View a mind-boggling array of artifacts from 5,000 years of Costa Mesa history — from the first peoples to the City of the Arts — at the Costa Mesa Historical Society Museum and Headquarters. The museum is located near the downtown library and recreation center at 1870 Anaheim Avenue and is open Thursdays and Fridays 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

The Costa Mesa Historical Society is a civic organization whose members care about promoting and preserving the history of our town.

Historical Society Museum

Since its opening in 1981, the Costa Mesa Historical Society’s Museum and Headquarters building has served as the repository for our collection of local history items including:

  • Natural and man-made objects
  • Photographs and maps
  • Newspapers, periodicals and news clipping files
  • Oral Histories, audio/video recordings and motion picture films
  • Published works such as books, pamphlets, directories and school yearbooks
  • Unpublished works such as manuscripts, personal papers, other archival materials

Only a small portion of our collection can be exhibited at any one time. Society volunteers have selected representative items for public exhibit.

Permanent Exhibits

“Costa Mesa Timeline”

Early Periods: Indian, Mission, Rancho periods, 2500BC to 1870s: Includes cogged stones, arrowheads, grindstones, baskets, an Indian village diorama, the story of the Diego Sepulveda Adobe (the Estancia), our connections to Mission San Juan Capistrano.

Early Communities – Farming Period, 1880s to 1920s: Includes the boom and bust of Fairview, establishment of farming communities of Paularino and Harper; the railroad’s part in the change of agriculture in the area.

The town of Costa Mesa, 1920s to 1940: an unincorporated community and the local organizations that made it work.

Incorporation and Expansion: An expanded population after WWII and incorporation in 1953 made the town better able to deal with community needs.

Costa Mesa Homestead, 1900s to 1950: includes vintage household furnishings and products; farm tools and implements. Most frequent comment: “My grandfather (or grandmother) had one of those.”

Newport Boulevard: Remember When? 1920s to 2003: Covers the period starting when we had a railroad operating down the center of Newport Blvd, pointing out some of the original buildings still in use today.

Santa Ana Army Air Base, 1942-1946: Includes cadet classification and training, class photos, uniforms, personal gear and insignia, Women’s Army Corps (WAC), and Jack Otterson’s original sketch of the famed Gremlin Mural. Supplementing the SAAAB exhibit is a collection of fine scale models of some aircraft flown in WWII.

Costa Mesa from the air, 1955 to 1987: Includes four giant aerial photographs (7’ x 7’) of the Costa Mesa area taken in 1955, 1967, 1973, and 1987. These aerial photos document the miraculous growth of Costa Mesa from agricultural roots to bustling city with a population over 100,000. Most frequent comment: “There’s my house!”

Special Exhibits

Costa Mesa Stays in Tune: The musical sources ranged from small local dance bands and local celebrities, to nationally famous “big bands”, to pop music performed at the Orange County Fairgrounds. Included are some of the old instruments and equipment used to present it.

Costa Mesa – The Hull Story: the presence of the harbor at Newport Beach helped to encourage a boat building industry (more than 100 businesses) in Costa Mesa. This exhibit will introduce you to many of these businesses.

Hours, Activities and Events

The Costa Mesa Historical Society museum and library is open to the public every Thursday and Friday between 10:00am and 3:00pm, and at other times by appointment. Please visit the following pages for additional information on activities, events and other Historical Society information:

More information on Costa Mesa Historical Society activities can be found at the following links: