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Golf at the Greens, Irvine
photo courtesy of

Irvine is the country's largest and best-known planned community. Now a city of over 200,000 people, its housing "villages" and business developments were sculpted from portions of the huge Irvine Ranch, purchased by James Irvine in 1864. Cattle and sheep once grazed the flat valley, but James Irvine began switching from ranching to farming in the late 1800s.

The ranch became a leading producer of barley and lima beans, but other crops, such as asparagus, avocados, strawberries and orange trees, also flourished.

In the early 1900s, a town centered around the agricultural activity and East Irvine began to grow. It included a general store and a post office.

That area - no longer the city's center - has been redeveloped as Old Town Irvine, using the historical buildings as restaurants, shops and a hotel.

Irvine's growth as a residential and employment area was spurred by the decision to build a local University of California campus. In 1960, The Irvine Co. donated 1,000 acres and sold 500 acres to the university system for the new campus.

In 1970, the company announced an ambitious plan to turn 43 square miles of undeveloped land into a master-planned community. Rows of houses rapidly began replacing rows of crops. From 1970 to 1980, Irvine was California's fastest growing city.

Threatened with possible annexations by other cities, Irvine incorporated in 1971. Irvine officials tout it as a progressive, trend setting city that delivers a high level of services to its residents. It is famed for its highly regulated residential neighborhoods.


Historical Sites:

OLD TOWN IRVINE - Sand Canyon Ave and Burt Rd
Old Town Irvine stands today as a testament to the rich agricultural past of what has become one of California's most heavily urban counties. Founded in 1887 as the distribution and storage center of the 125,000-acre Irvine ranch, Old Town Irvine was to develop over the years a bean and grain storage warehouse (1895) and granary (1947) known as the Irvine Bean and Grain Grower's Building, a blacksmith's shop (1916), a hotel (1913), a general store (1911), and an employees' bungalow (1915). All of these structures have been rehabilitated for commercial uses and their exteriors have been painstakingly maintained.

BARTON MOUND - SE corner of I-405 and State Hwy 133, 2 mi S of East Irvine
This is the site of a shoot-out between Sheriff James Barton and notorious area bandit Juan Flores and his gang in 1857. Flores, who had escaped from San Quentin, was being sought by Sheriff Barton with a posse of five men. Near this mound, Flores surprised Barton and three of his men, all four were killed. When Los Angeles learned of the slaughter, posses were formed, and Flores and his men were captured.



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