This post is about the Dr. Howe-Waffle House and Medical Museum in Santa Ana, CA. I had seen advertised that the Santa Ana Preservation Society was going to be hosting a Gatsby Lawn Party at this location, so of course, I had to attend. The house, built in 1889 (the year Orange County became a county) was decked out in true 1920s fashion, complete with docents dressed in period piece costumes. I was able to tour the house, which they had fashioned into F. Scott Fitzgerald’s abode for the day.
The house was the home of the first female physician in Orange County: Dr. Willella Howe-Waffle, whose practice involved delivering babies and treating the sick. She and her husband, Alvin Howe, had the house built as a place to raise children and as a place to perform her medical treatments. The Queen Anne style Victorian home has many rooms including two parlors, dining rooms, a small kitchen, and a covered patio. Upstairs are bedrooms, sunrooms, servants quarters, and more. The Preservation Society set out authentic clothing from the 1920s to represent Fitzgerald’s time period and even had an actor playing Fitzgerald himself. Downstairs, his typewriter was set up as he wrote the first two chapters of The Great Gatsby.
The two part tour was fascinating because we got to learn about Dr. Howe-Waffle herself as well as learn about Fitzgerald’s influences from the Jazz Age. I would say that the Lost Generation era was my favorite literary movement and historic time period, so to have guests and docents alike dressed as dapper men and flapper ladies was really exciting.
Once the tour of the house ended, we were shown to the gazebo and lawn for croquet and refreshments. Refreshments included iced tea and mint juleps and, since it was the time of the prohibition, if you could hunt down a man with a flask, he’d give you a shot of bourbon in your drink. Just don’t let anyone see…
After I had a mint julep and a cookie, we were on our way to the Downtown Landmark Architectural Tour of Santa Ana, led by one of the members of the Preservation Society. We started at the Howe-Waffle House and soon went across the street to the Old Orange County Courthouse, a sandstone and granite structure built in 1901 that has been featured in Legally Blonde, American Horror Story, and many other productions. It now stands as a restored landmark reminiscent of the early days of Orange County law.
We walked along city streets and our tour guide pointed out other locations of value. Most buildings are now banks or stores but were originally department stores, movie theaters, or other old businesses. We also toured the Artists Village, home to many galleries and restaurants and downtown hot spots. One of my favorite traits of these old buildings is the glass tile on the ground near the entrances. These glass tiles provided natural light to the basements of the buildings. And these basements were the sites of speakeasies back in the day! Pretty cool.
From medical museum, to Gatsby-themed parties, to old time landmarks and structures, it was a day packed with history and I recommend visiting historic downtown Santa Ana. Be sure to check out the photos!
I could have gone many directions with the story of this place. Jazz Age, historic buildings, or female doctor? I decided on female doctor, and you can read it here.