Vintage Ojai Photos: Compare Then and Now

SoCal Wanderer's premiere episode "Anacapa to Ojai” follows host Rosey Alvero as she visits the Ventura Harbor before riding her bike into Ojai for dinner. Watch it online.


Ojai has evolved over the past century. While the valley has a long history of Chumash inhabitants and Mexican and American ranching and petroleum exploration, the downtown didn't take shape until the 1870s as Nordhoff.

1917 proved a pivotal year: the downtown burned, glass magnate Edward Libbey led a re-imagination and reconstruction in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, and the name Nordhoff was replaced with today's Ojai.

The archival pictures below, provided by the Ojai Valley Museum, show a few of the structures and sites that have survived the years.

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Ojai Downtown Arcade, Archival
Ojai Downtown Arcade | Image Courtesy of Ojai Valley Museum
Ojai Downtown Arcade, 2018
Ojai Downtown Arcade, 2018

The construction of the Ojai post office, pergola and arcade, in the form familiar to visitors today, was completed in 1917. This photo was taken shortly after the construction.

Ojai Ave, Nordhoff
Ojai Ave, Nordhoff | Image Courtesy of Ojai Valley Museum
Ojai Ave, 2018
Ojai Ave, 2018

Prior to the construction of present-day Ojai and its arcade, the town was known as Nordhoff. This image shows central Nordhoff and its typical American West style.

Catholic Church, Ojai, Archival
Catholic Church, Ojai | Image Courtesy of Ojai Valley Museum
Ojai Valley Museum, 2018
Ojai Valley Museum, 2018

This is Ojai's second Catholic church. The first burned in the 1917 fire, and the replacement was built in the same Spanish Colonial Revival style as the other new constructions in the town. The lack of a surrounding wall indicates that the photo may have been taken as early as 1917. After the construction of a new facility, the church sold this building to the City of Ojai, which leases it to the Ojai Valley Museum.

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Presbyterian Church, Ojai, Archival
Presbyterian Church, Ojai | Image Courtesy of Ojai Valley Museum
Presbyterian Church, Ojai, 2018

This 1890s photo shows the Presbyterian church and a pulley-and-manpower system for lifting its bell into the steeple. The church was one of several buildings to be put on wheels and moved around Ojai in the 20th century. This specific location is now at the Soule Park Golf Course. So where's the building in the present-day image? The church was first moved to the southeast corner of Montgomery and Ojai Ave, then later moved to Montgomery and Aliso, where the building is now used for office space.

Ojai Valley, Archival
Ojai Valley | Image Courtesy of Ojai Valley Museum
Ojai Valley, 2018
Ojai Valley, 2018

Ojai Valley from the east. The landscape looks fairly similar in these photos, both taken from Dennison Grade on Highway 150, connecting lower and upper Ojai valleys.

Top Image: Libbey Bowl | Courtesy of Ojai Valley Museum

Thank you to Judith Mercer at the Ojai Valley Museum for image recommendations and historical information.

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