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Spotlight on Public Places | Community News Focus

Downtown Plaza District

May 28, 1997|LESLEY WRIGHT

Merchants, residents and city officials have long cherished the aesthetic appeal of their historic downtown plaza district.

In 1982, the keeper of the National Register of Historic Places recognized its turn-of-the-century commercial buildings, brick sidewalks and shaded traffic circle and listed the district on the register.

Since then, services clubs and residents have joined merchants in sprucing up the area to lure more visitors.

"It really is becoming a tourist destination," said Barbara deBoom, chief executive of the city's Chamber of Commerce. "People come down to Anaheim to go to Disneyland, and we want them to come down here."

Largely unaltered since the city was incorporated in 1888, the commercial district has a small-town atmosphere that makes it ideal for the numerous antique shops that surround the circle.

Jurors with the county's chapter of the American Institute of Architects recognized the plaza for providing "a central focus which brings together all the neighborhoods of Old Towne Orange."

Preservationists have ensured that the setting gives residents and visitors a nice place to walk, shop and gather, they said.

The setting also has intrigued promoters of special events and filmmakers. Last year, the downtown was transformed into 1964 Erie, Penn., for Tom Hanks' film "That Thing You Do!"

In February, the state Historical Resources Commission voted unanimously to nominate the entire mile-square residential section of Old Towne for the register. The final decision by federal officials is expected within the next month.

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