When my father Edgar Lewis Bates passed away, I inherited the baby book that his mother Beatrice Bates had created for him. Inside the front cover, she had glued several postcard-sized photographs of family homes in Santa Ana, California. The first one she captioned “The place where Edgar Lewis Bates was born Sep 17 1913.” On my annual trip to southern California, I located the house in the photograph in Santa Ana and learned a bit more about my family’s history.
The Santa Ana House
This is the first photograph in the baby book, pasted inside the front cover.
The couple on the left are my grandparents, Beatrice Lockwood Bates and Gilbert E Bates. Seated on the porch post is son Clifford Glenn Bates (b. Jul 1911). Son Clarence Fredrick Bates (b. Oct 1909) is seated on the cart by the bottom step. On the right are Gilbert’s parents, Amanda Steel Bates and William Henry Bates.
Another photograph, dated 1914, shows the Bates family in an automobile (more about that in another post) with the same house in the background. The caption on that picture gave me the address.
My cousin Kathy emailed that she looked up the address on Google Maps (why didn’t I think of that?) and discovered that the house is still there. On the street view, it looked very much the same as it did in the 100+ years ago. The foliage was different of course, and a picket fence had been added, but the building was definitely recognizable. The porch style is particularly distinctive.
Last Fall (2016) I planned to visit Santa Ana while I was in southern California. Beforehand, I contacted the Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society (SAHPS) to see if I could find out anything about Gilbert as a cement contractor in the area.
There was a quite a bit of interest and I soon had several people emailing me with information. One of the things mentioned about Gilbert was “… in 1911, he built a cottage at 1212 Van Ness St., which is still standing. The Bates family lived a couple doors down, at 1216 Van Ness.”
With that much information, I needed to at least to see the house. It wasn’t difficult to find, thanks again to Google Maps. It is only a few blocks from the Santa Ana Civic Center now (and thus has a parking meter out front).
As I drove past, I saw a couple gardening at the side of the house. I parked, fed the meter, and walked over and introduced myself. I found out that they indeed lived in the house and were renting it.
I showed them the old pictures on my cell phone and explained that my father had been born there and my grandfather built the house. They were excited to see the photos of their house in 1914 and to hear about the history behind it. They asked if they could get copies, as well as a couple for the owner. I will be forwarding them copies as soon as I get decent prints made. Before I left, I asked permission to take a couple of photos from the street, one of which I have included here.
A Neat Cottage
I located a wedding announcement for Gilbert and Beatrice in the Santa Ana Register from Thursday, Apr 16, 1908. The last paragraph mentions Gilbert’s intention to build “a neat cottage” at the Van Ness location.
The Paularino Country Home
Another baby book photograph shows another house that Gilbert and Beatrice had in the area. None of my living relatives knew anything about the “country home”.
This house looks almost identical to the house on Van Ness (first photo). It was likely the same builder, possibly Gilbert, although that is just speculation.
The location of this house, actually spelled Paularino, was a farming town in what is now Costa Mesa in Orange County. It would have been about ten miles from the Van Ness house in Santa Ana.
This turned out to be a fun excursion for me, and it was rewarding to share with the people living in the house in which my father was born over a hundred years ago. I also made some new (and helpful) contacts at the Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society.