BUENA PARK : Little Bit of History Sits Amid Bustle

In 1903, according to city folklore, Andrew W. Whitaker was forced to move from his estate because his wife couldn't bear to live in the country with nothing around but orange groves and dirt roads.

Today, the estate, with its stained-glass windows and inviting front porch, is no longer surrounded by trees and fields, the things Mrs. Whitaker wanted to escape.

Nestled in a corner on Whitaker Avenue, the Victorian home, owned by the brother of Buena Park's founder, now shares a fraction of its original lot with the Bacon House, a small squatter's shack considered to be Buena Park's oldest home. The Santa Ana Freeway is their back yard, and a bar, hotel and a variety of businesses are their neighbors. Eventually, these businesses will be replaced by car dealerships as the city's new auto row develops.

Homeless people have used the grounds of the estate to sleep, eat and sometimes live for days at a time.

Several times, vandals have broken into the homes, smashing windows, kicking in doors and sometimes setting fires.

"Every year or two, they get hit pretty bad," said Chuck Loch, the city's maintainance supervisor who takes care of the estate, purchased in 1965 from its second owners, the Jaynes family. The historical area is sometimes referred to as the Whitaker Jaynes estate.

Loch said that it costs the city about $500 each year to repair damage from vandals. Much of it is senseless, Loch said, referring for example to an incident last summer when the same window was broken two days in a row.

"It's a shame. Some of the things just can't be replaced," Loch said.

Although the city maintains the grounds and structures, the Buena Park Historical Society supplies the house with antiques and gives tours of the estate.

Roberta Knisley, curator of the estate, remembers that a week after she took the job in 1975, nine windows were broken. Now, wire mesh covers the windows. Knisley said the wire was installed after youths threw bricks and cinder blocks through the windows during the summer.

"They broke a hand-painted shade," Knisley said, while showing off the crystal lamp that miraculously escaped harm.

Putting mesh on the windows, installing an alarm system, and removing the picnic tables and sealing off the bottom of the house are some of the safeguards instituted by the Historical Society.

But Knisley and the Historical Society refuse to give up.

"I don't get discouraged, Knisley said. "I just really get angry sometimes."

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