Packing House History

Starting after the 1849 California Gold Rush, the science of growing citrus trees from grafting as opposed to planting seeds was developed.

With the development of the seedless navels , orange production soared in the 1880's. By 1900, the entire nation coveted California naval oranges and with the new transcontinental railroad,  Southern California orchards were happy to supply them.

It 1862, there were 21,000 orange trees in California. By 1887, they were over a half a million.

Hundreds of thousands of acres were planted with citrus trees in Southern California, especially utilizing the fertile soil what is now Orange County.

Packing Houses

Initially, each orchard hand packaged their fruit for sale in the marketplace. But it was very inefficient. California citrus growers unified in1893 by creating the Southern California Citrus Growers Association. . Initially founded to joint market, the idea of large packing  houses next to major railroad stations made sense.

The orchards would grow and pick their fruit and transport it in buckets to the nearest packing house for professional packing. They would then be loaded onto the trains to send off to the rest of the country.

The original fruit packers did not have a comfortable job. Low pay, long hours, hot and humid  work conditions and uncomfortable workstations were common place.

Many of the original packing houses were destroyed by fire, or left to decay as modern technology was embraced by the industry.

The Elephant Packing House was built by the United Pacific Railroad in 1924 -One year after the Union Pacific Depot opened in downtown Fullerton.

The Elephant Packing House was one of the more beautiful citrus plants at that time- as well as designed to be modern and efficient.

Owned by citrus pioneer Charles Chapman, the Elephant Packing House primarily packed Valencia oranges from the Elephant Orchards in Redlands/

Typically packing houses houses were named after the city they were in, however, in this case the packing house was named after the orchards they serviced. The harvested oranges were transferred via train to the Fullerton UP depot, and then packed for shipping back east at the Elephant Packing House.

The Elephant Packing House is 24,000 ft.² or roughly 1/3 of the Yorba Linda Packing House. The architect used a combination of Mission and Spanish colonial revival styles.

It sports a red tile roof, topped by a curved parapet with Mission tile trim. The shed style porch roof revealed exposed beams with solid curve cement railing in the entryway. The unique sawtooth skylights provided both light and ventilation, not to mention an architectural signature common place to many other packing houses of that era.

It fell out of use in the early 1950's. It was then leased to a lawn furniture distributor until 1960. At that point it was sold by the UP Railroad and rented to variety of tenants over the years. The train station has since relocated.

Of interest is the Elephant Packing House has a full basement unlike other packing houses. It currently is vacant however the original floors and wood doors are still present.

The Yorba Linda Packing House

This scaled down recreation here at Caduceus at the Packing House in Yorba Linda pays homage to one of the more unique Packing house stories in orange county. Not to mention you can say you went to your doctor in a Packing house INSIDE a Packing house.

The packinghouse era ended in the 1950s, when valuable real estate was turned over to make room for the  track homes of the Eisenhower 50's.  Yet is is  safe to conclude that Orange County as we know it owes a lot to the original citrus pioneers.

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