City built for the future keeps a foot in its past

In the late 1800s a small town started to take shape to support James Irvine’s ranching and farming operation.

It had all the makings; a general store, a one-room schoolhouse, a hotel for seasonal workers, several warehouses and a blacksmith shop. There was even a small gas station and a cafe, where farmers would gather for coffee in the morning.

Today, many of the original buildings of that first town center still exist in the Old Town Irvine – a California Historical Landmark.

Some are in their original locations, like the Blacksmith Shop (1908) that is now home to Knollwood Hamburgers. The Irvine Garage, built in the 1920’s, is now a Denny’s restaurant.

The iconic, cement warehouse that was once a bulk storage facility for lima beans and barley is now the La Quinta Inn.

A walk through Irvine’s past

The Old Town Walking Tour takes visitors back in time, and volunteer docents provide little known facts about the early days of Irvine. The highlight of the tour is a look inside the unique guest rooms of the La Quinta that were once grain silos.

“I love to take people inside the old silos and show them how special those hotel rooms are,” said Anne Davis-Johnson, docent for the Irvine Historical Society. “I tell them that ‘where lima beans used to sleep, now human beings sleep.”


The Old Town Irvine History Tour takes place the second Sunday of each month, starting a noon. The docent will meet the group in the La Quinta Inn & Suites Irvine Spectrum lobby, located at 14972 Sand Canyon Ave. Irvine, 92618.  

Admission is free and walk-ins are welcome! For more information, contact

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