Destination Main Streets

Orange, California

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Old Towne Orange Historic District is a unique area in Orange County, California in that its downtown was largely preserved allowing future generations to enjoy its historic architecture. This includes commercial and residential buildings that date back to the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. The City of Orange was founded around a large traffic circle known by the locals as Orange Plaza or Orange Plaza Square (the road forms a circle but the buildings form a square). Although Orange County is usually known for its suburban sprawl, corporate parks, amusement parks, and beach towns, Old Towne Orange has a quaint charm to it, almost like being back in Mayberry. Here you'll find the county's oldest soda fountain operating since 1899. Also the town is known for its numerous antique shops. Some of these have closed over the years but have been replaced with trendy restaurants.

Old Towne Orange is located in the City of Orange, which is located in Orange County, California, a suburb of Los Angeles, California. Orange is about 33 miles from Los Angeles, California and 92 miles from San Diego, California. Shops, restaurants, and other businesses can be found on Glassell Street, which runs north and south and Chapman Avenue, which runs east and west. The two streets intersect at Orange Plaza Square, which is the heart of the historic district, so if you set your GPS for this you will find the area. Also, two Metrolink commuter lines stop at the Orange Station, a short walk just west of the historic district. These are the Orange County Line and the Inland Empire Line. Other Main Street communities in Orange County include Seal Beach, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, San Clemente and Balboa Island on Newport Beach all along the coast.

Photo Gallery Tour

We'll start our tour of Orange, California on the northern edge of its Old Towne District as its downtown is known.  This is a view of Glassell Street.  Orange's business district is centered along Glassell Street and Chapman Avenue, which intersect in a traffic circle known as the Orange Plaza.
We'll start our tour of Orange, California on the northern edge of its Old Towne District as its downtown is known. This is a view of Glassell Street. Orange's business district is centered along Glassell Street and Chapman Avenue, which intersect in a traffic circle known as the Orange Plaza.
Historic houses line Glassell Street.  The City of Orange has the largest National Register District in the state of California.  Whereas many cities in southern California tore down late nineteenth and early twentieth century buildings and homes, Orange was unique in that it preserved many of them.
Historic houses line Glassell Street. The City of Orange has the largest National Register District in the state of California. Whereas many cities in southern California tore down late nineteenth and early twentieth century buildings and homes, Orange was unique in that it preserved many of them.
Some more shops and restaurants and even some quirky graffiti on a light post along Glassell Street.  We're heading south along Glassell Street as we head towards the Orange Plaza.  Glassell Avenue along with the other main artery, Chapman Avenue, were named after the town founders, Los Angeles lawyers, Alfred Chapman and Andrew Glassell.
Some more shops and restaurants and even some quirky graffiti on a light post along Glassell Street. We're heading south along Glassell Street as we head towards the Orange Plaza. Glassell Avenue along with the other main artery, Chapman Avenue, were named after the town founders, Los Angeles lawyers, Alfred Chapman and Andrew Glassell.
We make it down to the corner of Glassell Street and Maple Avenue.  Umbrellas block out the sun for folks sitting in front of the restaurant.  The City of Orange shares a name with its home county the County of Orange but the two should not be confused with one another.
We make it down to the corner of Glassell Street and Maple Avenue. Umbrellas block out the sun for folks sitting in front of the restaurant. The City of Orange shares a name with its home county the County of Orange but the two should not be confused with one another.
This was originally the Orange Theatre, which opened in 1929.  It was successful for many years until closing in the 1970s.  There were plans to reopen it as a porn theater when a church stepped in to buy it and reopen it as the Son Light Christian Center.  They have remained ever since.
This was originally the Orange Theatre, which opened in 1929. It was successful for many years until closing in the 1970s. There were plans to reopen it as a porn theater when a church stepped in to buy it and reopen it as the Son Light Christian Center. They have remained ever since.
We see more shops as we head south along Glassell Street, including funky shops like comic book stores.  Many stores in Orange appeal to a college crowd since nearby Chapman University is within walking distance.
We see more shops as we head south along Glassell Street, including funky shops like comic book stores. Many stores in Orange appeal to a college crowd since nearby Chapman University is within walking distance.
Across the street, we see boutiques, restaurants featuring a wide array of cuisines, and antique stores.  Old Towne Orange is known for its antique shopping.
Across the street, we see boutiques, restaurants featuring a wide array of cuisines, and antique stores. Old Towne Orange is known for its antique shopping.
Here is a pretty good example of the type of shops you'll see throughout Old Towne Orange, including antique stores, and boutiques.  There's even a record shop and a candy shop.
Here is a pretty good example of the type of shops you'll see throughout Old Towne Orange, including antique stores, and boutiques. There's even a record shop and a candy shop.
Next up, we come across a burger joint and next door to that a specialty market and gastropub with a tasting room.
Next up, we come across a burger joint and next door to that a specialty market and gastropub with a tasting room.
Some more shops along Glassell Street, including an antiques store and a toy store.
Some more shops along Glassell Street, including an antiques store and a toy store.
More shops in these historic buildings, including a gift shop selling American Indian arts & crafts.
More shops in these historic buildings, including a gift shop selling American Indian arts & crafts.
This historic antique shop has an elaborate front to it with some intricate woodworking details.
This historic antique shop has an elaborate front to it with some intricate woodworking details.
We finally reach Orange Plaza where Glassell Street and Chapman Avenue meet.  The Plaza has a nice park-like feel to it.  Sometimes the city is known as the Circle City or The Plaza City.
We finally reach Orange Plaza where Glassell Street and Chapman Avenue meet. The Plaza has a nice park-like feel to it. Sometimes the city is known as the Circle City or The Plaza City.
This is a unique location for a Starbucks.  It occupies the first bank in Orange.  According to the plague, the original name was the Bank of Orange and it dates back to 1886.  Many locals refer to the Orange Circle as the Orange Plaza Square.  This Starbucks occupies the northeast corner of the "square" and if you think about it, it's the buildings that give it the square shape.
This is a unique location for a Starbucks. It occupies the first bank in Orange. According to the plague, the original name was the Bank of Orange and it dates back to 1886. Many locals refer to the Orange Circle as the Orange Plaza Square. This Starbucks occupies the northeast corner of the "square" and if you think about it, it's the buildings that give it the square shape.
We'll circle around the Orange Circle in a clockwise fashion and head east out onto Chapman Avenue.  This is Watson's Soda Fountain & Cafe.  It orginally opened on Glassell Street in 1899 before moving to its present location on Chapman Avenue.  Over the years several movies have been filmed here.
We'll circle around the Orange Circle in a clockwise fashion and head east out onto Chapman Avenue. This is Watson's Soda Fountain & Cafe. It orginally opened on Glassell Street in 1899 before moving to its present location on Chapman Avenue. Over the years several movies have been filmed here.
Ahead we can see more shops, including the Chapman Antiques Mall, which is now closed.  Many antique stores in Orange have closed in recent years but have been replaced with restaurants.  The building was constructed in 1925 for the International Order of Odd Fellows.  The Orange Elks have occupied the building since 1935.
Ahead we can see more shops, including the Chapman Antiques Mall, which is now closed. Many antique stores in Orange have closed in recent years but have been replaced with restaurants. The building was constructed in 1925 for the International Order of Odd Fellows. The Orange Elks have occupied the building since 1935.
More shops and historic buildings at the intersection of Chapman Avenue and Orange Street.
More shops and historic buildings at the intersection of Chapman Avenue and Orange Street.
Here is a view looking further east down Chapman Avenue.  In the distance, you can see the Santa Ana Mountains.  This is our farthest extent east.  We'll turn back around now to the Orange Plaza and continue our tour from there.
Here is a view looking further east down Chapman Avenue. In the distance, you can see the Santa Ana Mountains. This is our farthest extent east. We'll turn back around now to the Orange Plaza and continue our tour from there.
And here we are, back at the Orange Plaza.  You can see the fountain in the middle of the nicely landscaped park.
And here we are, back at the Orange Plaza. You can see the fountain in the middle of the nicely landscaped park.
We continue our clockwise trip around the Orange Plaza.  Here we see a cafe with some outdoor seating.
We continue our clockwise trip around the Orange Plaza. Here we see a cafe with some outdoor seating.
Now we make it to the southern side of the Orange Plaza where it meets Glassell Street.  From this point we'll head down Glassell Street again.
Now we make it to the southern side of the Orange Plaza where it meets Glassell Street. From this point we'll head down Glassell Street again.
Traveling down Glassell Street, we find boutiques, jewelry stores, and cafes.
Traveling down Glassell Street, we find boutiques, jewelry stores, and cafes.
More restaurants, a florist, an antique store, and something unique to Orange, a Parisian themed tea room.
More restaurants, a florist, an antique store, and something unique to Orange, a Parisian themed tea room.
This is known as the Ehlen & Grote Company Block, built circa 1909 and was occupied by a dry goods store for many years.  Notice the painted mural on the brick wall on the left side of the picture.  Today an antique mall occupies much of the retail space.
This is known as the Ehlen & Grote Company Block, built circa 1909 and was occupied by a dry goods store for many years. Notice the painted mural on the brick wall on the left side of the picture. Today an antique mall occupies much of the retail space.
More boutique shops along Glassell Street in the Old Towne Orange historic district.
More boutique shops along Glassell Street in the Old Towne Orange historic district.
Several large antique stores along Glassell Street in Old Towne Orange, California.
Several large antique stores along Glassell Street in Old Towne Orange, California.
An antiques store, a coffee shop, and a gastropub, on Glassell Street in downtown Orange, California.
An antiques store, a coffee shop, and a gastropub, on Glassell Street in downtown Orange, California.
This is the corner of Glassell Street and Almond Avenue.  This building was originally known as the Orange County Fruit Exchange and was built in 1922.  It eventually became the Sunkist Fruit Exchange Building.  As Orange County's economy grew more diversified away from agriculture the building eventually became an art gallery.
This is the corner of Glassell Street and Almond Avenue. This building was originally known as the Orange County Fruit Exchange and was built in 1922. It eventually became the Sunkist Fruit Exchange Building. As Orange County's economy grew more diversified away from agriculture the building eventually became an art gallery.
We reach the southern point of our tour before turning back to the center of town.  Here, we see a sign welcoming folks to the Orange Plaza Historic District.
We reach the southern point of our tour before turning back to the center of town. Here, we see a sign welcoming folks to the Orange Plaza Historic District.
And we are back at the center of town, viewing the Orange Plaza again.  Over the past hundred years, the Plaza has survived attempts at making traffic flow more efficiently through the area, such as replacing the Plaza with a normal lighted intersection.
And we are back at the center of town, viewing the Orange Plaza again. Over the past hundred years, the Plaza has survived attempts at making traffic flow more efficiently through the area, such as replacing the Plaza with a normal lighted intersection.
Let's take a closer look at the heart of the Orange Plaza.  Here we see the fountain with groups gathered around it.  Also we see some folks dressed up in formal wear getting their pictures taken in front of the fountain.
Let's take a closer look at the heart of the Orange Plaza. Here we see the fountain with groups gathered around it. Also we see some folks dressed up in formal wear getting their pictures taken in front of the fountain.
This is a view of the southwest corner of the Orange Plaza Square.  We see cars driving past shops, restaurants, and even offices.
This is a view of the southwest corner of the Orange Plaza Square. We see cars driving past shops, restaurants, and even offices.
This is the second of two Starbucks that we find on the Plaza in Orange, both in ornate historic buildings with storied pasts.  This building once housed the Orange Daily News.  In the sixties the Orange Daily News fell to competition.  The Santa Ana Register grew to be the dominant paper in the county and became the Orange County Register.
This is the second of two Starbucks that we find on the Plaza in Orange, both in ornate historic buildings with storied pasts. This building once housed the Orange Daily News. In the sixties the Orange Daily News fell to competition. The Santa Ana Register grew to be the dominant paper in the county and became the Orange County Register.
Here is a view of the northwest corner of the Orange Plaza Square.  As you can see, businesses here have a Plaza Square street address.
Here is a view of the northwest corner of the Orange Plaza Square. As you can see, businesses here have a Plaza Square street address.
Now we head west down Chapman Avenue.  Here we see various boutiques, antique stores, and restaurants.
Now we head west down Chapman Avenue. Here we see various boutiques, antique stores, and restaurants.
This is an interesting take on a liquor store along Chapman Avenue in Orange, California.
This is an interesting take on a liquor store along Chapman Avenue in Orange, California.
Another antique store as we get to the corner of Chapman Avenue and Olive Street in the Old Towne Orange historic district.
Another antique store as we get to the corner of Chapman Avenue and Olive Street in the Old Towne Orange historic district.
We continue heading west on Chapman Avenue and find this painted ad on a brick wall that is reminiscent of the painted ads from the city's past.  There's also a nod to Orange's agricultural past.
We continue heading west on Chapman Avenue and find this painted ad on a brick wall that is reminiscent of the painted ads from the city's past. There's also a nod to Orange's agricultural past.
Across the street we find outdoor seating at a fish taco place along Chapman Avenue.
Across the street we find outdoor seating at a fish taco place along Chapman Avenue.
As we continue along Chapman Avenue, we find this attractive post office designed in a Spanish Mission style.
As we continue along Chapman Avenue, we find this attractive post office designed in a Spanish Mission style.
As we get further away from the center of town and the Orange Plaza, the area gets a more suburban feel.  Here we see a strip of shops and other businesses along Chapman Avenue.
As we get further away from the center of town and the Orange Plaza, the area gets a more suburban feel. Here we see a strip of shops and other businesses along Chapman Avenue.
It looks like an auto parts store on a busy highway but it still has an historic feel to it so I thought it was interesting.
It looks like an auto parts store on a busy highway but it still has an historic feel to it so I thought it was interesting.
Here we see part of Chapman University.  This building was originally built in 1922 as the California Wire and Cable Co. also known as the Anaconda Wire and Cable Co.  Today it serves as the Chapman University's Digital Media Arts Center.
Here we see part of Chapman University. This building was originally built in 1922 as the California Wire and Cable Co. also known as the Anaconda Wire and Cable Co. Today it serves as the Chapman University's Digital Media Arts Center.
Our last stop on this tour is the nearby Orange Station.  It serves as a stop for two Metrolink commuter lines.  The Orange County Line and the Inland Empire Line.  The station is located at the site of two former Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway combination depots.  The present depot structure was dedicated on May 1, 1938.
Our last stop on this tour is the nearby Orange Station. It serves as a stop for two Metrolink commuter lines. The Orange County Line and the Inland Empire Line. The station is located at the site of two former Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway combination depots. The present depot structure was dedicated on May 1, 1938.

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