I want to thank one of my readers for suggesting that I start writing about the history of Old Towne Orange. I personally know very little about Old Towne’s history, so I enlisted a guest blogger, Renee Dallas who runs the OTO Walking Food Tours, to write up some historical tidbits that we could all enjoy reading. I hope you all enjoy this new section of the blog, as always, your comments and suggestions are welcome!
The Plaza (also known as “The Circle” to many), and her beloved fountain are one of the best known and loved landmarks in Orange County. Whenever you drive through Old Towne, you’ll see people relaxing by the fountain with kids, pets and taking photos of loved ones. It has become a symbol for the community spirit so noteworthy in Orange.
But did you know that the present fountain in the Plaza was not the original one? The ladies of Orange, who raised the money in a campaign for “beautification,” placed the original fountain into the Plaza in 1887. At the time, the Plaza was weed infested and “worn into a web of wagon tracks,” and the ladies were concerned that the square was giving a bad impression of the community. After all, Orange was the up and coming town in this boom period of Orange County history!
So they cultivated the ground and put in a circular park with shrubs and trees. To add a jewel to their accomplishment, they decided a fountain was in order. They raised the money by dinners, musicals and festivals, and even wrote a play called “The Plaza” which was not only well attended but raised the final amount of money needed to pay for the fountain.
The first one occupied its place in the center of town for five decades, with its graceful swans and three tiers. But in 1937, the city council voted to replace the fountain with a new electric fountain by Westinghouse. The Orange Daily News reported that the new fountain would have “126 different lighting combinations which will play upon the streams of water shot in the air.” And so, in an ironic bit of community improvement, the old fountain was put into a storage yard with weeds growing around it for a few years.
In 1940, it was placed at Hart Park and used as a children’s wading pool for several decades, and then was extensively restored and put in front of the City Council Chambers in 1981, although many of the old timers in Orange had expressed their desire to see it restored to its original place.
Where is the old fountain today? To my thinking it has found a place of rest and honor at the new Orange Library and Historic Center, just a few blocks down Chapman Avenue. Take some time to see it and remember the ladies who worked so hard to gift it to us!
Source: The Plaza, by Phil Brigandi
Renee Dallas and her sister Deanna run Old Towne Orange Walking Food Tours, which is a restaurant food tour that operates every weekend. They often include history stops on the tour. For more information go to OrangeFoodTours.com.
Last Updated on May 24, 2023 by Pattie Cordova