Costa Mesa 129 Years Ago

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Society director Bob Palazzola uncovered this gem from the April 1979 the Costa Mesa Historical Society Quarterly. It paints a colorful portrait of early Costa Mesa. Note the reference to A Slice of Orange by Edrick Miller in the final paragraph. The book is essential reading for local history fans.


What was Costa Mesa like when Orange became a County in 1889? We were a “mixed bag”.

Our area, on one hand, made its contribution toward an independent county. A boomtown, Fairview, mushroomed in the vicinity of what is now Mesa Verde, Halecrest and Orange Coast College. A hotel was built near the northeast corner of Merrimac and Harbor to serve clients who wanted to use the hot springs that then flowed there. A narrow gauge railroad was constructed from Santa Ana to Fairview to carry prospective lot purchasers. Streets such as Adams and Baker were laid out. Homes here and there sprang up. This kind of population growth brought so many people to what at the time was the southern end of Los Angeles County that they eventually decided on separation. Fairview though, disappeared by the end of the century.

On the other hand, the eastern section of the mesa was rural. On November 14, 1967, The Costa Mesa Historical Society heard Orange County pioneer A. J. McFadden describe the area:

“The Irvine ran sheep and cattle there; it was never good farm land. About the only thing in those days were rattlesnakes, ground squirrels and owls. I remember killing rattlesnakes with a buggy whip. In the winter there were acres of geese and ducks.”

McFadden explained that he used the term “acres” because there were so many thousands of birds that the density of the flocks could not be counted with a numerical reference.

Haven’t we changed? McFadden would be amazed at Costa Mesa’s growth since 1889. Truly, we are a “slice” right off the Orange.