Orange Plaza and Historic District


Old photo of Orange Plaza, 1971. From Orange Library Archives.

The Orange Plaza Historic District, also known as Old Towne Orange, was established in 1886 as the heart of the city of Orange. A roundabout joins Chapman Ave and Glassell St together in the center. The Plaza depicts an old town square, like you’re stepping back in time. People from all over the city gather here to explore Old Towne, get a taste of history, shop and dine. It’s a popular area for filming movies and for college students because of the proximity of Chapman University. Much of the architecture of the Historic District is authentic to its turn-of-the-century style, which adds an old-fashioned vibe to the area. Old Towne is famous for its antique shops and restaurants and is on the National Register of Historic Places in Orange County.

I started my afternoon dining at Watson’s Drug Store and Soda Fountain, which was built in 1899. It’s a cute place with candy, soda lining the walls, and a bar to order your milkshake. All I kept thinking of the whole time was the Back to the Future diner from the 1950s… it’s a slice of life from the past. They were pretty busy in there but we ordered lunch and then bought candy afterwards. I can’t believe it’s been running since before the turn of the century… Pretty cool and authentic.

Orange Plaza, 1888

Orange Plaza, 1888. From Orange Library Archives.

Then I walked the downtown streets, feeling like I was walking down Main Street USA at Disneyland. There are tons of shops, tea rooms and more. We stepped into some antique stores and looked around. I always enjoy looking at antiques. There are so many quirky things: old magazines, clothing, furniture, toys and decorations. And you know it’s weird when the kind of phone you had at home as a kid is now in an antique store! Didn’t see that coming.

I wanted to buy so many of the vintage dresses they had on sale… but they were pretty pricey. It was still fun to look around anyway and feel like you were transported to a another time period with different music, fashion, and ways of life.


Orange Plaza fountain. From Orange Library Archives.

From there, we walked into the center of the roundabout where the old fountain is. Here is a link to a list of movies filmed in the area!

We continued to walk the area and passed Rutabegorz Restaurant and went into a little home converted into a shop called The Dragonfly. They had so many eclectic  things in there from doorknobs to gardening things, key chains to welcome signs.

We saw a typewriter in one of the antique shops and it sparked my curiosity. Who owned that typewriter? When did they own it and who did they write to? Here is the short story about my interpretation of that typewriter’s life. (I thought about writing the story on my own typewriter, but that would just take way too long. Ironic?)

Do you like historic little places? Snapshots of the past? View the pictures and comment your thoughts.


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