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The History of the City of Placentia

In 1837, Placentia began its colorful history when Juan Ontiveros received the Rancho San Juan Cajon De Santa Ana from the governor of Mexico. The land grant is today’s Placentia, Anaheim, Fullerton, and La Habra.

Despite the small land area of Placentia, it’s where the county’s lifeblood first grew the Valencia orange. Alfred B. Chapman imported the first Valencia orange trees, and the Placentia soil was where the first commercial grove was planted back in 1880. Placentia was known as the ‘baby city,’ – the smallest in Orange County.

The County Pioneers

Daniel Kraemer pioneered Placentia when he purchased 3900 acres in 1865 from Ontivero’s land grant.

Three years later, 100 additional acres in the area was acquired by William McFadden and his wife, Sarah Jane. During the following years, many other settlers arrived and settled. They built schools and churches as the community slowly developed.

School District

Cajon School District is the original name of the school’s district. In 1878, it was changed to Placentia School District, as suggested by Sarah Jane McFadden. The term Placentia came from a Latin word that means ‘ a pleasant place to live.’ The city’s name came from that change.

Today, several towns are named Placentia. There’s one in Newfoundland, Canada, one in Maine, and another one in ancient Rome.

The Santa Fe Railroad and the A.S. Bradford

In 1910, Placentia was officially on the map when A.S. Bradford persuaded the Santa Fe Railroad to re-route their track back through this area. The reroute shortened the rail distance to Los Angeles and contributed to the town’s growth.

As the town’s citrus industry flourished, various packing houses and a railroad station were built.

In honor of Mr. Bradford’s effort in laying out main streets of the town, Bradford Avenue is present today.

Like other Orange County towns, Placentia transformed from being an agricultural area to a bedroom community. Some aspects of the old lifestyle remained, like the small groves that are scattered throughout the city. But most of the groves have been destroyed to make way for further developments.

Historical Sites in the City of Placentia

  • A.S. Bradford House – 136 Palm Circle
    This is the home of Albert Bradford that was built in 1902 on his Tesoro Rancho. He was a co-founder of Placentia. Bradford also helped organize the Placentia National Bank and the Bradford Packinghouse.
  • Ontiveros Adobe Site – Near the corner of Crowther Avenue and Porter Way
    The owner of Rancho San Juan Cajon de Santa Ana, Juan Pacifico, built an adobe on this site in 1841. He held the land that became the Anaheim colony and the later town sites of Fullerton and Placentia. Today, the adobe no longer exists.
  • George Key Ranch – 625 W. Bastanchury Rd.
    This is known as the oldest standing house in Placentia. It was built in 1898. It was remodeled in 1908. The house isn’t open to the public.