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6 Little-Known Anaheim History Facts

Anaheim History Facts - Panoramic picture of Anaheim, CA
Headshot of Matt Claiborne
Matt Claiborne
March 25, 2021

Anaheim is a fascinating area. While today it is a bustling city with endless entertainment, shopping, and dining, it used to be a sleepy area with orange groves.

Anaheim’s beautiful year-round good weather and beautiful landscapes have long attracted farmers and business people. Today, it’s still an attractive city that entertains residents and international visitors.

The Fascinating History of Anaheim

View of Anaheim

Anaheim’s rich agricultural possibilities and year-round good weather first drew German-American settlers in the 1800s. Since then, the area has grown thanks to several visionary entrepreneurs. When Walt Disney decided to build Disneyland in Anaheim in the 1950s, the city began growing and expanding. Today’s visitors can see vestiges of the past while enjoying today’s modern city.

Anaheim History Facts and Name

Anaheim was named for the Santa Ana River and the German word for home, heim. Anaheim’s founders were 50 German-Americans who moved from San Fransisco. The name is a sweet way of saying home by the Santa Ana River.

Anaheim was founded in 1857 and incorporated in 1876 when the area was part of Los Angeles County. Anaheim then became Orange County’s first city.

Pioneering Actress and Resident Helena Modjeska

Helena Modjeska was a successful Polish actress known for her Shakespearean roles. She came to Anaheim in 1876, hoping to found a Polish agricultural community. Unfortunately, the community suffered during the 1877 drought. However, Modjeska found success as an actress in America.

Saddleback Mountain’s north peak is named Modjeska Peak, and the Santiago Canyon area where she lived is now called Modjeska Canyon. Modjeska’s house is now a museum, and Modjeska Park was named in her honor.

Carl’s Jr. Founding

Carl Karcher, Carl’s Jr.’s founder, built Carl’s Drive-In BBQ in Anaheim in 1945. Carl and his wife, Margaret, lived next door with their 12 children. Carl opened several more restaurants, and soon Carl’s Jr. was one of the first and most successful chain restaurants.

Disneyland’s Founding

Close up of Disneyland Castle

Disneyland sits on land that was originally an orange and walnut tree grove. Some of the original trees still stand today. Originally, he had wanted to build the park in Burbank. However, the city of Burbank refused to authorize the construction. Walt Disney drove through Anaheim, and the area immediately appealed to him.

It took Disney just 365 days to build the park, which opened in 1955. Disneyland forever changed Anaheim. Before Disneyland, the community was very small and quiet, but Disneyland’s popularity led to a construction and expansion boom.

Today, Disneyland is the area’s top employer, with over 30,000 employees. When you visit, be sure to grab a cup of the best coffee at Disneyland and enjoy seeing how much the park has grown.

Famous Residents

American singer Jeff Buckley was born and lived in Anaheim. Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of SpongeBob SquarePants, is from Anaheim. Anaheim is home to many other famous residents, like Olympic gold medalist Courtney Mathewson, MLB player Rod Carew, and actress Danielle Fishel.

Gwen Stefani is one of Anaheim’s most famous former residents. She went to high school in Anaheim before becoming No Doubt’s lead singer and then going solo.

Anaheim Convention Center is Massive

Anaheim Convention Center

The Anaheim Convention Center is the West Coast’s largest convention and exhibit center. It regularly hosts large regional, national, and international events such as the Anime Expo and VidCon.

The Convention Center hosted events during the 1984 Summer Olympics. It has also served as the backdrop in several movies and TV shows, most recently in Star Trek: Picard.

Experience the Best of Anaheim

Anaheim would look completely different today without entrepreneurs like the original farmers, Carl Karcher, and Walt Disney. Visit this sun-soaked city and enjoy all it has to offer.

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