craft fair. We immediately noticed the Park & Read, a mid-century aluminum trailer home surrounded by a wood deck, potted pine trees, chairs and tables. We continued on through the craft fair where we saw hand-made jewelry and soaps, antique knick-knacks, vintage clothing, accessories, artwork, amongst other interesting finds.
Next up was the food area where you could find anything from humus, tamales and pupusas, to honey, roasted corn and assorted gourmet teas. We also visited Delifornia where we picked up a Sourdough Club from the winter menu, which has crispy prosciutto, roasted turkey, tomato, avocado, wintergreens with garlic dijonnaise.
At the far end of the farmers’ market we found a hidden gem of a booth, “The Cactus and Succulents Fat-Plant Man” stand. More information on the Downtown Anaheim Certified Farmers’ Market and Craft Fair can be found here.
South Carolina has Savannah, Louisiana has the French Quarter in New Orleans, and Massachusetts has the preserved whaling community of New Bedford, but to experience the essence of California, there’s no better location than Old Towne Orange. Centered on the historic Orange Plaza, Old Towne Orange encompasses one square mile of land, in which sit over 1,300 homes and buildings that are all listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The largest number of homes in Old Towne Orange were built between 1911 and 1920, but another significant percentage of them were built between 1921 and 1930. Locals and visitors love stopping into Watson’s Drugs & Soda Fountain, which has been in operation since 1899.
Everything about Watson’s is delightfully old school, from its ice cream sundaes at the soda fountain counter to its “house calls.” Can’t make it into the pharmacy to pick up your prescription? Swing into Orange Circle Antique Mall, the largest antique shopping spot among the countless boutiques, malls, and outlets in Old Towne Orange. For a modern take on traditional Mexican cuisine, Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen is an unparalleled eatery. Gabbi’s is a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach; rustic exposed beams create a cathedral ceiling above the brick-walled dining room, and the bar is awash in hot pink indirect lighting. Since 1973, the Orange International Street Fair has been held in the center of Old Towne Orange on Labor Day Weekend.
If you’re looking for a great place to eat, the Anaheim White House Restaurant is not only beautiful, but is also a restaurant with a heart. Tandoori Garden is a relatively new restaurant, started in 2009, that is also in the Anaheim Colony. A classy place to listen to music and have a few drinks is the Ember Cafe and Music Club located at 401 N. To get a bit of culture from the Anaheim Colony, visit the Muzeo, an art museum located at 241 S.
Historic George Key Ranch is a historic home, garden, museum, and orange grove located in Placentia, CA. The San Juan Capistrano Historical Society gives walking tours of the historic town of San Juan Capistrano, CA.
The Helena Modjeska Historic House and Gardens was the home of Helena Modjeska, world-renowned Shakespearean actress, from 1888 until 1906. Obviously, in this price point you’re not buying a Floral Park mansion, but this home does have a lot of great qualities. With a house like this, the real discussion is what are you compromising on and what will need to be changed. This home is listed by Antonio Delgado of California Team Realty, but we’d love to represent your interests as a buyer. I have a feeling that at one point this home would have had a full front porch — I think the area you see on the front was enclosed.
While the Tudors and bungalows are common in Orange County — authentic farmhouses are not. This home is listed by Alysha Ommen of Port Street Realty Corporation, but we’d love to represent your interests as a buyer. Many of these homes were built as part-time, hastily-constructed, vacation spaces and many were built in ways that predate any codes or municipal oversight. This home is listed by Julie Kuntz with Prudential California Realty, but we’d love to represent your interests as a buyer. Sometimes you run into a home that really has a little bit of everything .Right location in Anaheim Colony. There’s always a careful balance between preservation and updating for a more modern lifestyle. Every June the streets of Old Town are transformed into the West’s largest one-day chili cookoff.
SHOC is a Supporting Organization of Orange County Community Foundation, where an endowment provides grants for local preservation efforts. From 2 bedroom craftsman bungalows in Santa Ana to Mediterranean revival mansions in Old Towne Orange, there is a historic home for every budget.
By OC Historic Homes standards, this one is older than most and it still has the super wide plank wood flooring. I haven’t checked the city records to see if it is fully legal as a second rental unit, but it appears to have been there a long time (built in the 60s, I think) and the unit has a separate house number. New galleries have joined older galleries in the Old Town area and I couldn’t be more excited!


In fact, these cottages were so out of shape and in such shoddy condition that nobody had seemed to want them! Working with the City of Orange’s Historic Preservation Planner, Siler and his team were able to restore the building to better than original condition. However when it came time to make a decision about purchasing these homes, Siler took no hesitation and knew he wanted to take over.
Of course, the neighborhood as a whole and the neighbors’ property value rises as well. There are some cool photos below, among some of the cool things I saw: a driveway with a wine bottle-shaped grass inlay, a treehouse lounge, outdoor dining rooms, and adirondack chair reading nooks under old-growth trees.
The Stanley Ranch Museum & Historical Village consists of a 2-acre plot packed with 17 historic buildings, some replicas and others original. He would periodically present the tour group with guessing games in which he would introduce an object and ask us to guess its function. The station is a one-story building with a garage, office, and accommodations for the firemen. The Garden Grove Fireman’s Association maintains the truck, which is still drivable to this day. The one-car garage sat behind the home of Walt Disney’s uncle and was the first workplace where Disney practiced animation starting back in 1923. The building also displays the dental equipment and medical devices, including a few items belonging to Garden Grove’s long time physician Dr. A special thank you to Grant for an exceptional tour of the grounds and to the Garden Grove Historical Society for maintaining such a great collection of historical artifacts and structures. The Anaheim Packing District, a newly renovated historical site, is nestled in the heart of the downtown area and features dining, and event space. Foodies flock to Umami Burger for delectable gourmet hamburgers, including the Welsh Rarebit, for which the recipe dates back to 1919.
It was a center of commerce for area farmers who came to the building to sell their citrus harvest.
The former Sunkist packing facility has been renovated to accommodate as many as 25 restaurants. The two blocks between Anaheim Boulevard and Clementine Street fill with smiling vendors and their colorful booths offering assorted crafted goods, garment collections, gourmet condiments, produce, snacks, meals, plants, flowers, and more during the Downtown Anaheim Farmers’ Market.
The best place to park is in the parking structure on the north corner of Center Street and Anaheim Boulevard. Just six miles from Disneyland, Old Towne Orange emulates Main Street, USA in a way that would make even Walt Disney nostalgic. Beyond this area are countless other homes that are maintained in such a way that they complement the nationally registered homes, making a walk through Old Towne Orange really something to experience. Some of the oldest buildings date back to 1874, and together these structures make up the second largest collection of historic buildings in California.
Watson’s has the distinction of being the oldest drugstore in Orange County as well as the oldest on-going business in the city of Orange.
It’s been in business for nearly 40 years and boasts a loyal following of locals and tourists alike. The district is home to a wide variety of restaurants that offer cuisine from around the world.
Adopting an eco-gastronomic approach in an interpretation of classic Old World dishes, Chef Gabbi Patrick wows diners with truly unique offerings. Acquired by the city in 1934, the park spans over 40 acres and features two structured playgrounds that are suitable for children five years old and up. This restaurant serves 600 free dinners to homeless motel children each night and is the only restaurant in the world to do so.
This market is held year-round, but will be closed December 26th and January 2nd for the holidays.
The next time you visit, make sure to explore the many activities, events, and restaurants available. This house is an example of Queen Anne-style Victorian architecture and displays Kellogg’s avid interest in ships by a mast in the center of the home stretching from floor to ceiling. This tour includes walking by historic adobes as well as the Pryor House Victorian home built between 1870 and 1880. This is in great contrast to Old Towne Orange, for example, where the city was involved in the home building process early in the 20th century. This is a good opportunity for someone who wants a great home at a very reasonable price and doesn’t want to give up some modern conveniences. It’s amazing to think that in 1900, this was the place the local farmers came to visit the blacksmith shop (it still exists!), see the doctor, and attend church.
Outside of San Juan Capistrano, Tustin features some of Orange County’s oldest homes. In fact, the police station is located just a few block from Old Town Tustin, right next to the city hall. Economically, if this unit is legal, it could make this property an EXCELLENT opportunity to someone who wants to have their mortgage largely paid by a renter. Not only do we have more than just a couple of artists, we have artists of all types living and making a living here in our town. Then, I took a step back to look at the sign and found out that James Kanan is also a sculptor! Having a big yard means my husband has lots of space to work on his sculptures without disturbing our neighbors and we still have plenty of room to entertain and have a garden. Aside from the rotted flooring, the maintenance required to bring these stylish ‘20s cottages back to life was more than just a few strokes of paint.
After using redwood shiplap to replace the siding, restoring hardwood floors, installing subway tiles and finding period-correct vintage porch lights, all that was left was the matching historic paint colors in order to bring the cottages roaring back to life.
It was really great to see so many people interested in Old Town Tustin and historic homes.
Large, established  trees give the whole area a sheltered feel and it’s really a unique environment for those who wanted to be near freeways, shopping, and other conveniences but also value the feeling of a slower time. The porch was restored to its original state, complete with its charming gingerbread trim, after having been a bathroom for much of the 1900s.
For example, Grant showed off a hot-coal-heated foot warmer and a vacuum cleaner in which the user pumps the handle to produce suction at the base. The building displays old firemen suits, outmoded fire control artifacts, and an original fire hose, which is slung within a small tower, as it would have been for drying. Grant explained that since the fire truck is still registered as such, only firemen may drive the vehicle. A group called the “Friends of Walt Disney” donated the garage to the Garden Grove Historical Society in 1984. It never ceases to amaze me how much Orange County cherishes its historical sites and neighborhoods. The Packing District was at the heart of the county’s citrus production during the height of the area’s agricultural era.
The two-acre plot comprises an olive grove, redwood boardwalk, grassy knoll and community gardens where visitors can find many grow beds containing tomatoes, artichokes, lettuce and more plants. Starting June 1st, the Farmers Park Market, a California Certified Farmers’ Market, will take place every Sunday from 10am to 2pm. If you habitually use Apple Maps or Google Maps on your smartphone to get around like I do, then keep in mind the following tips, as using a map app may get you close but not there.
Overseen by the Old Towne Preservation Association, all of the buildings in the historic district are held to strict standards for renovation and restoration, much to the delight of all who visit.
Stop by to ask questions of pharmacist and owner, Scott Parker, who prides himself on the individualized service provided to each and every customer.
At the various booths that line the two story space you can find handcrafted 1800s-era furniture, vinyl records from the ‘60s, Mid-Century Modern Danish furniture, jadeite glassware, antique books, and retro clothing. Ways & Means Oyster House features sustainably-caught fresh seafood and a menu that showcases seasonal ingredients. Start your meal with the tlacoyo de aguacate: a toasted masa cake covered with grilled avocado, cara cara oranges, blood oranges, pickled cucumbers, and pea tendrils. Reserve a picnic area to host your next family reunion, where 57 tables can accommodate up to 700 guests. Run by local non-profit organizations, the booths’ proceeds go directly to their individual organization.
In addition, the Anaheim Historical Society hosts the occasional Historic Home Tour in order to showcase existing architectural buildings throughout Anaheim. The Muzeo hosts three traveling exhibitions yearly which are otherwise not seen in the region. Built in 1898, the George Key Home is part of the 2.2 acre site that also contains a ? acre garden and one acre orange grove.
Public tours are available on Fridays from 1 – 5 PM and Sundays from 11 AM – 3 PM at a cost of $5 for adults and $4 for children. The Pryor House is the Historical Society’s headquarters and is now known as the O’Neill Museum.


Very fortunately, these elements have been expertly preserved on this home, along with most of the original wood floors and trim. In 1900,  Santa Ana was the largest city in Orange County, but with only 4500 residents. As a two-story home, this was most likely the home of a large landowner and it is built in the farmhouse style.
I like to start with the positive, and it appears that most of the floors, windows, and the rather ornate moldings and trims are intact. It’s on a larger-than-usual ~8400 square foot lot and offers a lot more square footage. While we always think of beautiful tree-lined streets and older, established neighborhoods — things change. The glass display-cabinet upper cabinets (including some that dip down to the counter) really up the vintage ante. Old Town Tustin is much smaller than Old Towne Orange and the homes are much less homogenous, the streets a bit sleepier. Tustin also features award-winning schools and has recently embarked upon a massive capital improvement project, updating facilities at the high schools. It has a great central location in Orange County but the prices are much more affordable than Old Towne Orange. Her studio is located in the new lofts that were built on Prospect and 3rd street where she paints fine art with oils and doodles with pen, ink, oil and acrylic.
The windows always seem dark, but the open sign was in the door, so I gave it a tug and walked right in. Complete with original ‘20s stoves, claw foot bathtubs, toilets and even a drinking fountain, these cottages are sure to please and have become the prime living destination for couples and singles alike. Many of the homes had lines but the docents kept everything moving and offered historic commentary in each area of the homes.
The society was the only group contacted by the Friends of Walt Disney that would accept the garage and keep it permanently on display. The district has been reinvented and is now poised to be a popular community-gathering place for food, education and fun.
The park also has an outdoor Ping-Pong table ready for use – just bring your own ball and paddles! More exciting events to be held at the site include the summertime Farm Folk Festival, Annual Halloween Parade Float viewing, German Christmas Market and Farmers Park Flicks outdoor movies.
If you are looking to get into your own historic dream home, then Better Living SoCal is your go-to resource. We will definitely head back to both Cervantes and Delifornia to try out more of their menu.
We decided to shop at the stand offering organic produce and picked up some ripe strawberries, celery, cilantro and broccolini for a great price. His booth’s banner states in bold lettering “The Fat-Plant Man.” Cliff will explain the meaning behind his nickname is that his plants are so plump and that it doesn’t refer to his round shape whatsoever. The restaurant pays homage to the classic oyster bars located around the world, with a complementing wine list to satisfy even the most discerning palates. The Azteca tortilla soup is the perfect complement to the spinach and shrimp enchiladas de camarones or the carnitas nortenas made from braised Berkshire pork, pico de gallo, guacamole, and served on handmade tortillas.
Public use, non-reservable tables are also available for spur of the moment Saturday afternoon picnics.
Shop for handmade arts and crafts from local artisans, and find your new favorite charity to support at one of the many community booths at the fair. Winter is the time to check out the Anaheim Colony, a quaint historic district located in Anaheim, California. The current exhibition is “Worn to Be Wild: The Black Leather Jacket,” which will be going on until January 12, 2014. Whenever clients are considering such a home, I’m always thinking of mitigation strategies. To me, one of the coolest parts is the upstairs, with the unique transom windows located above some of the doors.
For many families, the #1 wish list item we hear about is having a 2nd bath and this home does.
Craftsman Bungalows, Victorian, Spanish Revival, and even Mediterranean styles are all examples of historic homes you can find in Old Town Tustin. Residents also quick access to more modern shopping as well, with the nearby Tustin Marketplace. So prime in fact, that a line began to form when people saw that these homes were up for rent. Even now, Siler keeps a waiting list of interested residents should there be any vacancies. Some of these houses were ones I had never been inside before and it was fascinating to see the different eras and styles. The antique fridge even features a spigot on its side to pour cold water melted from the ice blocks in the icebox. Patrons can also enjoy outdoor picnic gardens and a building-length dining porch looking out to the Farmers Park.
Imagine walking out of one of the two coffee shops lining the Park & Read, plucking a story from the shelves and settling into a chair to soak up the sun and sip on an iced coffee.
Local companies are given the opportunity to promote their business there, and eight stages are scattered throughout the fair, showcasing local musicians.
Many celebrities have eaten here, including Jimmy Carter, Danny DeVito, and Andrea Bocelli. The Muzeo is open from 10 AM to 5 PM daily and costs just $6 for children and $10 for adults.
Howe-Waffle House is open for tours the first Saturday of every even month from 12 PM until 4 PM at a cost of $5 for adults and $3 for students. The French doors leading outside the master bedroom have the same mullion pattern as the original windows.
The kitchen looks like someone started to renovate with some period-correct oak cabinets but then finished the job with cheaper Home Depot-grade materials. We like it because it has a great mix of culture, some wonderful architecture and an open minded community.
Having art in our community enriches the culture making Tustin a great place to buy a home. My favorite part of the tour had to be when Grant played a Beatles song on the pump organ in the dining room for us. It came with nothing but it’s boards and beams but is now filled with a collection of Disney memorabilia and animation-related apparatuses, including an antique film projector. Its extensive patio dining space is the perfect space for large parties with broad views of the Farmers Park. 90 years later in 2010, the brewery was re-established in the Packard Building and offers its original brews, such as Anaheim 1888, as well as new recipes.
An added bonus for families is the entire street dedicated to crafts and games for the kids.
The chain link fence is not doing anybody any favors and the house feels unfinished on the outside. A home like this is hard to fault and at below $500k, we can actually call it an affordable home.
I think there’s a lot of potential to finish this one right and keep it under budget. I was so impressed with not only Grant’s excellent playing, but also that the 124-year-old organ can still play, and so beautifully, too. Grant did show us one discovery – etched writing on an inner door with a list of quantities of various fruits and preserves.
Friday night is Ladies’ Night at The Juke Joint and there is free pool Sundays from 7 PM to close.
It’s a great community for those who are looking for substantial garden space in addition to just the historic homes. Lincoln Ave in the Anaheim Colony, is currently performing The Nutcracker for its 27th season. Whenever there is a house that borders on a major street, the best thing you can do is create some psychological separation.
This home has the outdoor space where it counts: concentrated in a long outdoor patio that runs along side the house and is easily accessible from the main living spaces. The picket fence is a good start, but given the size of the street, I think it needs a hedge and some other elements.
A single family historic home with good details under $350k is a deal, though, no matter what tweaks need to be made.



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