James Irvine, the Orange County mega-rancher, didn’t like the price he was getting for his sugar beets, so in 1911 he formed a co-op and built his own sugar factory just outside Santa Ana.
It was the Southern California Sugar Co., a three-story brick edifice designed and built by Dyer Co. of Cincinnati.
The factory became such a notable Santa Ana landmark that picture postcards, above, were printed, sold and proudly mailed to relatives back East.
Orange County had four sugar factories during World War I, when the county was supplying a fifth of the nation’s refined sugar. By 1930, only Santa Ana’s, then owned by Holly Sugar Co., was still operating.
It persisted five more decades, becoming a familiar sight to drivers on the Newport (now Costa Mesa) Freeway. But Holly finally shut down the money-losing factory and sold it in 1983.
Preservationists sued to protect the building as a historic monument but failed. The plant was demolished.
Nowadays the only trace of the old factory is in the Embassy Suites Hotel that succeeded it, right. The building was designed to suggest the sugar factory’s architecture.
The most lasting monument is to the factory’s builder. The company was clever enough to name the factory road after itself and is now enshrined in street and freeway signs proclaiming “Dyer Road.”
OC Then and Now calls, (714) 966-5973; e-mail OCthenandnow@latimes.com.