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A Brief History of Modern Day Anaheim

1950's | 1960's | 1970's | 1980's | Current

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Prologue

Anaheim's Gold

Between 1880 and 1960, Anaheim was host to several orange growers and processors who used their orange crate labels to identify their brand and advertise a golden California lifestyle. Some of the more notable growers and processors were:

Anaheim Orchid
Anaheim Supreme
Autumn Leaf
Balboa
Barony
Blue Vase
Caramia
Colonial Mother
Doria
El Pajo Real
Favorita
Hi-Class
Lincoln
Man O' War
Meritoria
Mother Colony
Nightcap
Pride of Anaheim
Red Breast
Siren
Sonia

Anbaheim's growers

Anaheim orange growers pitch in to help the war effort during the early 1940s.
(Courtesy of Anaheim History Room.)

Anaheim, now the tenth largest city in California, began in 1857 as a colony of German farmers and vintners. Founding member George Hansen surveyed the original 200 acres which now comprises the city's downtown area, bounded by North, South, East and West streets. The city's name is a composition of "Ana" from the nearby Santa Ana river and "heim," German for home. Those early pioneers considered this location their "home by the river."

Farming was their occupation and lifestyle. Among the crops for the first few decades were grapes grown for wine. But a plague in the 1870's wiped out the vineyards and in their place, groves of citrus trees were planted. The first commercially oranges in Orange County were grown in Anaheim, where the growers attributed their success to the local hills which protected the fruit against the cold winds coming down from the mountains. Other crops included walnuts and chili peppers.

These first settlers were farmers, but they were also writers, artists and musicians. The first public buildings were not administrative facilities, but a school and an opera house.

 

 

Street Stories
  • Adele, Alberta, Claudina, Emily, Mavis, Paulina, Sabrina and Whilhelmina Streets honor early Anaheim's pioneer women.
  • Clementine and Helena Streets are named for Clementine Langenberger, one of the town's original settlers, and Helen Modjeska, the famous Polish actress. The two streets are located next to each other to symbolize their close friendship.
  • Kroeger Street was dedicated to Henry Kroeger who built the Anaheim Hotel. He also served as one of the city's first mayors.
    Zeyn Street was named for J.P. Zeyn, an early farmer who also served as mayor.

  • Katella Avenue is a combination of the names of Kate and Ella Rae. Kate founded the Anaheim Red Cross Chapter, and Ella was the first chairperson of the library board.
  • Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe Streets were named for the railroad line that linked Anaheim to the East. Judy Garland made the route famous when she sang about the line in the movie musical "The Harvey Girls."

  • Melrose Street commemorates Richard Melrose, city attorney in the late 1800s. He would go on to a controversial career in the State Assembly. He received the praise of President Theodore Roosevelt for leading the opposition against the Drew Bill, which would have prohibited the Japanese Americans from owning property and attending public schools.

 

The city was incorporated in 1876 with a population of 881. The little rural community grew slowly, but steadily for the next several decades. By 1920, the population had risen to 5,526, an agricultural community as tightly-knit as small towns can be. In 1887, the construction of the Santa Fe depot linked Anaheim's citrus growers with the East, providing vital markets for their golden crops.

The beginning of a local tradition began in 1924 with the first Anaheim Halloween Parade. Billed as the "Greatest Night Pageant West of Mardi Gras," the annual event drew some 150,000 spectators at the height of its popularity. Visitors lined the downtown streets and thousands more viewed the pageant from the La Palma Park grandstand.

Anaheim's small town lifestyle continued through the first half of the 20th century. Center Street was the hub of community activity, where people gathered to celebrate local events and festivities and to mark such national and international events as the end of both World Wars, the assassination of President John Kennedy and humanity's first step on the soil of the moon. In 1950, the town's population had grown to 14,556. But the sleepy little community would soon be propelled into the modern era.

 

The 1950's
A Place in the Orange Groves

"Disneyland. To all who come to this happy place, welcome! Disneyland is your land. Here, age relives fond memories of the past . . . and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts that created America . . . with the hope that it will be a source of inspiration to all the world."
Walt Disney, July 17, 1955.

In the late '40's and early '50's, California experienced its third population shockwave. The first had occurred a hundred years earlier during the Gold Rush; the second took place in the latter part of the 19th century when the a rate war between the two railroad giants, Southern Pacific and Santa Fe, led to cheap and easy transportation to the West. With fares as low as $1 from Kansas City to Los Angeles, Easterners flocked to California to speculate on rich farmland and real estate.

Sparking the third wave of growth, the economic and industrial boom that followed World War II hit Southern California with the force of an earthquake. From downtown Los Angeles, sprawling growth mushroomed in all directions, giving birth to a patchwork skyline of two-and three-story buildings as far as the eye could see. New businesses and rows of tract homes sprung up by the thousands in once remote suburban areas as the country rode a tidal wave of optimism. Highways and roads were paved overnight, transporting Angelenos off to emerging towns and cities that had been someone's farm just the year before.

The nation's new affluence brought leisure time -- time to build family relationships, to enjoy the bounty of the good life, and to explore the once distant world. In Los Angeles, people took to the roads. Among these was a man named Walt Disney.

Walt Disney's dreams were like few others. For years he had toyed with the idea of creating a park for families, a unique playground where they could find happiness and escape the pressures of the day. Local parks, he had discovered on visits with his daughters Sharon and Diane, woefully lacked imagination. Walt finally put his vision down on paper, planning to build his dream on an 11-acre lot across the street from his studios in Burbank.

This park -- called Mickey Mouse Park -- would feature activities for families to enjoy together -- a lake stocked with fish so parents and children could sit on the shore and enjoy fishing together, an island in the center of the lake for children to explore, boats to row to and around the island. A carousel, a bandstand and a replica of a traditional "Main Street" would bring the turn-of-the-century small town American experience to modern families. A special feature would be a miniature train, one of Walt's favorite hobbies.

With a schematic of the park drawn by his studio artists and a $10,000 construction budget, Walt presented his plan for approval by the city of Burbank. To his stunned dismay, city officials, concerned that the project would become a permanent carnival, denied his request.

Walt began revising his plans to make the project acceptable. But as he worked, new ideas filled his mind. One area of the park would be dedicated to the American frontier. In another, children would dream of frontiers in space in the world of tomorrow. The more he thought, the more he realized the 11-acre Burbank site would hardly be adequate to contain his new vision.

Taking a break from work one day, Walt jumped in his car and headed south in the freshly-paved asphalt of the two-lane Santa Ana Freeway. As he drove out from downtown Los Angeles, the brownish haze of the sky dissipated into a deep blue, white clouds poked out from beneath the blanket of smog and homes and businesses grew farther and farther apart. When he finally entered Orange County, it was like being transported back to the Midwest. Miles of open farmland scented with the fragrant perfume of orange blossoms stretched out before him, interrupted only occasionally by a modest farmhouse. Victorian style homes were common and their distinctive gingerbread architecture seemed to be an odd transplant from another era, but one in which Walt Disney felt comfortable.

Anaheim was a lot like Walt's boyhood home in Marceline, Missouri. As he drove through the small town, it was like coming home. Here, in the middle of orange groves, he had found the place for his magical park.

In 1952, Walt created WED Enterprises for the purpose of building his dream. The initials were his own, but the investment was open to everyone. He put all his personal assets into the company and bent the ear of anyone who might want to join him as a partner. As the vision of Disneyland expanded, so did the cost of opening its gates, rising from an initial $10,000 to $4 million.

Disney Comes to Anaheim
An
aheim's relationship with Disney began in the early 1950s when artists from the studio volunteered to help design floats for the annual Halloween parade.
(Courtesy of Anaheim History Room.)

The then-fledgling ABC Network was looking for alliances that would give it instant credibility and stature -- a partnership with Walt Disney would do just that. A deal was struck: ABC would invest $500,000 in the park and be a partner with WED. ABC would also guarantee $4.5 million in loans to cover construction. In return, Disney would produce a weekly hour-long series.

This "Disneyland" television show would be integral to the park's success. Walt would use it as a vehicle to promote the park and the show would feature movies from the Disney Studio's portfolio, as well as original episodes.

Walt was certain Southern California was the best place to build his park, but Anaheim was not the only possible site he considered. To be sure, WED hired the Stanford Research Institute to conduct a search for the perfect site. The cities of Long Beach, Palos Verdes and Canoga Park were all considered but each had at least one strong disadvantage against it.

Anaheim seemed to fit all the criteria. Disney Studios already had established friendly relationships with the city, having designed floats for its annual Halloween Parade. And the company had a good reputation in the Anaheim community.

In addition, the Interstate 5 freeway was just being completed and it cut through the heart of Anaheim. The highway would connect the small agricultural town with downtown Los Angeles, tapping into its tourist base. Visitors staying in L.A. could be inside Disneyland's main gate within 45 minutes. The freeway also guaranteed to bring more residents to Orange County. The geography and weather which made the county prime land for growing oranges was also ideal for attracting tourists.

Anaheim city officials were hesitant at first. Disney went to work selling the idea that his park would be different than the tawdry, carnival-like amusement parks they were familiar with. He had no intention of building a carnival. There would be no barkers or sideshows. Cleanliness and a family atmosphere were his top priorities.

Anaheim Mayor Charles Pearson summed up the City's major point of concern when he said he didn't want to see Disneyland as the kind of place where peanut shells littered the ground. Walt agreed, vowing that his park would never sell unshelled peanuts or chewing gum. He would even drop his plans for creating a permanent circus on the grounds. Though his circus would have had a better presentation than touring circuses, he wanted to make sure the City was comfortable with Disneyland's appearance.

Construction of Disneyland in Anaheim, California, was announced April 2, 1954. Opening day would be July 17, 1955. This date was absolutely critical to the park's success. August was Americans' traditional vacation month, so the July date would allow Disneyland to cash in on the peak summer tourist trade. If delays pushed the opening into the fall, the park would sit virtually idle through the off-season. The press would have little mercy and Disneyland would be branded a failure.

While construction raced on, the park received good advance publicity through the success of the Disney television show. That fall, to a nationwide audience, Walt explained his plan to build "the happiest place on earth." He gave weekly updates on construction, using time-lapse photography to produce comical shorts on how fast the park was being built.

The grand opening of the Magic Kingdom was less than auspicious. Some 33,000 people showed up, many uninvited and so anxious to see Disneyland they forged their tickets. A gas leak closed Fantasyland. Rides broke down. The heat of the day caused guests to search water fountains that had yet to be installed. The heels of women's shoes left the newly-paved asphalt filled with indentations. And it all took place before the largest television audience ever, as millions witnessed ABC's live broadcast. In later years, Walt would refer to the first day of operation as "Black Sunday."

The press reviews were not kind, complaining of the park's obvious unreadiness. In the next few weeks before Labor Day, the park would prove a success or failure.

The answer was fast in coming. Only seven weeks after opening, Disneyland's one millionth guest passed through the turnstiles, into the tunnel and onto Main Street.

Disneyland was here to stay. And Anaheim would be changed forever.

Community Spirits

One of Anaheim's early community events was the Halloween Parade, inaugurated in 1924. From a modestly informal beginning, the parade grew into the "Greatest Night Pageant West of the Mardi Gras," and included specially designed floats, marching bands, equestrian units, children in Halloween costumes and a costume breakfast.

Celebrations in AnaheimIn its heyday during the 1950s, over 150,000 spectators lined downtown streets and another 7,000 more packed into La Palma Park grandstands to view the parade. While interest declined in the event during the 1970s and 80s, the parade's long-time popularity launched other festivals, including 4th of July and Cinco de Mayo celebrations, keeping the tradition of Anaheim's community spirits alive.

Even though most of the city's population had moved into Anaheim since 1950, their sense of civic pride was no less than longtime residents.

The city marked its Centennial in 1957 with a year's worth of activities, culminating in a week-long "Centennial Celebration," which featured a beard contest, "Old Fashioned Fashion Show", giant square dance, time capsule burial in City Park and a grand ball with the coronation of a Centennial Queen. A highlight of the festival was the nightly performance of "Centurama", an elaborately staged pageant of Anaheim history with a cast of 1200 residents.

By the end of the '50's, Anaheim had become a modern day boom town. The park brought jobs with it. Many who helped build Disneyland purchased homes in the city. More importantly, Disneyland spurred other industries into building or relocating to Anaheim. The fact that the city operated its own utilities was important to many major companies because the city could directly negotiate lower rates with companies as an enticement to relocate. Anaheim residents also paid considerably lower utility bills than their neighbors in surrounding towns.

An entrepreneurial wave swept over Anaheim . For the balance of the decade, tourism and construction alternated as the city's leading industry.

As Anaheim's reputation as a good place to live, work or run a business mushroomed, city government rushed to meet the demand, creating an environment in which these tremendous changes could flourish. The city annexed 1,493 acres in 1953 to accommodate new development. The following year, an additional 2,700 acres were annexed. In 1955, the year Disneyland opened, 3,300 more acres were included within the city limits. By the end of that year, Anaheim was four times the size it was in 1953.

Stories hit the international news wires about the little California town that was making things happen in a very big way. In fact, Anaheim grew faster than any city in the nation during the decade and every three years, its size and population doubled.

The unprecedented growth of the 1950's set the stage for Anaheim to grow and mature into a major city in the coming years.

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The 1960's
A Little City Enters the Big Leagues

By 1960, Anaheim hardly resembled the quiet rural community it had been just ten years earlier. And in the coming decade, tourism and sports world impact the city even further, capitalizing on its booming growth.

Physically, Anaheim was beginning to look like a big city. And the influx of people and business meant more demand on city services. Everything from utilities, fire and police to street sweeping was in a state of constantly increasing demand. The Greek- columned City Hall, built in 1923 to serve 5,000 residents, showed signs of the town's growing pains. By 1960 the city facility was serving more than 100,000 residents. Civic leaders tried to gain support for construction of a modern, centralized building, but each measure failed when put to the ballot.

Johnny Carson and Jack Benny

Anaheim favorite Jack Benny and rookie "Tonight Show" host Johnny Carson entertain at the dedication of the Police Department Building in 1963. Anaheim first gained national exposure in the 1940s with Benny's radio show's comedy catch phrase "Anaheim! Azusa! and Cucamonga!"
(Courtesy of Anaheim Public Informatio
n)

In 1960, Anaheim residents turned down a new City Hall by a narrow margin, but support for a new library and police station was strong. In April, Propositions "L" and "P" were approved by voters, clearing the way for the first city buildings of the modern era.

The city's small, quaint library building, at the corner of Broadway and Anaheim Boulevard, was one of many libraries built at the turn of the century by wealthy industrialist Andrew Carnegie. Perfectly suited to a population of 3,000, Carnegie's $12,000 investment was woefully inadequate for the Anaheim of the '60's.

The new library was built down the street at the corner of Harbor and Broadway. Fifty thousand square feet were used to house 300,000 volumes when it opened. The Carnegie building was used in several capacities over the next two decades, primarily by the city for much needed office space. In 1987, it was converted to its present use as the home for the Anaheim Museum.

A new police station was also sorely needed. Just a few years earlier, the police department was small enough to operate out of a side entrance to City Hall and officers were required to provide their own vehicles. A side door to City Hall was the only entrance and the facility contained just two jail cells. There were no separate rooms for men and women, adults and minors. The staff operated out of cubicles no bigger than phone booths, and in the words of longtime Police Chief Mark Stephensen, it was "the worst jail north of Tijuana." Proposition "P" provided an ample home for law enforcement for the next 25 years.

While Disneyland's Main Street transported guests to a world of fantasy, Anaheim's downtown streets were beginning a spiral of worsening disrepair. Debates arose over the fate of downtown and its impact on an ever growing tourism base. Rampant development had also create a hodgepodge of hotels, motels, restaurants and other tourist-related businesses in and around Disneyland that fostered friction among various factions within the city.

Part of the problem was that Disneyland, though successful, was still only a seasonal attraction. A small motel was the extent most were willing to invest in Anaheim. Visitors would come only during the summer and on holidays. Major hotels required year-round business to operate successfully.

While Disney's original dream included building places for families to stay, everything he had was invested in the park's construction. As a result, other entrepreneurs rushed in and various small hotels sprang up around the park on land Disney was unable to buy. The city, eager to attract motels, exercised little control over their outward appearances and the streets surrounding the park became a visual kaleidoscope of brightly colored exteriors, blinking lights and flashing neon signs. It looked like the carnival atmosphere Disney had worked so hard to avoid and he could not understand how the city's leaders could be so lax.

In 1960, a group of 61 Anaheim business leaders organized to determine what they could do to make the city a year-round tourist destination. Calling themselves the Anaheim Visitor and Convention Bureau, their goal was to capitalize on Disneyland's success and their solution was to build a Convention Center.

 

The Phoenix Club

World War II was a difficult time for German-Americans across the country. It was especially hard on residents of Anaheim, a city founded by Germans.

Anaheim's rich cultural heritage and traditions were minimized so as not to give outsiders the impression of the town being sympathetic to the Nazi

movement. German language books were discreetly removed from the libraries' shelves. Maps of the homeland were taken out of school geography rooms. Even the bells at Bethel Baptist Church were temporarily stopped from ringing lest they be interpreted as sending out coded messages.

In 1960, fifteen people got together to form an organization that would attempt to restore relations in the community and work to preserve their language and customs. That small group called themselves "the Phoenix Club," after the mythological bird that rose up from the ashes to live again.

Many native Germans soon flocked to the club, trying to preserve their ethnic heritage. The club became a popular haven for people of German descent for the next 30 years, with membership steadily growing to a high of 3,000 families.

In 1990, the club relocated from its original site to make way for the construction of Anaheim Arena. Today, it continues to thrive on a site just north of the original building. It still retains its original goal of preserving the German heritage and contributions to Anaheim. Activities are held year-round, but the most popular is "Oktoberfest." Oohm-pah bands play traditional polkas while folk dancers stomp to the music in the grand ballroom. Onlookers still dine on bratwurst, pretzels, Bavarian pastries and, of course, German beer.

Though many cities have lost touch with their origins, the Phoenix Club continues to keep Anaheim's German heritage alive.

Batter Up!

Anaheim's love of baseball extends back to the late 1800s when the city sponsored its own team. Baseball at a local level remained popular until the 1920s, when the rise of the Ku Klux Klan divided the city, causing dissension between factions in Anaheim. Residents soon drove the Klan into the shadows, and city fathers, looking to heal the wounds of racism, formed a baseball league to help heal the rift. The games proved popular, regularly attracting up to 5,000 people to watch the contests at City Park.

In the late 1930s and 1940s, some of the professional teams from the East used Southern California for their spring training camps. The Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs used facilities in San Bernardino and Catalina Island, respectively. The White Sox trained in Pasadena.

A group of fans in Anaheim persuaded the Philadelphia Athletics, led by the venerable Connie Mack, to spend their spring in the city. And in 1939, Anaheim completed construction of a new stadium in La Palma Park, which the Athletics used as their spring training base.

The Athletics invaded the city, using the Angelina Hotel as their camp headquarters. The Pickwick and Valencia Hotels also provided lodging.

But the start of World War II restricted movement throughout America, and Mack and the Athletics were forced to cancel their spring training in Anaheim after 1941.

The Athletics attempted to come back to Anaheim after the war, but a shortage of hotel rooms and housing forced them to make plans elsewhere.

Original Anaheim Convention Center
The Anaheim Convention Center proved to be an instant success when it opened in 1967. Anaheim opened a new market in the convention industry: the family-oriented conventioneer.
(Courtesy of Anaheim Public Information.)

Convention industry insiders were skeptical of the plan. They questioned whether a family oriented convention center would survive at a time when most convention-goers were middle-aged men interested in getting away for a few days to places like Chicago and Las Vegas. If the Anaheim facility were to succeed, it would have to tap into a market many in the industry did not believe existed.

Much as they had gambled on the success of Disneyland a decade before, city leaders took the giant step and committed $15 million to the construction of the Anaheim Convention Center. The original boasted of 400,000 square feet, including a 9,100-seat arena, when it opened in July 1967. That year, the center hosted 45,000 delegates and had to turn away many more for lack of adequate space. Twenty years later, the facility attracted almost 6 million guests and was still turning away business. Once again, the city's gamble had paid off.

But the Convention Center wasn't the only major development that defined Anaheim in the 1960's. Down Katella Avenue, a singing cowboy was preparing to carve out his niche in Anaheim as well.

Gene Autry had been awarded the American Baseball League's Los Angeles franchise at the league's 1960 winter meetings. He had originally wanted only the broadcast rights to the expansion team, but when no one came forward to bid, Autry decided to make a bid of his own. The team would become the showpiece for his radio station KMPC.

An agreement was struck that allowed the Los Angles Angeles to play their first two seasons in Wrigley Stadium, then rent Dodger Stadium when it was complete. Difficulties arose in drawing crowds, first to the small Wrigley field then to the shared Dodger facility. The tenant agreement with the Dodgers became increasing disadvantageous to the Angels and with the lease up in 1965, Autry make up his mind to move. The Angels would never become the team he dreamed they could as long as they lived in the shadow of the Dodgers.

The ongoing disharmony in Los Angeles was no secret and a procession of no less than a dozen hopeful suitors courted the team, including Long Beach, considered the leading contender for luring the team away. Their proposal offered the team a custom-built stadium, but required that the Angels share the city's name. Autry, a savvy player in the media game, did not believe "Long Beach Angels" sounded like a major league team. When he insisted that the Angels could only be referred to as Los Angeles or California, Long Beach backed down.

Rector L. "Rex" Coons, mayor of Anaheim at the time, was a baseball enthusiast and believed Anaheim would greatly benefit as home to a major league team even if the Angels didn't include Anaheim in their name. The team would spur the establishment of other industries in the area, much like Disneyland had done, he reasoned. And the dateline on all the media stories originating out of the park would bring the city sufficient notoriety. The Angels would be another attraction in Anaheim and encourage visitors to extend their stays. The true benefit of having the team in the city could not be measured in some bottom line figure.

Coons knew Anaheim had an inside contact with the Angels because Walt Disney sat on the Angel's Advisory Board. If Anaheim could put together a respectable offer, Disney would go to bat for them.

The mayor conducted secret negotiations with the Angels to avoid speculators driving up the price of possible stadium sites. Coons worked with City Manger Keith Murdoch to locate an appropriate parcel of land and, only days before the formal presentation to the Angels, settled on a site near the Santa Ana River, a short distance down Katella Avenue from the Convention Center.

On April 9, 1964, the Angels announced their move to Anaheim for the start of the 1966 season in a brand new stadium. Four construction bids were submitted to the city, but only one could guarantee that Anaheim Stadium would be completed on time. The $24 million contract was awarded to Del Webb's construction company, a firm which had worked on the Convention Center.

On the unseasonably overcast morning of August 31, 1964, some 4,000 people, including L.A. television crews, residents and local dignitaries attended the groundbreaking ceremony, held down a dirt road through an orange grove on a small newly-cleared strip of corn field.

Anaheim had joined the big leagues.

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The 1970's
Crossroads

The boom period of the 1960's brought industries West to find economic prosperity on the shores of the Pacific. Workers came by the thousands, lured by the promise of jobs, abundant affordable housing and inviting weather. While other states' populations remained static during the '60's, California continue to thrive.

 Pearson Park - 1960

The Pearson Park lagoon has long been a favorite spot in the city. The name of the park changed from City Park to Pearson Park in 1960 to honor Anaheim's longtime mayor.
(Courtesy of Anaheim Public Information.)

Anaheim's rapid growth had changed the very shape of the city.

The city continued to expand, but rampant development over the previous two decades now meant that east was the only direction left to go. An attempt to annex Yorba Linda was abandoned and attention turned to developing an "industrial corridor" stretching along the Santa Ana River and the newly built Riverside Freeway.

The corridor extended along the base of Anaheim Hills, a new master-planned community beginning to take shape to the east. Interest in the development of this primarily rural area mounted as the business parks of the industrial corridor below filled with tenants. City planners saw development of the Hills as a natural extension of the expanding business community, providing a burgeoning workforce with nearby housing.

As the shape of the city took a uniquely elongated form, other changes were also becoming apparent -- the city's founding agricultural base was giving way to more profitable ventures. Land in Anaheim had increased in value tenfold since Disneyland first opened its gates and by 1975, many landowners found their parcels could be sold for far more than they could hope to profit through farming. Skyrocketing land values prompted area farmers to eagerly sell their land for top dollar to developers, allowing both to cash in on the bonanza. The orange groves which gave the county its name decades earlier were fast becoming scarce.

The striking contrasts between the old and new ways of life in Anaheim became more obvious, most evident and hard-felt in the downtown business district. Like the Main Street commercial areas in most Orange County cities, Anaheim's center of business and community life was being replaced by the shopping mall. The opening of Anaheim Plaza in 1955 signaled the beginning of a shift away from Center Street.

Osmond Brothers in Anaheim - 1972 

The Osmond Brothers perform before 30,000 fans at the Anaheim Stadium on September 8, 1972. An estimated 95 percent of the crowd is mothers and daughters. The concert proves so popular that in the following weeks, requests will flood in asking for similar family-oriented entertainment
(Courtesy of Anaheim Public Information.)

By the 1970's Center Street was showing signs of real distress. The gradual flight of customers from the district forced many businesses into crisis. After years of an eroding customer base, some simply had neither the means to move or to continue. Vacancy signs went up in downtown storefronts. Two adult businesses moved in and the physical condition of many structures deteriorated. Vandalism of vacant buildings increased. People and new businesses found few reasons to venture into downtown, once the vital hub of community activity.

To combat the deterioration, City officials devised a six-stage plan to restore the once- thriving area.

The first step, Project Alpha concentrated on two strategic areas. One was 200 acres of downtown land bordered by North, South, East and West streets. These avenues marked the original gateways into the 1857 settlers' colony and served as the original city borders. The second Project Alpha target included 2,200 acres in the industrial corridor. It was land the city had been eager to develop for some time, but could not do so without financial backing.

In an effort to find more revenues to aid in the community's revitalization, attention turned to improving Anaheim Stadium's profitability. The Angels' home games guaranteed 81 dates a year. The stadium's vacancy during off-season and Angel road trips presented officials with innovative and interesting ideas.

Already, appearances by Bob Hope's U.S.O. Road Tour and a Billy Graham Crusade had proved successful, indicating that Orange County could support large scale entertainment and other venues across the country were attempting to tap into the growing popularity of rock music. Anaheim Stadium's first attempt in this area -- a 1970 concert by the British rock group The Who -- was so raucous, however, that the City Council banned further rock concerts in the stadium. Five years later, with more effective security measures in place at the stadium, the Council rescinded its ban. That spring, The Beach Boys, Chicago and a crowd of almost 50,000 celebrated the return of rock and roll to Anaheim.

 Carroll Rosenbloom
"They have so much to offer. What really concerns me is that if we don't come here, somebody else will come here. I know it's a great place and the plan they have to improve it is fabulous."
Carroll Rosenbloom, 1978, Owner, Los Angeles Rams.

Diversifying its activities further, the stadium began hosting motor sports events. These attractions became so popular, there is now an annual series of motor sports events every January at the stadium which continues to draw sellout crowds.

However, even before the stadium was built, plans were underway to secure a professional football team. The city hosted pre-season exhibition games to showcase the venue. An effort to lure the Buffalo Bills appeared to be on the verge of success, then suddenly fell through. Finally, in 1974 the World Football League debuted with a team in Anaheim, and the Southern California Sun drew 30,000 enthusiastic fans to their first game.

The combination of all these events produced something city officials had dreamed of for years. On January 28, 1976, they announced that, for the first time, the stadium had turned a profit. Two years later, a Sports Illustrated survey reported that Anaheim Stadium was the only sports facility in the country to show a profit in the previous year. Critics of the stadium were silenced at last.

But soon thereafter, the World Football League disbanded. The Angels' increasing rise in attendance proved Orange County was willing to support professional sports, but it remained a mystery why other teams couldn't make a go of it at the stadium.

It became clear that for an athletic team to survive, it would need a healthy financial base, a strong organization and membership in a league with proven stability. As it turned out, Anaheim did not have to look far to find the right team -- in fact they only had to look as far as Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Rams were just what Anaheim needed. They complemented the city's image as a family-oriented destination, were financially healthy, had a dedicated following in Southern California and were backed by the status of the National Football League.

Owner Carroll Rosenbloom, one of the most revered men in the league and a man passionate about football, was growing unhappy in Los Angeles. The Rams' home field, the L.A. Coliseum, had been built for the 1932 Olympics and featured few of the amenities of newer, more modern stadiums. Game attendance had peaked in 1973 with just over a half million for the season. Throughout the balance of the 1970's, however, attendance had declined.

At the same time, Anaheim Stadium was receiving accolades in the sports entertainment industry. The city government was registering awards as well for the innovative management techniques that were propelling local growth. Rosenbloom found it difficult to ignore Stadium/Convention Center Manager Tom Leigler's unabashed enthusiasm for "The Anaheim Way." And on July 25, 1978, Anaheim's "can- do" spirit again prevailed and a press conference was called to announce: The Los Angeles Rams were moving to Anaheim.

In typical Anaheim style, work began at a breakneck pace. Plans were formulated for a $33 million expansion to enlarge Anaheim Stadium to 70,500 seats for the 1980 football season. To enclose the stadium, the trademark 23-story, 240-ton Big A had to be moved from its position behind the center field wall to a spot adjacent to the 57 Freeway. On July 17, 1979, the Big A was hoisted onto giant rollers and moved 1300 feet over the course of three days.

Tragically, Carroll Rosenbloom died in a swimming accident in early 1980. Anaheim had a new football team, but without the man who was instrumental in making the move from Los Angeles.

The rest of the community was changing as well.

In 1970, the first home of the Anaheim Arts Association was established through an agreement between the local arts community, the city and the Anaheim School District. New building codes for schools had forced the district to close Horace Mann Elementary school on Harbor Boulevard. The school district leased the land to the city, which in turn leased it to the Arts Association for one dollar a year.

Renovating the school drew residents and volunteers together and resulted in a tight- knit arts community. More importantly, the opening of the new Anaheim Cultural Arts Center sparked a creative renaissance in the city.

The Center provided a central showcase for arts in Anaheim, prompting an interest in the creative arts that the center could not even contain. Soon, large shows had to be held outdoors in scenic Pearson Park.

In the latter part of the decade, the Peppertree Faire was created as a commercial showcase for Anaheim's passion for arts and crafts. The "Tree" was located in the old Harmony Park Ballroom, east of downtown along the railroad tracks, in a building with a rich creative tradition dating back a century.

In 1976, Mito, Japan became Anaheim's Sister City, a program which provided cities of different nations a forum to share ideas and exchange information. Both Mito and Anaheim were comparable in size and population and both were tourist-oriented towns with major theme parks within city limits.

What's in a Name

Anaheim - "Ana" refers to the Santa Ana River and "heim" is the German word for home. The city's early pioneers considered this location to be their "home by the river."

Glover Stadium in La Palma Park is named for Dick Glover, who worked for the Anaheim Union High School District for 40 years.

Yorba Regional Park was dedicated in 1976 and named for the first European family to settle in Orange County. Jose Antonio Yorba was part of Portola's expedition across California in the 1700s. Enchanted by the land, he returned in 1810 to settle with his family.

Pearson Park is named for Charles A. Pearson, mayor from 1945 to 1959.

The Town Center Shopping Center at the southwest corner of Lincoln Avenue and Anaheim Boulevard is the exact center of the original German colony. North, South, East and West streets mark the outer boundaries of the town set by George Hansen in 1857.

Dee Field in Glover Stadium is named in honor of the groundskeeper who maintained the fields there for 40 years.

Pacifico Street -- Named after Don Pacifico Ontiveros, who sold the land on which the colony was built to Anaheim pioneer George Hansen.

Gene Autry Way -- The street that leads into the stadium's main gate was changed from Pacifico Street in 1991 to honor the man who introduced professional sports to Orange County.

Gypsum Canyon Road -- The only active mine in Anaheim is located here. Gypsum is a substance used in making plaster of paris.

Coal Canyon Road -- Named for the Black Star coal mine. The mine provided coal to the trains that passed through the depot in the 1800s.

Streets and alleys in Anaheim were not owned by the city until 1951. The Los Angeles Vineyard Society deeded them to the Anaheim Water Company in 1860. The early farmers considered water a higher priority than roads.

As the decade drew to a close, the opportunities of the next came alive. Construction of a new Civic Center was slated to kick off the building phase of Project Alpha in the downtown. Leo Freedman talked of his idea to build a new performing arts theater next door. Demand for additional space at the Convention Center initiated plans for yet another expansion. The city had lured the Rams to the greener pastures of the stadium. The Angels had reached a milestone, playing in the American League Championship for the first time in 1979. The stadium's seating capacity would soon reach more than 70,000.

The lessons of the 1950's and '60's had been learned and the knowledge gained from this history had driven the mammoth projects of the 1970's and prepare the city for new challenges in the '80's.

 Disneyland Celebrates 30 Years

More than 1 million balloons took to the skies of Anaheim at Skyfest, Anaheim's celebration in honor of Disneyland's 30th anniversary on the birth date of Walt Disney, December 5, 1985. The release nearly tripled the previous record and is featured in the Guiness Book of World Records.
(Courtesy of Anaheim Public Information.)

By the mid-1970's, concerns about the City Hall building grew urgent. Two separate engineering firms were commissioned to determine the 50-year old building's safety. The structure's electrical wiring, sufficient in the 1920's when the only office appliances were light bulb and electric fans, could not handle the modern office environment which included air conditioners, computers and complicated office machines. When portions of walls were removed for inspectors, they found frayed wires in many places. The studies noted that it was amazing the building had not burned to the ground.

To complicate matters, the building was also declared seismologically unsafe. A strong temblor could turn the structure to rubble. When the studies were made public, a number of city employees who worked in the building requested transfers to other city departments to avoid the imminent danger.

The studies also helped energize community support and in March, 1978, ground was finally broken on a new seven-story civic center, financed on a-pay-as-you-go basis with redevelopment funds. The new City Hall opened in 1980, signaling the beginning of the rebirth of downtown.

Palm Lane Fire of 1982 
The Palm Lane Fire of 1982 proved to be one of the worst disasters in city history. Downed electrical lines sparked flames that were immediately fanned by fierce Santa Ana winds. One square block of apartment complexes burned to the ground.
(Courtesy of Anaheim Public Information.)

The 1980's Maturity

Entering the 1980's, Anaheim had become a major city and tourist destination, its tremendous rate of growth fueled by its many notable successes. The growth, however, continued to present many challenges.

The most apparent was City Hall. Built in 1923 to serve a population of 6,000, the building was now servicing a city of 220,000. Some 2000 people worked for the city and the terrible space constraints had forced city departments to gradually disperse to various locations around the downtown area. Anaheim residents found it increasingly difficult to access city services.

The need for more adequate facilities, recognized as early as 1950, became even more apparent during the period of unbridled growth in the '60's. Bond issues were continuously placed on the ballot, but time after time, each was met with defeat.

 1989 All Star Game

A capacity crowd fills Anaheim Stadium to witness the 1989 All-Star Game, highlighted by a towering home run to center field by Kansas City Royals star Bo Jackson. It was the second time Anaheim played host to the exhibition. The first was in 1967, the year after the stadium opened.
(Courtesy of Anaheim Stadium.)

Although subsequent improvements and growth in the downtown area would remain elusive for the next several years, the foundation had been laid for a central city renaissance.

The redevelopment agency's persistence finally paid dividends in the late 1980's when ground was broken for a new Pacific Bell facility that would bring nearly 1,000 employees back to downtown, energizing the local economy and spurring redevelopment that would carry into the 1990's.

The decade also saw expansion of the Convention Center in an effort to retain Anaheim's lead as a front-runner in the convention trade show industry.