Winter Sun: The Orange

                Unlike many fruits, navel oranges are at their sweetest and ripest in the fall and winter months.  The Heritage Park Historical Museum and Carriage Barn exhibition titled “When the Air Was Pure and Money Grew on Trees” is a nod to the once-thriving citrus industry in Southern California.  Imagine that every house you see is, instead, an orange tree.

The largest object in the exhibit titled “Living from the Land” is the orange sizing machineIt is approximately 12 feet long and made of red, painted wood.  This was used to sort oranges by size before they were shipped off.  Orange sizing rings are also a part

Portion of the Orange Grading Machine, located inside the Carriage Barn.

of the exhibit.  There is a photograph behind this machine of farmers tending to the orange trees.

Navel oranges were developed by Mrs. Eliza Tibbets of Riverside, California, in 1873.  There were found to be sweet and seedless, so they were very popular and soon shipped all over the world.  People even ate them for dessert.  For a long time, having an orange was a big treat because they weren’t readily available.  But by 1940, there were 190,000 acres of orange trees in Southern California.

Today, there is a small orange tree grove in Heritage Park, but unfortunately the oranges cannot be picked.  But if you have a tree at home or have permission somewhere else, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • The sweetest oranges are typically found high on the tree, on the outside, and on the south side of the tree.
  • The color of an orange has no relation to whether or not it’s ripe. Yes, that means that the color can be anywhere from dark green to pink or dark red!
  • Eat oranges as soon as possible
  • Watch for firm, bruise-free skin
  • Avoid tender spots or folds
  • And of course, smell that strong, sweet, citrus smell!


Orange Grove
A view of the Heritage Park Orange Grove, located beside the Windmill.


To learn more about picking oranges, visit



Kitchen Life

Now that we’re deep into autumn, we start thinking about the things we’re thankful for, like family, friends…and modern appliances. And not having to cook our food on a wood-burning stove.

Heritage Park Historical Museum and Carriage Barn has an exhibit called “Keeping a Home”, which showcases items such as a wood-burning oven and icebox cabinet. The kitchen then, much like today, was the central place in the home. A lot of time was spent in there with family as meals were being prepared, because cutting, beating, and mixing were all done by hand. The stove was typically filled with eucalyptus branches – a local tree – and that had to be chopped by hand as well. These days we are thankful for modern gadgets that can help us with these tasks!

A lot of the food came from the family’s own backyard, not the store. Basically because there weren’t very many grocery stores like there are today. Eggs, fruit, vegetables, milk, and meat all came from the family’s garden and livestock. To keep it from spoiling, the food was kept in the icebox (now the modern day refrigerator) with a block of ice to keep the box cold. As the ice melted, the water would collect in a tray that was later emptied. The one here in the Carriage Barn is a tall cabinet made out of wood, with metal hinges and 2 doors. On top are two grinders, either for spices, coffee, or wheat. We should be thankful we can easily buy these items pre-ground from the store!

The oven is by Royal Enterprise, manufactured by Phillips and Buttorff from Nashville, TN. It has no dials to turn the heat from low to high, no timer to set to remind you when the turkey is ready. It just has one door for the oven, the stove burners, and two doors on top. Also visible are various cooking items: baking powder and bowls, wafers and tea.

So when you’re sitting down to a delicious meal, ham or turkey, with mashed potatoes and stuffing, with your family around you, think of how much harder it could have been to store all those dishes in the icebox or prepare it on a wood-burning stove…and be thankful.


Part of the “Keeping a Home” exhibit, located in the Carriage Barn.

Are you afraid of dolls?

There’s only one thing that never fails to scare us around Halloween…dolls!  This is actually called pediophobia, a type of automatonophobia, which is the fear of humanoid figures.  Basically, dolls are scary because they remind us of…us!  In any case,  Heritage Park and the Carriage Barn Museum have some on display for people to get their thrill.

This doll, in particular, was donated by Grace Hoffman on May 5th, 1986. Hoffman was a resident here in Santa Fe Springs and generously contributed this piece to our permanent collection.  The doll is made with a soft cloth body and white porcelain head, arms, and legs. As you can see, the doll’s gaze is pointed right and the hair is cut short and styled in waves. The doll is wearing a white cloth dress with ¾ bell sleeves. She stands approximately one foot high.

Dolls go back as far in time as you can imagine, as there have always been children needing entertainment and people needing things to collect! This specific doll was most likely made in Germany between 1840 and 1880. Though this doll has painted hair, some dolls in this style later received wigs either made from human hair or mohair (i.e. the hair of an Angora goat).  These first dolls were supposed to represent grown up women in the fashions of the time period.  Only children from wealthy parents had dolls.  Of course, that’s all changed today. Now many people can enjoy dolls, although some remain expensive collectors’ items.

According to the 2018 Guinness Book of World Records , the largest porcelain doll lives in Jiangxi, China.  She is 5 feet and 7.7 inches tall.  Wang Chu and Deng Jiagi are the two responsible for her creation.

Additionally, the 2011 Guinness Book of World Records names Bettina Dorfmann as the owner of the largest doll collection in the world, which contains over 15,000 Barbie dolls. This record remains unbeaten.

Barbie dolls are, as the name implies, still dolls, but arguably not as creepy as the porcelain ones.  Probably because we have all owned one or two in our lifetimes.  But there are some dolls that are rumored to be haunted – most notably Robert the doll, who “lives” in the East Martello Museum and has quite a frightening history.  Another doll, Annabelle, is a Raggedy Ann doll who “lives” in the Warren Occult Museum and her history almost beats Robert’s in pure scare factor.  So much so that there are several movies of the same name.

Will the Heritage Park Museum dolls gain the same sort of haunted fame? Are they really watching you?  You’ll have to stop in and make sure…on October 31st, if you dare!


A New Beginning

The Santa Fe Springs City Library is thrilled to announce that we have taken the Heritage Park Carriage Barn under our wing! As you can imagine, the Venn diagram separating librarians and history buffs is very nearly just a regular circle. Santa Fe Springs is filled with rich history and we look forward to sharing it with you.

The Carriage Barn has been a staple of the Santa Fe Springs community since its original erection by Eli Hawkins in the 1880s. Having the eye for elegance that he did, Hawkins decided to do away with the concept of the simple, functional barn and, instead, built the country’s most expensive barn for $5,000 (approximately $130,000 today). As you can see in the image below, the Barn was built in a Carpenter Gothic style.

Carriage Barn - Nimocks

The Carpenter Gothic style is notable for its reflection of Gothic details, such as the pointed Cathedral-style window above the second floor barn door, the elaborate trim above the doors, and the decorative trusses around the roofing of the barn.

Though the original building burned down in 1969, the current reconstruction of the Barn reflects the same craftsmanship present during the original 19th century construction.

Stop by the Carriage Barn anytime from 12PM to 4PM on Tuesday through Saturday and help us celebrate the history of our town! Admission is free.  

And don’t forget to check back here for blog updates!