Brea Old and New: The go-to source for "All things Brea"!

Welcome to Brea

  • Fascinating Facts: The Brea Clock, Part 1

    7 years ago by


    The Brea Clock, shortly after it was unveiled at its new location downtown in 2001.


    1.) Our much loved landmark, The Brea Clock, was first placed on Brea Blvd in 1975 as an advertising gimmick for a clock shop that was in the old Brea Hotel, at that time, located near the NE corner of Brea Blvd and Ash St. Most Breans believe that the clock has a much longer history in the city, but prior to its 1975 installation, it served as the station masters clock at the Santa Fe Railyards in Riverside.

    2.) For a time, the clock was known to the city as "Charlie's Clock", named for the proprietor of the clock shop.  When Charlie closed his business and left town, the city bought the clock since it had become such a cherished landmark and it fit well with plans for eventual downtown redevelopment.

    3.) The clock remained in its original spot for several years, but due to occasional vandalism, and wear and tear, it was constantly being taken down for repairs. In 1979, a car ran into the clock causing major damage, and it was a long time before the clock reappeared.

    4.) Next week: More Fascinating Facts and the rest of the story of The Brea Clock.

  • Fascinating Facts: Brea Blvd and the center of town

    7 years ago by

    1.) Brea Blvd was originally named Pomona Avenue and was the main route between Fullerton, founded in 1887, and Pomona, founded in 1875.  Downtown Brea was built up along the route.

    2.) Brea's north and south street designations on Pomona Avenue (now Brea Blvd) were established at the intersection of Ash Street. The intersection, once considered the "center" of town, has been home to a bank, a department store, a drug store, residences,  a restaurant and a church.

    3.) All streets named in the Brea downtown were, at one time or another, named for trees. This includes todays Lambert Road and Imperial Hwy. Lambert, at one time, was named Deodora. Imperial was once named Cedar.


  • Fascinating Facts: The Stewart Tank Farm Fire

    7 years ago by


    Aerial view of the devastation from the Stewart Tank Farm Fire in 1926. The City of Brea is at the top of the picture, to the right.

    1.) On April 8, 1926, at 9am, Brea's most devastating disaster, the Stewart Tank Farm Fire, was ignited when a bolt of lightning struck 2 seperate tanks of crude oil. The resulting explosion released fireballs into the sky and broke windows at Brea businesses 1/2 mile east of the blast.

    2.) At the height of the fire, cyclones created by the superheated air from the blaze, moved east toward homes and neighborhoods, damaging roofs and destroying property. The fierce winds held lumber and debris from the destroyed structures aloft for miles, dropping it as far away as Carbon Canyon and Chino.

    3.) An estimated 40,000 "looky-lous" descended on the area out of curiosity, clogging streets and roads in Brea and nearby communities. Hollywood film companies sent crews to get footage from the ground and by air for newsreels and movie filler.

    4.) The fire burned for more than 48 hours, before finally burning itself out. Property was damaged or destroyed, orchards were burned and the Stewart Station was a total loss. During the course of the disaster, nearly 400 men,  from every oil company in Southern California, came to Brea to fight the blaze. There were some minor injuries reported and some close calls, but, remarkably, no one was killed.


  • Fascinating Facts: More Brea Firsts

    7 years ago by


    The Hon. Cruz Reynoso at the Tomlinson Park street naming ceremony in August 2003.

    1.) Brea's Art in Public Places Program, created in 1974, was the first privately funded collection of civic art in California. The first sculpture sponsored by the program was "The Birds", by Lee Zimmerman, located at Lambert Rd and Associated Rd.

    2.) Born in Brea, former resident Cruz Reynoso, in 1981, was named to the California Supreme Court by then Governor Jerry Brown. The Hon. Mr.  Reynoso, California's first Hispanic justice to serve on the highest court, was recognized for his contributions at a street naming ceremony at Tomlinson Park in August, 2003.

    3.) The Brea Branch Library originally opened in 1921 and was Orange County's first public library. Before it found a permanent home at the Brea Civic and Cultural Center in 1981, the library had been located in a garage, two storefronts, the old City Hall Building at City Hall Park, and the Brea Heights Shopping Center.

  • Brea Florist: Community business, Customer loyalty.

    7 years ago by


    Brea Florist, at its current location of 341 South Brea Blvd

    Brea Florist had been a fixture on Brea Blvd for forty-three years, before it relocated to West Central Avenue in 1990 due to downtown redevelopment.  Since that move, despite early concerns, the business continued to thrive and soon residents familiar with the old location found their favorite florist at the new location.

    In 2010, Mary Jo Britt, who purchased the business in 2007, moved the shop back to Brea Blvd, at 341 South Brea Blvd, just one block south of their original location of forty-three years.  Mary Jo, who was employed at the business for twenty-four years before buying it, credits 35-years of customer loyalty, as well as new clients from the internet and a more visible storefront, for their continued success. She recently told BBON, "The unexpected move worked out great!"

    With her devoted staff, (Anna Davidson, who is a prior owner and semi-retired; Roxanne Whitney, who has worked with Mary Jo for 23-years; and Ruben Gallegos, making floral deliveries for 8-years) Mary Jo hopes Brea Florist will continue to serve the community for another 50 years.

    BREA FLORIST 1947 - 2011

    1947 - Brea Florist opens at 235 South Brea Blvd

    1978 - Mike and Linda Jacoby purchase Brea Florist

    1983 - Mary Jo Britt gains employment at Brea Florist

    1990 - Brea Florist relocates to West Central Ave due to downtown redevelopment

    1991 - Anna Davidson purchases Brea Florist

    2007 - Mary Jo Britt purchases Brea Florist after 24-years of employment

    2010 - Brea Florist relocates back to Brea Blvd, to their current location at 341 South Brea Blvd

    Visit Brea Florist

  • Fascinating Facts: Brea and the Arts

    7 years ago by

    Brea's Red Lantern Theater. (Photo from Brea: Celebrating 75 Years)

    1.) In 1921, a group of Brea  businessmen formed an investment group, and in October, broke ground on Pomona Avenue (now Brea Blvd) for Brea's first theater, The Red Lantern.

    2.) By the 1930's, The Red Lantern theater was renamed The Brea Theatre and in 1938, when she was 14-years-old, child star Judy Garland made an appearance on its stage.  One Brean, who was at the event, recalled that Miss Garland  "didn't sing,  she just stood there for a few minutes and then left the stage".   Her uncle, Robert Gumm, managed the theater at the time of her appearance.

    3.) In the 1920's and 30's, Brea was the backdrop for more than a few Hollywood "moving pictures".  Mary Pickford shot scenes for a silent movie in the hills above Brea.  William Boyd, who would later make a name as "Hopalong Cassidy", played a heroic oilman near the intersection of today's Brea Blvd and Lambert Road.  In the 1940's, John Garfield and Lana Turner drove in a car down Brea Blvd, between Lambert and Central, taking advantage of the scenic California Pepper Trees that once lined the road for "The Postman Always Rings Twice".

    4.) At the Curtis Theater, in 1982, the Brea Foundation was host to Nobel Prize Winner, Dr. Henry Kissinger, for a special fundraising event.  Other foundation fund raisers at the theater have featured noted actors, teen idols, and singers.

  • Brea Fascinating Facts: Carbon Canyon Park

    7 years ago by

    1.) In the 1880's, settlers on 10-acre plots of land on the Olinda Ranch raised livestock and grew crops on what is now the open areas of Carbon Canyon Regional Park.  By the late 1890's, harsh conditions brought on by lack of a potable water source, forced them off of the land, allowing Union Oil to expand petroleum operations in the canyon.

    2.) By 1897, Union Oil and the Santa Fe Railroad partnered to bring a train spur line into the Carbon Canyon oilfields in order to facilitate production of crude oil. The tracks ran from a now long forgotten depot located north of today's Olinda, cutting across what is now the Carbon Canyon Dam and the park area, heading southeast to Richfield, another township near Yorba Linda that eventually failed.

    3.) With the arrival of the railroad, Olinda quickly grew to over 3,000 residents, who built homes, schools, churches, mercantiles, and other amenities to accommodate their needs. Todays Carbon Canyon Park became the site of hundreds of board and batton homes, built by the oil companies  and leased to married wildcatters.

  • Fascinating Facts: Brea Civic & Cultural Center

    7 years ago by

    1.) In 1980, the theater at the Brea Civic & Cultural Center was named for Dr. C. Glenn Curtis, a transplanted Georgian, who opened his practice in Brea in 1927. "Doc" Curtis' devotion to his family, friends, and community, as well as his enthusiastic support of the Arts in Brea earned him a place in our history and on the marquee.

    2.) The Brea Civic & Cultural Center not only houses our seat of local government, but it is also the home of the Brea Gallery, the Brea Public Library, and the Curtis Theater.

    3.) The address of the Brea Civic & Cultural Center was 800 East Birch Street on the day it was dedicated and was changed to 1 Civic Center Drive soon after.

    Approximate area of the Yriarte Ranch, Brea, CA, circa 1917. (click for larger view)

    4.) The land that is now the Brea Civic and Cultural Center, the Brea Mall, and several acres of downtown Brea was once an enormous barley field on the Yriarte Ranch. Early Brea pioneers Patricio and Pascuala Yriarte settled in Randolph in 1905, the small town that would become Brea. They soon acquired 160 acres where they grew oats, barley and hay, and eventually provided the city with one of its first water wells.

  • Another Name on the Baseball

    7 years ago by


    Bob Meusel's signature on the baseball made famous by Walter Johnson and Babe Ruth

    Most Breans are aware, and very proud, of the fact that on October 31, 1924, New York Yankee slugger Babe Ruth and hometown pitching sensation Walter "The Train" Johnson played in an exhibition game near what is now the corner of Lambert Rd. and Brea Blvd. Both of these legends, along with Christy Mathewson and Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner, were the first players to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

    After the exhibition game, Ruth and Johnson signed a baseball for Ted Craig that is currently housed at the Brea Museum. Another player present at that game was New York outfielder, "Long Bob" Meusel. And just as his career was eclipsed by such luminaries as Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, this other member of the legendary "Murderers Row" signed the baseball that day. His is one of the other names on the baseball.

    Even advertisements for the game printed in the Brea Progress newspaper relegated Meusel to second billing, listing his name in smaller type, under Johnson and Ruth. A handbill from the actual game doesn’t mention him at all.

    Although his name is seldom brought up when Breans and baseball historians recall that Fall day in 1924, the statistics he accumulated in his 11-year major league career give us a better glimpse as to why he was included on that barnstorming tour in the first place.

    At 6'3", the muscular Meusel was a feared outfielder and considered a solid, all-around player, power-hitting .313 or better in seven of his first eight major league seasons. Hitting behind Babe Ruth in the order, Meusel became the first Yankee right-hander to win a batting title in 1925 with 33 home runs. That same year, he was also the American League RBI champion, with 138. His accurate and powerful throwing arm earned the outfielder his other nickname; "The Rifle", and on September 5, 1921, Meusel tied a major league record with four outfield assists in a single game.

    In 1924, Meusel had a career high of 26 stolen bases and was two hits shy of his career high of 190, with 188. From 1920 through 1930, his on-base percentage career high was .393. Appearing in six World Series, "Long Bob" stole home twice and in a regular season game played on May 16, 1927, he stole second, third and home.

    Bob Meusel and Babe Ruth are the only Yankee players to hit for the cycle three times. Career-wise, Meusel ranks among the all-time Yankee leaders in doubles (338), triples (87), RBI's (1,005) and batting average (.311).

    With statistical superiority to many players in the Hall of Fame, Bob Meusel was considered "grim and unpopular" by fans and Yankee Manager Miller Huggins felt he played with an "indifferent attitude" and "could have done better".

    Looking back at some of Meusel’s exploits during his career, it’s still difficult to understand why he is an almost forgotten character in baseball lore.

    On October 16, 1921, with baseball pals Babe Ruth and Bill Piercy, he embarked on a barnstorming tour of Buffalo, NY, contrary to Baseball Commissioner Landis’ ban against the World Series participants playing in post-season exhibitions. Five days after the tour began, they cut it short in Scranton, PA, but Babe Ruth challenged Landis to act against them....which he did - fining the players their World Series shares, $3,362.26 each, and suspending the players until May 20th the following season.

    On June 13, 1924, with New York leading 10 - 6 in the ninth inning, Tigers pitcher Bert Cole hit Meusel in the back with a pitch. Meusel threw his bat at Cole and charged the pitchers mound, setting off a 30-minute near-riot at the Detroit Stadium that included both players benches, fans, ushers and the police. Umpire Billy Evans, unable to clear the field to complete the game, forfeited it to New York. Cole and Meusel were both suspended for 10 days. Meusel was fined $100, Cole and Ruth were fined $50 each.

    Playing for Cincinnati, Meusel’s final season in the major leagues, on September 12, 1930 during a game against the Brooklyn Dodgers, Brooklyn catcher Al Lopez drove a ball over the head of left-fielder Meusel. The ball bounced over the wall and into the bleachers at Ebbets Field. Ruled a homerun, this is the last recorded bounce homerun in National League history, as the rules changed the following season to rule bounced HR’s as doubles.

    "Long Bob" Meusel, born in San Jose, CA on July 19, 1896, died of natural causes in California on November 28, 1977 and is buried at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier. Not much is known of his life after the end of his baseball career. We do know, however, that there was a reason he was on the barnstorming tour and why he signed that baseball, with Babe Ruth and Walter Johnson, on that celebrated day in 1924.

  • Remembering a Halloween past.

    7 years ago by


    Babe Ruth crosses home plate at the Brea Bowl, 1924.
    On the old Olinda lease, just to the north of today's Carbon Canyon Park, a young man named Walter Johnson once played catch with his friends on the dirt roads.

    In 1924, after pitching several seasons for the Washington Senators, Johnson came back to Brea...with a new nickname.  The  “BIG TRAIN” (Ty Cobb said “you can't hit what you can't see”), who was a recipient of a MOST VALUABLE PLAYER AWARD from his league, returned to town with a major league line-up of baseball stars that included Bob Meusel, Ernie Johnson and Babe Ruth.

    The Brea Bowl, today. Home plate would be about mid-picture, in the middle of the street.

    Brea businessmen and the Anaheim Elks Club sponsored a benefit exhibition game at the “Brea Bowl”, which was near where today's intersection of Lambert Road and Brea Blvd are, near St. Crispin Place.

    The game was played on Halloween afternoon and businesses and schools for miles around, not just in Brea, but in neighboring communities too, were closed for the historic event.

    Cars stretched for miles and crowd estimates at the game were close to 15,000. Before the game, the players changed into their uniforms in a tin building that still stands on Brea Blvd.  Today, it's known as Ron & Wayne's Auto Repair.

    Babe Ruth and Walter Johnson played on opposing teams that afternoon...and the Bambino pitched for his team, opposite Johnson.

    Johnson's team lost that game 12 to 1, but a memory was made that day when Babe Ruth hit a foul tip that struck a young fan in the head.  The game was stopped when Ruth went to the boy and gave him a quarter....the legend is that he approached the young man and told him, "Don't cry kid, it'll be okay."

    After the game, all of the players, including Ruth and Johnson, signed a baseball which is still one of Brea's most treasured articles of memorabilia from the past and housed at the Brea Museum.

    In 1936, Walter Johnson, along with Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner,  and Christy Mathewson, were the first players ever inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.