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History of Tustin


Tustin is a city that is proud of its small-town heritage. Although it is growing in population, city officials and residents want to hold on to the city's old-fashioned atmosphere.

The story of Tustin begins with the land itself. It is situated on the floodplain of the Santa Ana River and its tributary, Santiago Creek, south and west of the Santa Ana Mountains. The most prominent landmark in the Tustin area is a hill known as "Red Hill" which is 347 feet high. The soil on Red Hill turned red when ancient volcanic activity deposited cinnabarite (mercury) in the sandstone hill. The Native Americans than inhabited the Tustin area prior to the Spaniards called the hill "Katuktu" defined as "Hill of Prominence" or "Place of Refuge".

Tustin was founded in 1868 by Columbus Tustin, a Philadelphia farmer and entrepreneur. But the town's growth was rather slow compared with neighboring Santa Ana and Orange. It took nearly 60 years before the predominantly farming community grew to 500 residents and incorporated.

In the early days, what was then called "Tustin City" lived in the shadows of Santa Ana. But many Tustin residents did not seem to mind. They cherished their citrus and eucalyptus trees, the view of nearby hills and the small-town atmosphere.

The trees eventually gave way to development as houses, shops and industrial sites sprang up. In 1942, the US Navy established a base for use of blimps for antisubmarine patrols. The US Marine Corps took over the base in 1951, and until it's recent closure, was used as a helicopter air station.

The Tustin Historical Society looks for artifacts from the city's pioneer days and the city is continuously working to preserve old buildings through strict laws regulation demolition of historic structures.

Old Town, which is defined by the original boundaries of the city when it incorporated in 1927, is home to several historic structures, including the Knights of Pythias building that housed Tustin's first City Hall. The Tustin Area Museum is located on El Camino Real in historic downtown Tustin. The museum carries an extensive collection of artifacts, books and photos from Tustin's early days.

Although most citrus orchards have been replaced by homes, schools, shopping centers and industry, there remains a vast and varied assortment of eucalyptus, pepper, palm, pine and oak trees throughout the City. As in the beginning, Tustin continues to be the "City of Trees".


Historical Sites:

Hewes Mansion - 350 S. B Street
The 14-room Victorian mansion was built in 1881 by prominent California pioneer David Hewes. The area superintendent of schools and some teachers lived there at one time; it is said that a count also once lived in the mansion. It is not open to the public.

Red Hill - Browning and La Colina avenues
Indians called it "place of refuge;" the Spanish called it "Hill of Frogs." This summit was the boundary for three ranchos. Cinnabar was mined there in the late 1800s; mercury gives the soil its reddish color. Houses now occupy the site.

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