In many intangible ways, Northpark is like a 7 year old’s fuzzy, faded, worn baby blanket that has just come out of the dryer.
Warm, safe, comfortable, familiar, secure.
It is an old, gentle neighborhood decorated with vintage homes and a robust history. It’s roots are an integral part of the original Anaheim, when the city was an undeveloped, unsullied burg that encompassed only 10 square blocks each way from it’s center;
part of the Anaheim whose parameters, North, West, East and South Streets, bespoke an implied, intended, simple way of life.
At its inception, Northpark was a humble plot of rich earth owned by the Los Angeles Vineyard Society and populated by vineyards and citrus orchards. But after World War I, growing produce gave way to growing families, irrigation tracks in the vineyards bowed to housing tracts and agriculture began to accommodate expansion as a new neighborhood struggled to establish its identity.
While the city around it has grown and expanded, acquired and incorporated, developed and redeveloped, Northpark, like that seven year old clinging tenaciously to a tried-and-true blanket, has remained relatively unchanged. Its mixed architecture of Spanish and English Tudor, Mediterranean and American Colonial, weaves an eclectic tapestry of individuality and personality throughout the quadrant. It is an identity that residents cherish.
“This was such a beautiful town back in the ’40s and ’50s,” laments Don Dollar, president of the Anaheim Historical Society.
“City planners have taken our little German town and reduced it to pavement, parking lots and modern buildings, but I have to give the residents of Northpark credit, they are managing to preserve the character of the neighborhood.”
Very few multifamily units to be found anywhere. Operating on the “who-says-you-can’t-fight-city-hall” premise, residents united to Those preservation efforts are evidenced by the fact that there are no huge apartment complexes, no condo developments, indeed, battle money motivated officials and strike-it-rich investors and have prevailed. The result is that there are now several ordinances against bulldozing those fine, older homes simply to erect multi unit dwellings. Instead, those old homes are being purchased by younger people as fixer-uppers, partly because they want to restore them, and partly because they are easier to get into and may qualify for redevelopment loans at lower rates.
“The young people are doing a fantastic job of restoring these homes,” Dollar says. “They are scraping paint and discovering the original wood trims around the ceilings, they’re removing carpet and discovering beautiful wood floors, and they’re finding all kinds of neat things that have been hidden. They’re also discovering how really elegantly those homes were built. The workmanship and craftsmanship were so much better back then.”
In a way, though, this is also a tale of two neighborhoods. While the southern half of the area has quiet, middle to upper middle class traditional ambiance, the northern area is home to several bustling, thriving industries, including BASF Coatings and Colorants, established in 1953, Bridgford Products, a Northpark dweller since 1937, to name a few, along with Carl Karcher Enterprises. Carl Karcher opened his first full service restaurant, Carl’s Drive In Barbecue, in 1945 at the corner of Romneya Drive and Harbor Boulevard.
And it is Karcher who probably best embodies the spirit of Northpark. The hamburger mogul is a humble man who practices what he preaches and who believes in giving back to the community. Not only is his corporate headquarters – with its rustic wood facade, lush green ferns and trickling fountains – located in Northpark, but the family homestead where his marriage thrived, he raised a dozen children, and watched neighbors come and go, is there also.
It is an enduring, fitting testimony that the area’s most famous resident, who could certainly afford to live anywhere else, chose to remain in that quiet, stately, elegant, traditional neighborhood that still feels like a fuzzy, worn baby blanket fresh out of the dryer.