Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Heritage Museum of Orange County

The Kellogg House. Photo credit: Emma's Photographers
When people think of Orange County, California, they may think of such popular tourist destinations as Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm. But a Victorian historical treasure trove is also tucked away in this area: the Heritage Museum of Orange County.

I hadn’t heard of this special place until I got engaged and my now-husband suggested it as a possible wedding venue—and indeed, we were married here. But while June is a fun time to talk about weddings, the Heritage Museum is more than just one of the top wedding venues in Orange County. It is full of history on its own!

The museum grounds cover 12 acres and include a central plaza where several historic buildings have been meticulously transferred, a certified farm that sells its own produce, and a beautiful orange grove and rose garden. The entire property is a delight to stroll around and enjoy the scent of orange blossoms, sight of lavender-blossomed jacaranda trees, and beautifully restored historical buildings.

The Kellogg House

Upstairs "bridal room"in the Kellogg House
Photo credit: Emma's Photographers
The highlight of the Heritage Museum tends to be the Kellogg House (see top photo), former home of Hiram Clay Kellogg, prominent civil engineer of Santa Ana and nearby cities like Elsinore and Corona (but not of Kellogg's cereal, as I first thought!). Kellogg lived in this home with his family in Santa Ana from when he built it in 1898, but when in the 1980 the neighborhood was being condemned, the house was moved to the Heritage Museum to preserve it. Built with late Queen Anne-style Victorian architecture, the house features a broad front porch, balcony, and charming dormer peak, making it a popular site for wedding photos.

Downstairs in the Kellogg House. Photo credit: Emma's Photographers
Inside, the home is decorated in delightfully authentic Victorian style, with an organ in the parlor and detailed antique dollhouse on exhibit, plus old-fashioned sewing machine and mirrors in the upstairs bedroom, which also serves as the bridal room for weddings. There’s even an old-fashioned schoolroom, quite appropriate since thousands of schoolchildren visit the house for hands-on experience of the Victorian era. They can even dress up in costume!

Spiral staircase built around a ship's mast!
Photo credit: Emma's Photographers
The unique spiral staircase forms the centerpiece of the house—literally and figuratively—as it is built around a real ship’s mast from a ship in San Francisco, thanks to Kellogg’s fascination with ships. The various landings suggest the bridge or, if you make it to the open attic, the crow’s nest of a ship as well.

The Maag Farmhouse

While it is not yet open to visitors, the museum is currently working to restore the interior of the John A. Maag Farmhouse, the 1899 home of nut and citrus grower John Anton Maag and his family. In the meantime, it’s unusual lavender exterior and charming architecture add another aspect to the museum’s grounds.

The Blacksmith Shop

The Heritage Museum grounds also hold a fully operational blacksmith shop, home of the Orange County Blacksmith Guild. If you’ve ever wanted to take a class in blacksmithing, this is the place to come!

Other Sights

Other fun things to see include the Carriage House (built and painted to match the Maag Farmhouse and now serving as "groom's quarters" for weddings), a covered wagon located behind the Carriage House, the farm and gardens (including hydroponics and aquaponics), and “Gospel Swamp,” the only remaining freshwater swamp in southern California and an area originally populated by poor farming families. Preachers of various denominations used to set up revival tent meetings here, hence the name.

Also, don’t miss a walk by the orange grove—it not only looks and smells lovely, but also contains historic farming equipment from California’s orange orchard heydays.


In addition to field trips, the Heritage Museum of Orange County hosts multiple events throughout the year, from Civil War Days to a Jane Austen tea to various cultural exhibits. If you are in the area, check their website for upcoming events:

So, if you were to visit the Heritage Museum of Orange County, which exhibits or features sound most fascinating to you? Please comment and share!

Kiersti Giron holds a life-long passion for history and historical fiction. She loves to write stories that show the intersection of past and present, explore relationships that bridge cultural divides, and probe the healing Jesus can bring out of brokenness. Kiersti has been published in several magazines and won the 2013 ACFW Genesis Award - Historical for her manuscript Beneath a Turquoise Sky. A high school teacher and member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Kiersti loves learning and growing with other writers penning God's story into theirs, as well as blogging at She lives in California with her wonderful husband, Anthony, and their two kitties.


  1. I'd love to see the antique dollhouse, and that spiral staircase looks beautiful! GREAT place for a wedding, how special!

    1. So sorry this posted as a separate comment and not a reply at first, Connie--let's try this again. :)

      I love dollhouses too! And yes the staircase is unique and a great spot for photos. :) Thanks so much for stopping by, Connie!

  2. I love dollhouses too! And yes the staircase is unique and a great spot for photos. :) Thanks so much for stopping by, Connie!

  3. Amazing post and the pictures added so much to the Heritage Museum of Orange County. The spiral staircase is a show piece for pictures in various poses.

    1. Indeed it is. :) Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing, Marilyn!

  4. What a beautiful place for your wedding! I love old houses. That staircase makes me dizzy just looking at the picture, but fascinating facts.

    1. The staircase didn't actually make me dizzy (and I struggle with heights!) except from the very top attic portion, where the photo is taken from. :) Thanks so much for reading and sharing, Linda--blessings!