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Architect Frederick Eley

by Diann Marsh, from Santa Ana, An Illustrated History, (1994 Heritage Publishing. Excerpt used with permission).

One of Orange County's most prolific and well-known early architects, Frederick Eley, designed buildings in almost every architectural style imaginable. From the Gothic spires of the St. John's Lutheran Church to the Italian Renaissance and Spanish Colonial-style schools to the American Colonial Borchard House on East Fourth Street, he designed beautiful homes, churches, and schools which still give the public pleasure.

Between 1911, when he arrived in Santa Ana, to 1937, when he moved to Salem, Oregon, he designed and supervised the building of more than 130 homes and buildings in Orange County. He was as skillful with the smaller Craftsman Bungalows as he was with the massive Santa Ana YMCA building or the large and impressive Lathrop Jr. High complex.

Mr. Eley, born in Colchester, England on January 30, 1884, was a graduate of London University. He came to Los Angeles by way of Canada in 1907 and moved to Santa Ana in 1911. As Orange County's first registered architect, Mr. Eley designed 24 main school buildings and additions and at least a dozen churches and Sunday School buildings. Most of the buildings at the Orange County Hospital and Poor Farm were of his design. Commercial buildings, a theatre, a Masonic Temple, the Santa Ana Valley Ebell Club, the Santa Ana Register building, the Pavilion at Irvine Park, and a post office were among the many well-designed buildings he has to his credit.

Mr. Eley's enduring legacy is in the 49 residences he designed in Orange County. The Santa Ana Times said of Mr. Eley: "...and Santa Ana owes much to the knowledge of beauty of architecture of one of its finest architects, Frederick Eley. For it is largely due to his efforts that Santa Ana is called the city of beautiful homes."

Mr. Eley, who lived to be in his 90s, visited Santa Ana in October 1967, to help celebrate the 70th Anniversary of Irvine Park. He had designed most of the major buildings at the park, including the Dance Pavilion. Amid reports that he had died years before and some local person had attended his funeral, Mr. Eley cut short his vacation in England in order to be present for the festivities at the park.

Mr. Eley had this to say about some of today's architecture: "I stood there (in front of St. Paul's Cathedral in England) and thought if some of the young architects today could spend ten minutes looking at this beautiful cathedral, they'd realize there is more to architecture than putting up a packing case and punching a few holes in it for doors and windows."


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