Downtown Santa Ana Historic Districts

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Downtown Santa Ana Historic Districts (North, Government/Institutional and South, Retail)
Old OC Courthouse 02.jpg
Old Orange County Courthouse
Downtown Santa Ana Historic Districts is located in the Los Angeles metropolitan area
Downtown Santa Ana Historic Districts
Location Roughly bounded by Civic Center Dr., First, Ross, and Spurgeon Sts., Santa Ana, California
Coordinates 33°44′54″N 117°52′5″W / 33.74833°N 117.86806°W / 33.74833; -117.86806Coordinates: 33°44′54″N 117°52′5″W / 33.74833°N 117.86806°W / 33.74833; -117.86806
Area 24.5 acres (9.9 ha)
Built 1877
Architect multiple
Architectural style Late 19th and 20th Century Revivals, Moderne, Mission/Spanish Revival
NRHP Reference # 84000438[1]
Added to NRHP December 19, 1984

The Downtown Santa Ana Historic Districts is a combination of local historic districts that have been listed as one entry in the National Register of Historic Places since 1984. It is a 24.5-acre (9.9 ha) area. Also known as Historic Downtown District in Santa Ana it is roughly bounded by Ross to French streets and First to Civic Center streets. The district is characterized by a number of buildings in the Art Deco style as well as two old movie houses (The West End and the Fox West Coast). Orange County's first Courthouse, now a museum, is also located here on Civic Center and Broadway streets. The Dr. Willella Howe-Waffle House and Medical Museum is also in this area and it is now home to the Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society. The County's first theater, Walker's Theater, was built in 1909 on Main & Second streets adjacent to the old City Hall. Today, the Main Street Studio Lofts now stand where the county's first movie house used to be.

National historic district[edit]

Contributing properties[edit]

The National Register of Historic Places states that the Santa Ana Historical Downtown District is 'roughly bounded' by Civic Center Drive, 1st Street, Ross, & Spurgeon, however, the historic district nomination form does provide a list of contributing properties and detailed maps of the included area. The district consists of two section with a total of 99 buildings that remain from the commercial code of Santa Anna. The buildings date from the late 1870s to the post earthquake reconstructions of 1934. The district is divided into two parts, north and south, due to a break in the historic integrity.[2]


The City of Santa Ana was established in 1869 by William Spurgeon on 74.27 acres (300,600 m2) of land purchased from the old Spanish land grant, Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana. The County of Orange was formed in 1889 by William Spurgeon and James McFadden and Santa Ana was chosen as the county seat of government because of its larger growth as a town over surrounding towns namely Orange. The Old Orange County Courthouse was built in 1901 and thus the town blossomed into the county's main economic and political center. The surrounding old town buildings then became what is now Santa Ana's Historical Downtown.

Downtown Santa Ana Today[edit]

The Historical Downtown can be thought of as being characterized by a northern Institutional region bounded by artist colonies, 'La Cuatro' retail, as well as restaurants filling in the adjacent sections.

The Institutional area contains the Santa Ana Civic Center, which includes the Old Orange County Courthouse, the Ronald Reagan Federal Building, the United States Courthouse, the California Court of Appeal, and various city, county, state and federal facilities.

The restaurant and retail sections have three distinct business districts namely the Artists Village, Calle Cuatro Marketplace the West End and the East End.

In recent years, efforts have been made to revitalize and beautify the Downtown's retail section by continuing to attract new businesses, entrepreneurs, and the creative class looking for a true Southern California urban destination.

The major sections/corridors within the Downtown Santa Ana Historic Districts include:

  • The Artists Village
  • Historic 4th Street
  • Calle Cuatro Marketplace
  • East End
  • The West End
  • The Civic Center/Courthouse District

Artists Village[edit]

The Artists Village is a thriving area of art galleries, studios, creative offices, as well as home to several popular restaurants. Located on Second Street at Broadway, in the heart of historic downtown Santa Ana. The village extends from First Street to Fourth Street, and Bush Street to Birch, surrounding the Second Street Mall between Broadway and Sycamore Street.

Originally proposed in the mid-1980s, the village was meant to revitalize one of Orange County's oldest cities and bring back part of a once-thriving downtown, with dozens of historical buildings, most vacant for years.

Santa Ana City Council with the help of community activist and visionary Don Cribb and Cal State Fullerton Gallery Director Mike McGee originally conceived the Grand Central Art Center in 1994 as the anchor and catalyst for a ten-square block area in the heart of downtown designated as the Artists Village. The subsequent success of the Artists Village has helped spawn a cultural and economic renewal.

In the early 2000s, several live-work loft developments came to the downtown including Main Street Studio Lofts, East Village as well as Artists Village lofts. These artist-centric developments allowed homeowners to experience downtown living while providing them an opportunity to help the flourishing art movement continue to move forward.

Today, the Artists Village is the home to various restaurants, shops, artist galleries, as well as art institutions, including Cal State Fullerton Grand Central Art Center and the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art.

Historic 4th Street "La Calle Cuatro", West End and East End[edit]

4th Street (La Calle Cuatro) (East to West from Grand Ave to Sasser Park) is a historic corridor in Downtown Santa Ana lined with a variety of boutique shops, restaurants, as well as various other retail shops and services that cater to a wide audience and multiple demographics.

The centerpiece of Santa Ana's Historic Downtown Corridor is the Historic 4th Street (Currently known as Calle Cuatro Marketplace). The West End sits across from the Ronald Reagan Building and is lined by lounge cafes, breakfast, lunch and dinner dining, coffee shops, Jewelers, craft brewery's, retail, barber shops, theater and enticing nightlife at The Velvet Lounge. The middle of Calle Cuatro hosts everything from travel to insurance, clothing stores, electronics, sports, shoes, and other needs from baptismal certification, to bridal and banking.The East End destinations includes restaurants such as The Playground (started by former Great Food Truck Race winner Chef Jason Quinn) as well as the refurbished Yost Theater leading the charge, many retailers and restaurateurs have followed suit and have helped this area compete with neighboring destinations including downtown Anaheim and Costa Mesa. The newest refurbished amenity is The Frida Cinema; a two-screen theater converted to an art-house theater showcasing independent film and film related programming, community-building, and education. Special events at the Frida Cinema Include, but are not limited to weekly Sunday matinee's, student films, foreign films, film festivals, and cult classics such as Rocky Horror Picture Show. All of Calle Cuatro from West to East is a pedestrian friendly outdoor mall that markets to both the local community, regional shoppers and traveling tourists. Attracting a wide audience who are looking for a place with vibrant culture, friendly people and artistic soul in the center of Orange County. Calle Cuatro is a place for those who are looking for a real alternative to indoor malls and chain restaurants.

In February 2015, The 4th Street Market opened, introducing an indoor food market to compliment the expanding food scene. Similar to the Grand Central Market in Downtown Los Angeles or the Boston Public Market, the 4th Street Market includes a variety of tenants including Portola Coffee, Electric City Butcher, as well as host an incubator/accelerator kitchen where up-and-coming food producers can utilize the Market's facilities to prepare, package, and sell their goods. The facility also is partnered with Food Centricity, which offers culinary education, acceleration and consulting services.

The West End (Civic Center and Courthouse District)[edit]

The West End (located between Ross Street and Broadway and West 4th Street) is a unique corridor home to many historic buildings and is located directly across the Ronald Reagan Federal Building and United States Courthouse.

Over the past years, this section of the downtown has successfully blossomed into a cultural and entertainment hub for Orange County's LGBT population, with notable LGBT-friendly destinations including Theater Out, VLVT Lounge, as well as the West 4th Street corridor playing host to the annual Orange County Pride Festival.

Located less than a quarter mile away on Civic Center Drive is the Santa Ana Civic Center, home to several institutional City and County buildings including:

  • Santa Ana City Hall (Civic Center Plaza)
  • Santa Ana Civic Center Plaza (Ross, Civic Center, Santa Ana Blvd, Flower)
  • Santa Ana Public Library (Civic Center Dr. & Ross)
  • Santa Ana Transit Terminal - OCTA (Santa Ana Blvd & Ross)
  • Old Orange County Courthouse (Civic Center, Broadway, Sycamore, Santa Ana Blvd.)
  • Orange County Courthouse (Civic Center Plaza)
  • Orange County Public Law Library (Civic Center Plaza)
  • Ronald Reagan Federal Building and United States Courthouse (4th & Broadway)
  • Fourth District Court of Appeals (Civic Center Plaza on the corner of Santa Ana Blvd & Ross)
  • Office of the District Attorney (Near the corner of Ross & Civic Center)
  • Mexican Consulate (Near Civic Center & Broadway intersection)

Events in Downtown Santa Ana[edit]

Thanks in part to its wide diversity, spirit of entrepreneurism, as well as boasting one of the youngest populations in the country (median age of 26.5), Downtown Santa Ana is host to several weekly, monthly and annual events. Some of these events include:

  • 1st Saturday Downtown Art Walk
  • Cinco de Mayo Festival (Annually, on the weekend closest to May 5)
  • Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead (Weekend following Halloween)
  • DTSA Farmers' Market (Sunday mornings)
  • Fiesta Patrias
  • OC Pride Festival
  • Patchwork Craft Fair
  • Santiago Art Walk
  • Sound Downtown
  • The Blading Cup (Every November)

Downtown Santa Ana in the Coming Years[edit]

Officials with The City of Santa Ana have stated that in the coming years they will continue to expand its growth in an effort to compete with adjacent cities looking to capture an audience looking to live in a true downtown setting. Some of these goals include:

  • Attracting High-End/Boutique Hotels to the Downtown
  • Continue to convert old office buildings (Adaptive Reuse) to upscale housing and creative office space
  • Convert parking lots and underutilized properties into ground up residential projects
  • Redevelop the 3rd/Broadway parking structure into a mixed use development (Housing or Hotel)
  • Implement a Street Car connecting the Santa Ana Regional Transportation Center (SARTC) to the Downtown (approved by OCTA and planned to open 2019)
  • One-Broadway Plaza
  • Continue to attract the "Creative Class" as well as more influential players within the tech-industry



External links[edit]