Visit Old Towne and take a look around, and youll see something similar to what people saw a century ago.
Folks out and about, eating, shopping and visiting, or just sitting in Plaza Park, presents a similar picture to what it was like a hundred years ago when people came to town on a Saturday night, says Orange historian Phil Brigandi. In a way, the old timers would feel right at home today.
Though Oranges population has increased nearly a hundredfold from 1,500 in 1888 to 140,000 today, and the city now spans more than 30 miles rather than three, Orange still retains its small town reputation, says Brigandi. Orange has never been in a hurry to be a big city, and I think were the better for it.
As Orange approaches its 125th birthday on April 6th, the fact that Orange Countys third oldest incorporated city has remained true to its roots has a lot to do with how well-preserved the city is today, say Orange Mayor Teresa (Tita) Smith.
Our city was incorporated in 1888, but the first eight city blocks of what was then called Richland, was laid out in 1871 around a central Plaza that in 2013 is still the heart of Orange, she says. Much of our civic pride lies in the fact that we love the rich history of Orange, and unlike most of the original cities in Orange County where they knocked down the earliest buildings, the City of Orange has preserved its first buildings, including the historic Downtown Plaza District.
Orange has never been in a hurry to be a big city, and I think were the better for it.
According to Smith, its no accident that Orange is in excellent shape. Despite the citys advanced age, Orange is holding its own as a premier place to live, work and play, says Smith. From its earliest days, Oranges citizens have taken care of our town by conscious thrift, adaptable reuse of buildings and careful maintenance of roads and waterways.
Much of the credit for preserving downtown, including the business buildings and private homes, should go to the property owners, says Brigandi. Renovating a historic home is a huge challenge thats time consuming and expensive, he says. Doing so takes dedication.
The fact that the City of Orange has embraced its history and except for a few nips and tucks looks good for its age is something to celebrate, says community services director Marie Knight, who is planning the citys April 6th birthday celebration.
Its important that we celebrate the citys history and many milestones, which offers us a chance to reflect on how far weve come and to pay homage to and appreciate the citys history, says Knight, who is planning a big birthday bash that will include live music, carnival-style food like kettle corn, hotdogs and ice cream, a childrens area with inflatables, a marching band and a birthday treat for all attendees.
Were also going to have a contest acknowledging the longest time resident in attendance and unveil our new mascot, says Knight.
Visit CityofOrange.org for more information.
View City of Orange Press Release.
Published in the April 2013 edition of the Old Towne Orange Plaza Review
Written by Julie Bawden-Davis, Photo courtesy of the Orange Public Library and Local History Center
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