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June 12, 2008|Pauline OConnor

THEY call Tustin "The City of Trees," so named because of the numerous eucalyptus, pepper, sycamore, pine and oak trees that flourished there when it was established in 1868 by carriage maker Columbus Tustin. Though most of those groves have given way to freeways and tract homes, the city, which lies about 40 miles south of Los Angeles, between Santa Ana and Irvine, still has trees in abundance.

Although it's home to more than 70,000 residents, Tustin has a decidedly small-town vibe, thanks to its dozen parks and beautifully preserved Old Town district. The historic buildings in this quaint enclave span a variety of architectural styles, including Colonial, Victorian Italianate and Victorian Queen Anne, Craftsman and Monterey Revival. (The Tustin Area Historical Society [395 El Camino Real] offers free, self-guided walking tour brochures.)

The rustic feel seems likely to change: Currently underway is a development project encompassing schools, parks, homes, offices and shops that is expected to increase the city's population by 20%. And where a Marine base once was now stands the District at Tustin Legacy, a retail complex with 1 million square feet of stores, restaurants, movie theaters and Strike, an upscale, late-night bowling alley. But for the time being, the old and the new coexist peacefully.


In the former Tustin Garage, a historic building built in 1915, the Beach Pit BBQ (560 El Camino Real, [714] 929- 7427; serves wood-smoked Southern-style ribs, pulled pork and beef brisket, and features live music on Thursday and Friday nights.


The Marconi Automotive Museum (1302 Industrial Drive, [714] 258-3001; has a $30-million collection of exotic cars, including Lamborghinis, Porsches and Ferraris, such as the one-of-a-kind Ferrari FX built for the sultan of Brunei. All are from Dick Marconi, a co-founder of Herbalife, who established the museum in 1994.


Victor Andersen, below, began working alongside his father at Tustin Blacksmith (245 S. C St., [714] 544-6860) at age 12. Six decades later, he can be found manning the hammer and anvil from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. most days. Just in case you need anything forged.


Surrounded by native-plant gardens and a pond, Acorn Naturalists (155 El Camino Real, [714] 838-4888; carries books, birdcalls, animal tracking guides, interactive science kits and myriad other supplies for communing with nature.


Bruce Noland Cole Antiques & Buttons (486 El Camino Real, [714] 730-5502) is a mecca for buttons, such as the rare one above. It's one of several antique shops in the Jamestown Village shopping center, which is the site of a monthly flea market.



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