In addition to its miles of beautiful beaches, Orange County and its outskirts contain some important literary and historical landmarks worth visiting. From gorgeous harbors to 18th century missions, Orange County has provided the setting for many popular and classic pieces of literature, and extending still to more modern stories. In addition to sites mentioned in novels, there are also locations that are historically important due to the people and the times with which they are associated. Get inspired and connect with culture and history at these Orange County literary landmarks.
Mission San Juan Capistrano
26801 Ortega Highway
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
Founded in 1775, Mission San Juan Capistrano serves as the backdrop for Johnston McCulley’s five-part series titled “The Curse of Capistrano,” more familiarly known as “The Mark of Zorro.” Written in 1919, and adapted to film in 1920 with the new “Zorro” title, “The Curse of Capistrano” introduces readers to Zorro, the alter ego of California nobleman Don Diego de la Vega, seeker of justice and opponent of the autocratic villainy of Mexican officials. With a rich history and beautiful architecture, Mission San Juan Capistrano is a must-see attraction for anyone, and especially those visitors with a taste for literary adventure.
Dana Point Harbor
Dana Point, CA 92629
Named after lawyer and writer Richard Henry Dana, Dana Point is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Orange County. Despite Dana’s assertion of poor anchorage, Dana Point boasts a functional and beautiful harbor, where a replica of Dana’s ship, the Pilgrim, is moored. Visitors to the Dana Point Harbor can take a tour of the Pilgrim, which is also used by the Ocean Institute for classroom field trips and overnight adventures. Dana Point Harbor is the perfect location for a hands-on connection with literature and history, and a visit to one of the most beautiful historical landmarks in Orange County.
Upton Sinclair House
464 N. Myrtle Ave.
Monrovia, CA 91016
Novelist and political activist Upton Sinclair, famous for his novel “The Jungle,” which exposed the unsanitary and unsafe practices of the meat packing industry at the turn of the 20th century, was a resident of Southern California from 1942-1966. During this time, he wrote a majority of the Lanny Budd series, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “Dragon’s Teeth.” Sinclair’s Monrovia house was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1971. While it is currently privately owned, any writer seeking inspiration can take a stroll by the house and catch a glimpse of the side garage, which Sinclair used as his personal workspace.
John Fowles Center For Creative Writing
1 University Drive
Orange, CA 92866
Located at Chapman University in Orange, where two-time winner of the World Fantasy Award James P. Blaylock teaches English, the John Fowles Center for Creative Writing exists to support creative writers of all genres. Each year, the John Fowles Center invites notable authors to speak about their craft, making them accessible to anyone seeking literary advice and inspiration. Past speakers have included Salman Rushdie and Raymond Federman, and upcoming speakers include multiple award-winning writer Werner Fritsch and poet Michael Lentz. Events at the Fowles Center are free and open to the public.
520 Paseo Miramar
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
Purchased by Marta and Lion Feuchtwanger, after their escape from Europe, and transformed into an artistic and intellectual hub in 1943, the Villa Aurora remains a reminder of many Europeans who had to flee Nazi persecution. An enormously successful writer, Feuchtwanger was highly critical of Nazi politics prior to Nazi control of Germany, and therefore became a target when the Nazi party gained power. The Villa Aurora exists today as an artists residence, where creators of visual arts, film and literature live and practice their crafts.
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