Irvine Historical Museum

This 1877 building holds the story of Irvine

by ELLEN BELL

Ellen Bell, president of the Irvine Historical Society
Ellen Bell, president of the Irvine Historical Society

Although it may seem out of place nestled next to the Rancho San Joaquin Golf Course, the Irvine Historical Museum is the most historic spot in the city; not merely for the artifacts inside, but for the actual building itself.

The museum is part of the original ranch house that James Irvine commissioned in 1867. The current building was added in 1877, more than 140 years ago.

When James Irvine had the little house built, there was no sign of civilization for miles. In fact, it was one of the few wooden structures between Anaheim and San Diego. In 1868, James Irvine wrote that the house cost more than $1,000 to build and that he was sending furniture “so that we would be quite comfortable when we go down there.”

James Irvine lived in San Francisco, but would stay at the house during his visits. In 1876, Irvine moved the headquarters closer to the stagecoach line at Tustin City. Today, the Katie Wheeler Public Library, located at Jamboree Rd. and Irvine Blvd., is an exact replica of this Irvine family home.

The first house became the Irvine Ranch cattle headquarters before it was torn down in 1961. The current Irvine Historical Museum building remained and became a golfer’s cantina.

In 1977, the Irvine Historical Society was formed and began to search for a museum location. The group rented space until 2001, when the old ranch house building was donated to the historical society by Irvine Company.

Today, James Irvine’s first ranch house is open every Tuesday and Sunday afternoon for those who wish to see a glimpse of what life was like on the old Irvine Ranch. The Irvine Historical Society also hosts a “Let’s Talk History” open house every third Sunday of the month from 3–5 p.m.

The Irvine Historical Museum
5 San Joaquin, Irvine
949-786-4112
IrvineHistory.org
Open 1–4 p.m. Tue. & Sun., or by appointment