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The Maag House

by Diann Marsh, from Eye on Santa Ana, Summer 1992

John and Katherine Maag needed a large house for their lively family of ten children. After moving from Columbus, Nebraska in 1891, the Maags purchased a 31-acre ranch near Fairhaven Cemetery and moved the family into a small board and batten house already existing on the property. They lived there until the larger house was completed.

The "new" house reflected Mr. Maag's success as a rancher. It had six bedrooms, a grand paneled entry hall, large parlour, music room, a dining room, spacious kitchen, butler's pantry, and one and a half bathrooms. Neoclassical swag trim embellished the frieze below the gables and the pedimented gables above the front and two side entries. A wrap-around porch on one side and a rectangular porch on the other encouraged the family to sit outside on balmy summer evenings. As with many ranch houses, the family members almost always used the back door to avoid getting the formal house dirty. As with many large Victorian houses, this one had both a front and a back stairway.

The curving front stairway was part of the wide entry hall and was bordered with slender turned balusters. A wooden window seat was tucked in besides the delicate stairway and stained glass windows let colored light into the room. The back stairway, which was for the help and the children, was steep, narrow, and unadorned. The parlor and music room were separated by pairs of pocket doors. The parlor room contained a very decorative, carved wood fireplace.

The dining room was the center for Sunday dinners and special parties, containing a huge table seating 20-24 people. A large chandelier of green marbled glass hung above the table. In the built-in china closet were the gold trimmed dishes used only when special guests were being entertained.
The music room held a piano and Victorian settees. Its walls were covered with pictures and bookcases.

Mrs. Maag worked very hard and each of the children had a regular daily routine of chores. Generally, if they were not in school they were working. Except on Sundays, of course, when they all dressed up in suits and ties or their best dresses, presenting an immaculate parade as they entered St. Joseph's Catholic Church.

Each of the daughters was given a piano on her eighteenth birthday. The boys received teams of horses when they reached the same age. As a wedding gift, John Maag gave each of his sons ranch land which they were expected to plant in oranges.

John Maag was an active rancher in early Orange County. He was a founding member and organizer of several citrus growers' associations. Among these were the Santiago Orange Growers, the Central Lemon Growers, the Olive Height Orange Growers, and the Richland Walnut Growers associations. Membership in such organizations led to Mr. Maag's involvement in the development of Sunkist Oranges. Prominent in civic affairs, he helped organize the Citizen's Commercial and Savings Bank. He died on the ranch in 1931.

Katherine lived in the house until her death in 1955. The ranch was then purchased by the adjacent Fairhaven Cemetery. Their caretakers lived in the home until the property was sold for a mobile home park in the 1970's. In 1982 it was moved to the Discovery Museum on West Harvard Street in order to save it from demolition.

The Museum has plans to restore the Maag House to its former beauty when it will once again serve as a gracious place to entertain, true to the Victorian tradition.

The Maag House and the Discovery Museum (now renamed the Centennial Heritage Museum) are located at 3101 W. Harvard St., off Fairview, south of Centennial Park. The Museum and its Kellogg House are open for self-guided tours Wednesday through Friday from 1 to 5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. They are open seven days a week for reserved group tours. Call (714) 540-0404 for additional information.

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