Hewes Park once a Southland ‘beauty spot’

by Juanita Lovret
Reprinted courtesy of the Tustin News

POPULAR PARK: Hewes Park, a project of David Hewes, was designed by Robert G. Frasher,
who also designed the original Busch Gardens in Pasadena

David Hewes had already made a fortune as a land developer in San Francisco when he arrived in Tustin in 1881 with his wife, Matilda, purchased property and built a Victorian mansion on the northwest corner of Main and B Street.

The couple became members of Tustin’s most elite social circle, and-Hewes continued the generosity he had been known for in the Bay Area. He gave the property across the street from their home to the Presbyterians and underwrote the building of the congregation’s first church at Main and C streets.

He became interested in agriculture in about 1885 and purchased 820 acres approximately 1 1/2 miles north of Tustin, between Seventeenth Street on the south, Chapman on the north, Newport on the east and Victoria, a street no longer on the map, on the west.

Oranges, walnuts, prunes, olives, pears, apricots and raisin grapes were planted on 440 acres with the remaining 380 acres used to grow barley.

Hewes built a headquarters compound with rambling ranch home, which he named Anapauma (Spanish for "place of rest") and filled with the many art treasures he and his wife had collected on their honeymoon trip to 22 countries.

When his wife died in 1887 he returned to San Francisco where he remarried and stayed until his second wife died three years later. He then returned to Anapauma.

.He set about beautifying a nearby barren hilltop and invested at least $75,000 to develop Hewes Park at La Veta and Esplanade. The park, laid out by Robert G. Fraser, who designed the original famed Busch Gardens in Pasadena, was open to the public.

Colorful flower gardens and hundreds of specimen plants and trees were used to beautify the area which included a picnic area with large stone barbecues and picnic tables. Soon it was a popular place to visit or picnic.

An early account describes the gardens as “one of the beauty spots of the Southland.” Colored postcards recorded several views of the park including a section with plants spelling out “Hewes Park.”

Development in those days maintained a low profile, and the atmosphere was clear, reportedly allowing Catalina Island, the Sierra Madre and Santa Ana Mountains as well as the snow-covered summit of Old Baldy to be viewed from the highest point of the park.

David Hewes maintained the grounds as a horticultural showplace, but in 1920 after his death at 93, a Los Angeles syndicate acquired Hewes Park, paying more than $1 million with plans to turn it into a commercial attraction.

With a miniature golf course and Japanese tea garden added, the park was a popular amusement area in the 1920s and early 1930s. However its appeal did not survive the Depression.

Several Santa Ana doctors ultimately acquired the property and established large estates utilizing the rare trees and shrubs in their private gardens.

Within recent years the property has been subdivided with many of its more than 212 specimen trees removed. A decorative metal arch at the northwest corner of Esplanade and La Veta recognizes that the property was once Hewes Park.


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