Artist-Historian Turns to City of Orange Architecture


In 1987, Karen Wilson Turnbull wrote and illustrated “The Cottages and Castles of Laguna,” a large-format paperback book featuring 80 pen-and-ink drawings of Laguna’s melange of architectural styles.

The Laguna Beach artist-historian followed that up with “The Rustic Charm of Old Orange County,” a 1988 book of drawings and descriptions of Orange County’s remaining “old buildings and places.”

And now Turnbull is out with “A Place Called Home: Orange’s Architectural Legacy,” co-authored by Orange historian Phil Brigandi.

Like her previous two paperback books, the new one was published by Turnbull herself.


“So I guess,” she says with a laugh, “I’m sort of a cottage industry now.”

“A Place Called Home” features 70 detailed pen-and-ink drawings of houses and other structures built between 1874 and World War II. (Included are three commercial buildings and two churches.) The architectural styles include everything from Victorian and Mediterranean to Craftsman and Italianate. The book’s text, written by Brigandi, provides a brief history of each structure.

When Turnbull was casting about for her next book project two years ago, Orange seemed the most logical choice.

“It’s the only city left in Orange County, besides San Juan Capistrano, that has a historic district where the old houses haven’t been bulldozed,” said Turnbull, 40.


“A Place Called Home,” Turnbull said, “is very much a celebration of Orange’s old architecture.”

In contrast to Laguna, where her book was intended to make people aware of the city’s historic architecture, she said, “In Orange, the awareness is there.” Despite that appreciation of the city’s past, she added, “nothing had ever been done before on the homes. We just thought it really needed to be done.”

Turnbull contacted Brigandi, who has written three Orange history books, in early 1989.

“I had thought of doing a book on the downtown business buildings, but never on the houses,” said Brigandi, 31, who has since moved from Orange to Hemet where he serves as museum curator for the Ramona Pageant Assn.


Brigandi quickly agreed to collaborate.

“This was a good year-and-a-half-long project,” he said, adding: “It was basically done on a handshake the way these things should be.”

Turnbull and Brigandi together selected the houses and buildings featured in the book and then, while Brigandi began researching the history of each house, Turnbull began drawing.

The fourth-generation Lagunan, who lives in a rented, 63-year-old beach house above Paradise Cove, worked from enlarged black and white photographs that she took of each house. Each drawing took her several days because, the mother of two said, “I can only work late in the evening when the children are asleep.”


Brigandi said he and Turnbull never intended “A Place Called Home” to be a chronicle of the “top” 70 historic houses in Orange. Instead, he said, their goal was “to make people aware of the historical richness that surrounds them.”

So instead of just focusing on houses in the city’s historic downtown district, they took a much broader sweep: They included houses in one-time separate residential areas such as Olive, El Modena, McPherson and West Orange, which have since been swallowed up by the City of Orange. They also put in a street map showing the locations of the houses featured in the book.

The earliest home is “the Shaffer House” at 221 N. Orange St. Built in 1874, it is also the oldest surviving building in Orange.

“It’s been totally added onto and changed over the years,” Brigandi said. “But I like to joke that it has additions on it that are older than many of the historic houses in town.”


Brigandi said they also included a vintage 1880 drawing of the Shaffer House, “so you can see what it looked like when it was intact.”

“A Place Called Home” ($15) is available at Watson Drug in Orange’s downtown plaza, 116 E. Chapman Ave. It also can be purchased by writing to Phil Brigandi, 675 S. San Jacinto, No. 2, Hemet, Calif. 92343. (Include an additional $1.50 for postage and handling.)

Bilingual Cookbook: Sarah Bruck of Newport Beach and Norma Soleno-DeVaney of Orange have co-authored what they believe is the first comprehensive bilingual (Spanish-English) cookbook.

The book, “Cooking Maid Easy,” is designed to help bridge the communication gap in the kitchen that affects women who rely on Spanish-speaking housekeepers.


Included in the three-ring-binder cookbook are 100 recipes of “classic family fare,” ranging from Oven Fried Chicken (Pollo Frito al Horno) to Apple Pie (Pastel de Manzana) .

Says Soleno-DeVaney, a certified public accountant who was born in Baja California: “No recipe has more than six steps, all dishes appeal to both adults and children, and ingredients can easily be found in the cupboard or local supermarket.”

The idea for the book came from what she and Bruck say is a growing need for bilingual domestic instruction.

“Because we both speak fluent Spanish, many of our friends have relied on us to provide Spanish translations for housekeeping tasks,” says Bruck, an attorney. “And while bilingual literature for housekeeping tasks is available, two extremely neglected areas for bilingual communications are the kitchen and the nursery.”


“Cooking Maid Easy” ($30) is available in fine gift and cookware stores and by mail order. For more information, call (714) 644-2404.