By the Boom of the 1880s, a time of
prosperity in Southern California, Tustin had grown from a small frontier
settlement of shacks to a lovely community with tree-lined streets and
beautiful Victorian houses.
Wealthy people who were used to being
socially active came to Tustin from cities such as San Francisco and
Cincinnati. Before long they were hosting elegant parties.
Evenings in their homes were devoted
to programs of violin, piano and vocal selections. Poetry readings and
dramatic skits were organized. Attendance at the Opera House in Santa Ana
swelled. Culture and self improvement became popular.
David Hewes, a wealthy San Francisco
contractor, and his second wife, Mathilda, came to Tustin in 1881, seeking a
mild climate more suited to her health than the dampness of the Bay Area.
Soon after their magnificent Victorian home was completed at the corner of
Main and B streets, Mrs. Hewes’ daughter and son-in-law, William S. and
Franklina Bartlett, also moved to Tustin.
The two couples became active members
of Tustin society. Mrs. Bartlett missed the educational stimulation she had
experienced in an Oakland organization based on the philosophy of Dr. Adrien
Ebell, a Berlin, Germany, scholar who visualized a world movement “to
promote the development of the feminist mind in the systematic study of the
exact science, including music, art and language.”
As the first president of the Ebell
Society of Oakland, Mrs. Bartlett had helped to organize a program of
monthly meetings. After she moved to Southern California, she was asked to
aid in organizing the Los Angeles Ebell Society.
Then she decided Tustin needed such
an organization. It didn’t take long for her to arouse the interest of a
number of Tustin women including Mrs. E.D. Buss, wife of the cashier of the
Bank of Tustin and a member of the school board; Mrs. Edward M. Neally,
whose husband was a citrus grower, secretary-treasurer of the Tustin
Protective Association, and a school board member; and Mrs. S.W. Nau,
socialite and wife of a citrus grower.
The Ebell Club of the Santa Ana
Valley formed in 1894 with 70 charter members, including many from Tustin.
Meetings were held at various locations in Santa Ana, the Rossmore Hotel,
the Opera House and the Presbyterian Church, but by 1924 when there were
hundreds of members, the ladies decided they needed their own clubhouse.
Frederick Ely, a prominent Santa Ana
architect, designed a 12,400 square-foot Spanish Colonial clubhouse to be
built in the French Park section of Santa Ana by Sam Preble, a Tustin
contractor. The building has been listed on the National Register of
Historic Places since 2001.
The Tustin ladies planned well.
During the early 1960s the membership of Ebell swelled to 1,200. Now, more
than 100 years since its founding, the organization still has more than 200
women enjoying its stimulating programs.