DEPRESSION LANDMARKS: WPA BUILDINGS
After the stock market crashed in 1929, Orange County followed the rest of the nation into an economic tailspin. Thousands who came here during the 1920s boom years suddenly found themselves out of work.
But many eventually found meaningful employment through the Works Progress Administration, a New Deal program devised by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. They sewed clothing for the poor, landscaped Irvine Park, repaired the Santiago Creek flood channel, built roads, storm drains and sewage systems. WPA artists decorated public buildings with murals and mosaics. Writers and photographers documented local history.
WPA funding was also used to build many beautiful and functional buildings. Although some have since been razed, several have become local landmarks and are still in use today. Fullerton has the highest concentration of WPA-constructed buildings, all in the ornate Spanish Colonial style.
The following list is subject to some question, since documentation on many WPA buildings has been lost over the years. Readers with information on structures not listed are encouraged to call the Orange County Historical Commission at (714) 834-5560.
Fullerton Police Station: 237 W. Commonwealth St., Fullerton
Dedicated in 1942. The building served as the Fullerton City Hall for 21 years. A mural by WPA artist Helen Lundeberg has been hidden by a false ceiling since 1963, but renovations scheduled for this summer will make it visible again.
Fullerton Museum Center: 301 N. Pomona Ave., Fullerton
Housed the Fullerton Public Library from 1941 to 1971. All original architectural features are intact, including a copper-domed cupola, stained-glass windows and Italian tile inlays.
Fullerton Post Office: 202 E. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton
Opened in 1938. An interior mural depicts local orange groves at harvest time.
Fullerton College Administration, Business Education and North Science buildings: 321 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton.
The Administration Building was constructed in 1938 for $165,420, the Business Education Building in 1937 for $148,778 and the North Science Building in 1939 for $213,193.
Plummer Auditorium, Fullerton High School: 201 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton
Built in 1930. A WPA mural covering one side of the structure has been stuccoed over, but the clock tower, relief facade and glazed tile ornamentation remain intact.
Former 17th Street School Auditorium: 7571 Westminster Blvd., Westminster
The school is now closed, but its 500-seat auditorium is still used by the Westminster Community Services Department. Built in 1940 for $104,063.
Former Santa Ana City Hall: 217 W. Main St., Santa Ana
Four-story structure built in 1935 for $125,000. Served as City Hall from 1935 to 1972. It is now privately owned and leased as office space. Exterior is trimmed in marble and brass. Interior walls and doorways bordered in oak.
Santa Ana High School: 520 W. Walnut St., Santa Ana
The school’s main building, completed in 1936, houses a 1,500-seat auditorium, several classrooms and a library that has been converted into a career center. It has painted scrollwork in one vestibule, high ceilings, and oak-trimmed walls and doorways.
Anaheim High School Gymnasium: 811 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim
Two-unit structure completed in 1939. The original high school was destroyed by an earthquake in 1933. The gymnasium was part of a major reconstruction project financed by several federal and state sources.
W. O. Hart Park: 701 S. Glassell St., Orange
There are two WPA structures here: a Spanish-style pool complex built in 1936 and a band shell completed in 1938.
Sources: Library of Congress; Santa Ana Public Library History Room; city and county agencies