Irvine Historical Society and Museum
Housed in an addition to the Irvine Ranch House, that was added to the original house in 1877, the Irvine Historical Museum is also home to the Irvine Historical Society. The historical society was founded in 1977 and began renting space in the ranch house until the land and building was donated to the society in 2001. The museum presents a glimpse of what life was like on a late 19th century Orange County ranch through the use of interpretive exhibits. It also contains a research library that is open during normal operating hours, which are Tuesday through Sunday from 1:00-4:00. Please call ahead to ensure the museum and/or library are open.
Backstory and Context
The land on which the museum now sits was once part of the massive Rancho San Joaquin that was controlled by Don Jose Andres Sepulvedia. Sepulvedia eventually sold his ranch to John Irvine and his partners after the drought of 1863-64. Irvine then built the ranch house as a home for a ranch foreman and his family as well as a suitable place for him to stay while visiting his ranch. It was thought to be the only wood structure between Anaheim and San Diego at the time it was built. The one-story addition that now houses the museum and historical society was added in 1877.
Unfortunately, the original two-story structure was torn down in 1971 to make room for a golf course, but the addition was spared. When the historical society was founded in 1977 it immediately began a search for a suitable location to display its historical artifacts and was soon granted permission to rent what was left of the ranch house by the Irvine Company.
The museum tells the story of the area from its Rancho San Joaquin days through its ownership by the Irvine family and company. Its exhibits include those devoted to cowboy life, cattle ranching and, of all things, lima bean farming as the ranch was once one of the world’s largest producers of the wholesome legume.