Friends of the Library: Even when Costa Mesa was farms, they still needed books

March 26, 2011|By Mary Ellen Goddard

Those of you who know me know that I'm mainly involved with two things in Costa Mesa: the libraries and the city's history.

Some of you may also know that what is now Costa Mesa started out as three settlements: Harper, Fairview and Paularino.

Paularino was the first in 1886. Two dozen or so families from Boston settled in the area between what is now Fairview Road and Newport Boulevard, the San Diego (405) Freeway, and a line about a half-mile south of Baker Street. The area did not develop a business area, but it did build a school.


Fairview — to the west of Paularino — started in 1887 when a syndicate bought the land, subdivided and laid out a town with shops, a bank, school, hotel, etc. But with nothing to sustain a town, it collapsed, and by 1911 all that remained were the schoolhouse, the hotel and a few scattered houses.

Harper grew like topsy, in large part because a general merchandise store opened in 1908 at 18th Street and Newport Boulevard to serve nearby homes. By 1923 the town was renamed Costa Mesa and had its own library, which was one of the first branches in what has become the Orange County Public Library.

Forty-two years and many thousands of people later, the Mesa Verde Library was built in the section of town that had been Fairview. In 2001, 116 years after the first settlement of Paularino by the Boston colony, the Costa Mesa Technology Library opened on Bristol and Paularino streets.

It is said that in 1886, a farmer from another area visited the Paularino community.

He went home laughing and told his wife: "You know, there was this man plowing, and guess what? He was reading a book at the same time — Emerson's 'Essays,' he said it was — holding it up in one hand and trying to guide the horse with the other. Did you ever hear of such crazy goings on?"

I like to think that farmer with the book would like to know that there is a handy library in Paularino now. And I am pleased that the love of reading has such a long tradition in our town. I hope this tradition will guarantee support for a new central library to serve our community.

These early efforts mean that you can enjoy programs like the following: At our Costa Mesa/Donald Dungan Library, at 1855 Park Ave., Adult Services Librarian Samantha Hathaway will lead the Mystery Book Club with the book "Orange Curtain" by John Shannon. Yes, the book is set in Orange County.

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