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Neighborhood Spotlight: Historic Old Towne Orange

Written by Kelly Weimert on Wednesday, November 6th, 2019 at 10:05am.

Source: canyons.ocbsa.org

Old Towne Orange sits on about one square mile of land around the Orange, California, plaza. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the neighborhood boasts many antique and collectible shops, specialty boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants, but what truly sets it apart is its high concentration (about 1,300) of vintage buildings. 

Old Town Orange Vintage Buildings
Source: cityoforange.org

Most of Old Towne’s buildings were constructed between 1874-1940 after attorneys Alfred Chapman and Andrew Glassell acquired the 1,385 acres of land as legal fees in 1869. The two attorneys attempted to model the land’s layout after Philadelphia, designed by William Penn. Featuring two cross streets that divide the area into quadrants, the middle point was designated as town center AKA the plaza, which is punctuated by a beautiful fountain. 

Old Towne Orange Plaza Fountain
Source: flickr.com

The area features more than 50 architectural styles, including Victorian, Craftsman, Mediterranean, and Prairie. Among the primary early architects for the district was Cornelius Barber Bradshaw, who designed buildings like the Grecian-Ionic Carnegie Library, the Odd Fellows Lodge, and the Royer Mansion, which some believe to be haunted.

Old Towne Orange Royer Mansion
Source: ocregister.com

Other notable architects include Frederick Ely, who built the Gothic-Revival St. John’s Lutheran Church, importing its stained glass windows from Germany, and Phillip Hubert Frohman, who designed the Victorian-Gothic Chapel of Orange. 

Old Towne Orange St. John's Lutheran Church
Source: flickr.com

The breadth of historic, well-preserved architecture has made the locale a favorite for TV production companies and filmmakers. For instance, Tom Hanks used many of the town’s buildings for his film, That Thing You Do, and American Horror Story depicted the district during several seasons. Other films that feature the area include Bridesmaids, Crimson Tide, The Man Who Wasn’t There, and First Daughter. 

Given Old Towne’s history, it’s no surprise that it’s also home to a ton of antiques and collectibles. In fact, the area features more than 50 antique shops and 350 antique dealers, making it a refreshing refuge from typical shopping districts, which focus on whatever the latest and greatest trends are. 

Old Towne Orange Watson's Soda Fountain Cafe
Source: mapquest.com

And, true to its historic vibe, you can also visit a number of old-timey places to eat, like Watson’s Soda Fountain & Cafe. Watson’s opened in 1899 and still offers old-school treats like chocolate malts, milkshakes, and sundaes, in addition to classic diner food. 

Old Towne Orange International Street Fair
Source: ocregister.com

Old Towne is also home to the Orange International Street Fair. The fair is inspired by the Orange Street Fair of 1910 and has taken place every Labor Day weekend since 1973. The event spans every main street in the district and draws hundreds of thousands of people throughout the weekend. It offers live music and entertainment, global cuisine, and arts and crafts from local and faraway makers. The fair also gives small businesses and nonprofits an opportunity to showcase their missions and causes. 


If you’re interested in making a move to this historic district, check out all the current homes for sale in Old Towne Orange, or contact us and we'll connect you with an Old Towne Orange real estate specialist. 

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