Best Historic Neighborhood Orange County 2009 - French Park
Sure, Floral Park, with its tree-shaded streets, abundant lawns and 600 vintage homes built in the 1920s through '50s, hogs up all the press. But another Santa Ana neighborhood that deserves equal billing is French Park, which was designated a local historic district in 1984 and put on the National Register of Historic Places 15 years after that. Within the 20-square-block residential district northeast of downtown Santa Ana is an architectural historian's dream, with a mix of homes built during the late 1890s and into the 1920s in the Craftsman, Victorian, English Tudor, Colonial Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival styles. Some of Orange County's most prominent citizens called French Park—which was known as Flatiron Park until someone decided to name it after landowner C.E. French—home. Fourplex apartment buildings started being constructed on the few remaining French Park lots around 1910, and in the 1940s, the neighborhoods were inundated with military men who served at Orange County's then-four large military bases. Several of the larger houses were divided into apartments to handle the influx of young men and young families. Unfortunately, this also saw the rise of absentee landlords and the tearing down of great Victorians (including C.E. French's house) for large parking lots, apartment complexes and condominiums. The Dr. Howe-Waffle House was moved out of French Park to Civic Center Drive and Sycamore Street, where it was restored. But other major chunks of French Park fell into disrepair until a restoration-and-preservation movement sprung up in the late l970s. The Historic French Park Association is still humming to this day, and the rest, as they say, is history.