When Orange County Was Rural (And Oranges Actually Grew There) | KCET
When Orange County Was Rural (And Oranges Actually Grew There)
Orange County hardly lives up to its name1 anymore. A few relict orchards may survive, but today the endless citrus groves that once clothed the county in green are only a memory.
Before a postwar population boom triggered an almost wholesale conversation of farmland to suburbia, much of Orange County appeared decidedly rural. In 1948, a vast forest of five million Valencia orange trees grew on 67,000 acres2 -- but the county's sprawling ranches supported more than just citriculture. Dairy farms dominated the Orange County's northern reaches, while in the south cattle grazed on the rolling hills of vast estates like the Irvine Ranch and Rancho Mission Viejo. Elsewhere, farmers cultivated celery, walnuts, lima beans, and sugar beets. Berries were common, too; the Knott's Berry Farm amusement park began as a roadside fruit stand on an actual berry farm.
More Orange County History
In 1950, Orange County was a network of modest towns surrounded by fields and rangeland, home to roughly 216,000 people. Highways and interurban rail lines connected the area to the growing metropolis to the northwest, but Orange County still played the role of country to Los Angeles' city. Then L.A.'s suburban growth began spilling over the county line, and new master-planned communities in the Garden City tradition sprang from once-agricultural lands. By 1990, Orange County's population had exploded to 2.4 million, and the area had developed into a semiautonomous, "postsuburban" region--a social transformation mirrored in the physical landscape.
Much of Los Angeles County witnessed similar change, but in Orange County -- as in the Inland Empire -- the metamorphosis was recent and sudden enough that longtime residents still remember when office parks were strawberry fields, housing tracts were open pastures, and twelve-lane superhighways were quiet country roads.
Memories fade, but the photographic collections of the Orange County Archives -- a rich trove of more than a million historical images -- more permanently preserve visions of Orange County's rural past. The Archives have made the highlights freely available through Flickr and have digitized tens of thousands more.
1 In fact, Orange County's name was first proposed long before oranges became the area's dominant crop.
2 Two new books tell the story of Southern California's oranges in detail: Jared Farmer's "Trees in Paradise: A California History" and David Boulé's forthcoming "The Orange and the Dream of California."
In honor of Black History Month, KCET and PBS SoCal will showcase a curated lineup of enlightening programs to bolster awareness and understanding of racial history in America.
"Sleep No More" theater director Mikhael Tara Garver unearths the L.A. River's 8-mile deep stories and histories in an ongoing work of experimental theater called "Rio Reveals."
Joseph Rodriguez’s photographs of the LAPD in 1994 is a deeply personal, political act that still resonates in today’s political climate.
Tom LaBonge, a larger-than-life character in city hall meetings and effusive champion of Los Angeles, has passed away suddenly.
- 1 of 415
- next ›
Griffith Park is one of the largest municipal parks in the United States. Its founder, Griffith J. Griffith, donated the land to the city as a public recreation ground for all the people — an ideal that has been challenged over the years.
During World War II, three renowned photographers captured scenes from the Japanese incarceration: outsiders Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams and incarceree Tōyō Miyatake who boldly smuggled in a camera lens to document life from within the camp.
Prohibition may have outlawed liquor, but that didn’t mean the booze stopped flowing. Explore the myths of subterranean Los Angeles, crawl through prohibition-era tunnels, and visit some of the city’s oldest speakeasies.
Although best known for designing the homes of celebrities like Lucille Ball and Frank Sinatra, the pioneering African-American architect Paul Revere Williams also contributed to some of the city’ s most recognizable civic structures.
As recently as a century ago, scientists doubted whether the universe extended beyond our own Milky Way — until astronomer Edwin Hubble, working with the world’s most powerful telescope discovered just how vast the universe is.
- 1 of 5
- next ›