Santa Ana History


Santa Ana was discovered in 1769 by Don Gaspár de Portolá, a Spanish expedition party leader, who gave the area its name, Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana. The city’s first mayor, William H. Spurgeon, purchased 70 acres in 1869 and renamed the town Santa Ana.

Originally developed to support cattle grazing and farming, Santa Ana has since grown to be the “downtown of Orange County” inviting visitors and locals to experience its vast mosaic of cultures. More than 250 years since its founding, Santa Ana has grown to be the second-largest city in Orange County, boasting a rich history that has made the city what it is today.

Here are some historical highlights of Santa Ana:

  • 1886: Santa Ana incorporated as a city
  • 877: The Southern Pacific Railroad extended a train route to Santa Ana
  • 1900s: Dr. Willella Howe-Waffle was one of Orange County's first woman doctors and delivered thousands of babies 
  • 1901: Old Orange County Courthouse was dedicated
  • 1912: Glenn L. Martin aviation company was founded and later merged with Wright Company
  • 1912: The oldest theater in Orange County, Yost Theater, was opened as The Auditorium
  • 1924: Grand Central Building was built
  • 1929: Santora Arts Building was constructed and now home to Santa Ana College Arts Gallery (pictured)
  • 1952: The Santa Ana Zoo was founded at Prentice Park
  • 1958: Santa Ana native and film star, Michelle Pfeiffer, was born
  • 1958: MainPlace Mall was founded as Fashion Square Mall
  • 1964: Hollywood actress, Diane Keaton, graduated Santa Ana High School
  • 1987: Fashion Square Mall was completely renovated and renamed MainPlace Mall 
  • 1992: Bowers Museum reopened after a major renovation


Shoot your next film, TV series, or commercial in Santa Ana.