With the recent loss of our neighbor and distinguished Santa Ana architect Ralph Allen, we have focused on some early homes this quarter. If you would like to contribute to future installments, contact us via [email protected].

Story #3 – The Beginnings of a Neighborhood

In November 1947, residential development arrived when a narrow strip was cleared, graded, and subdivided into 25 lots offered as Tract No. 1160, “River Lane Tract”. Three years later, in August 1950, another curvilinear subdivision appeared east of Flower Street, with lots, averaging 60 feet by 90 feet, arranged around a curvilinear pattern with cul-de-sacs. An outgrowth of earlier “City Beautiful and Garden City models”: Jonquil and Park with their curvilinear layout reflected neighborhood planning preferences for the design of post -World War II subdivisions. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA), during the post-war housing expansion endorsed the model reflected in the new neighborhood of Fisher Park. By 1955, nearly all the lots of both tracts had been built out with single-family residences with uniform setbacks, mostly in the Ranch House style.

1948 was a busy year for the development of River Lane. One of the early custom homes that began construction was at 936. This Tudor style home was built by Harold Theodore Segerstrom, Sr. (1900-1978) and family. According to Segerstrom Family History; Harold was one of the 5 brothers that made up the original C.J. Segerstrom & Sons business. “Anton and Harold lived in Santa Ana where they raised their families. The brothers commuted to the fields each day, dressing in coat and tie for the 15-minute trip to the ranch, changing into work clothes for the 11-hour day, then returning to coat and tie for the drive back into town in the evening.”

C.J. Segerstrom & Sons at the farm that is now the South Coast Plaza area.

1948 was also the year that Architect Gates W. Burrows designed the ranch house at 924 River Lane. He was a member of the AIA (President of the O.C. Chapter in the 50’s) and the Principal at Gates W. Burrows Architects in Santa Ana. His firm designed a great deal of the custom modern homes in Orange County. He soon fell for River Lane himself and built his family a modern ranch house at 950.

Our neighbor Mr. Ralph Allen worked for Burrows and over time it became “Burrows and Allen Architects”. The firm went on to became “Ralph Allen & Partners”. Mr. Allen created award winning architecture right here in our backyard, including the Orange County Law Library, Century High School, Murietta Valley High School and Fremont Elementary School. He won a Merit award from the O.C. Chapter of the AIA for the boldly sculptural Santa Ana Fire Training Building. In 1994, Allen was Santa Ana’s businessman of the year and in 1998 his firm – which specialized in concrete buildings, was named “Architectural Firm of the Year” by the California chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Mr. Allen passed away in May this year.

Concrete Spirit – Book of Ralph Allen’s work