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(Third of a series of articles celebrating our 30th anniversary)

By Roberta Reed

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In 1974 Mrs. Adeline Walker made the following statement:  “Here in Southern California, we are far from being history minded, and everything must be demolished.  Some of our older homes, many of them well cared for, give Santa Ana a distinction.  Surely we must keep at least one turn of the century home for posterity.”

We would like to say that we have gotten wiser in the thirty years since Mrs. Walker made that observation, but recent activities in our city seem to indicate otherwise.  We are continuing the fight, and we like to think that Mrs. Walker not only would approve, but would be right along side with us, taking up arms in the battle, so to speak.  In the meantime, Mrs. Walker did indeed keep one turn-of-the-century home for posterity, and it still amazes us how many hours this remarkable woman put into restoring that home, scraping paint, scraping up funding, and finding volunteers, all during a time in her life when most people her age would have been basking in the relaxation of retirement.

In this article, we want to highlight some of the people and organizations who worked to make the Howe-Waffle House the restored beauty it is today, and some of the things they accomplished during those early restoration years in the late ‘70s.

Royal Spurrier initially became involved when his employer, Cherry Textron, appointed him as their representative to the Santa Ana Bicentennial Committee.  The Dr. Howe-Waffle House later became a true labor of love for him and he spent many hours working on it, finding sources for reproduction materials needed for the restoration, and later served as President of the Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society for several years.  By the end of 1976, Mrs. Walker wrote, “Mr. Spurrier had given about 125 hours of his time toward the project, as well as the contribution of materials toward the restoration.  He even enrolled in a woodshop class in order to make batten boards for the restoration of the carriage barn!”

Royal Spurrier

Quaker Paint donated paint for the restoration, and workers representing the Painter’s Local 686 donated time to do the actually work.  Orange County Lumber Company provided the lumber for the porches. 

Jack MacFarlane of MacFarlane Electric designed the wiring for the house, and Orange County Wholesale Electric provided the materials.  The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers sent union electricians who donated time toward the project.  More than 100 hours were spent on wiring the Howe-Waffle House at its current location.

Working under the assumption that the first battle had been won, the Society worked hard to begin fundraising efforts to support the monumental project of moving and fully restoring the Dr. Howe-Waffle house.  Politics seemingly interfered with these efforts when Historical Society President Betty Biner stopped by Council Chambers on the night of the April 1, 1974 meeting to pick up a copy of the minutes from the March 18th meeting and was stunned to hear Council vote to reconsider its plans to give the house to the Historical Society and instead consider an offer from Santa Ana Community Hospital to relocate and restore the house.  It is interesting to note that many of the “plans” the hospital had for the house, enthusiastically greeted by Council, actually largely mirrored those that the Society had previously discussed.  Sadly, it appeared that someone in the city was not in favor of allowing the Society to restore the house, and had actually approached the hospital with the idea of them restoring it.  Mrs. Walker noted that while the hospital was financially in a far better position than the Historical Society, that it was not possible for them to love the house more than the Society did.

Cal-Wal Gypsum Supply of Orange provided drywall, which was subsequently installed by volunteer apprentices from the Carpenter’s Local in Orange.  Santa Ana Steel donated angle iron to support ceiling beams that were weakened with the installation of the fire sprinkler system.

John Acosta, a masonry contractor who later became a Santa Ana City Councilman, faced the cement block foundation on the house and carriage barn river rock which was supplied by R. J. Noble Company.  The Boy Scouts and the Santa Ana Boys Club assisted with this project.

Girl Scouts scraped paint from the exterior of the house, as did students from Chapman College and Fountain Valley High School. 

Carpenter Carl Van Couvering built steps for a temporary entrance to the house, among many other restoration carpentry projects.  Max Becker built the front porch foundation and made window screens, and later built the wonderful gazebo that we enjoy in the backyard of the house.  Don Cribb, now involved in the arts movement in Santa Ana, donated four eucalyptus trees.

The speaking tube that fascinates both adults and children alike during our tours was originally installed by Dr. Alvin Howe.  It was discovered and restored by electrician Bill Cox, who recognized what it was.  Many other volunteers might not have, and this wonderful piece of history might have been lost had it not been for Bill!


Bill Cox


This article highlights only a few of the people who were part of saving and restoring the Howe-Waffle House.  It is certainly not meant to be all –inclusive.  There were many other people who donated time, materials, or funds, or even all three, toward the restoration of the house.  We are grateful to all of them, because every one contributed in some way to saving the heritage of our city, both for us, and for generations to come.


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