Wednesday, September 22, 2010

German Style Homes in Orange County

Lori, who moved to Orange County in the mid-1990s, asks about German style architecture throughout the county...

Hi Steve,

Found your website while researching a type of home architecture/design that has me wondering about something ever since I moved to OC in the mid 90s. Maybe you have some ideas...

I have roots in Bavaria. My dad was born and raised in the southern part of Germany right at the base of the Alps. I have noticed that many, many homes in OC have what looks to me like a "chalet" type of design. "A" shaped frames attached to the front of houses, with scalloping around the edges (that seems to simulate snow) and window shutters that remind me so much of Swiss/Bavarian stlye chalets that were built specifically to keep snow from piling onto roofs. The OC homes look like little versions of those types of buildings.

My curiosity is this: Were these homes designed with the chalet look in mind, and if so why? I'm not even sure what era they come from but if I had to guess it would be maybe 50s or 60s? The only remotely possible reason that I can think of (since seeing chalets in sunny southern Ca. seems odd) is that it had something to do with Disneyland and the Matterhorn Bobsleds ride. Perhaps when Disney opened the ride it caused an interest in all things Swiss? And from there the developers perhaps started building subdivisions with that type of design?

I'd love to hear what you think. I've googled here and there and just can't seem to find anything specific.

Thank you!

P.S. I think I'll start taking photos of the homes so that I can show people what I'm talking about...

She mentions Disneyland, which if course is in Anaheim, and Anaheim of course was originally a German settlement.


  1. In the design of the housing tracts in OC of the 50s & 60s they also featured in some a birdhouse that resembles a cuckoo clock at the top peak of the A-frame part of the garage. Sadly, many people removed them as years went by, possibly thinking they looked strange or provincial. It seems that feature could be grouped in to the German style that I agree resembles Bavarian architecture.

  2. I do remember those houses. They were built in the late fifties. One of my friends and I could get on his roof easily by using the low eave near the front door. My mom disliked the design. She called them" birdhouses". Some even had faux birdhouse-like holes cut in the higher gables. I thought they were cool. Some are still there. I drove past a few near Disneyland last year. They looked rundown. I never thought them German. It was too close to WWII to market them that way. I've seen them around San Francisco, too.

  3. Having grown up in OC, it seems like OC has a hodge-podge of all different designs, without rhyme or reason. There were the famous Eichler Homes, the bungalows, the Craftsman style homes, tract homes with seemingly no distinct feature, etc. There were also allot of custom-built homes in certain areas. the tract homes came into vogue right after the war when the guys came home and started big families. If you had a little money, you could buy a custom home. I don't think it had anything to do with the Matterhorn, but I don't know. There must've been some Germans who named Anaheim, because it means "Anna's Home".

  4. Normally I hear these homes referred to as Swiss Chalet or Storybook style homes. It was just one of about 6 or 8 popular motifs used to differentiate tract homes that were otherwise identical. Other themes included Polynesian (my favorite), Asian, Ranch/Western, and Modern. These were popular pop culture themes of the day, and Disneyland reflected that also. Both Disneyland and tract homes were pulling from the same pool of popular themes. Personally, I think the themes were fun, and I'm always sad to see people fight the theme of their tract house -- for instance, putting Cape Cod shutters on an Asian-themed home.

  5. My grandfather's house also had these Swiss chalet stylings. I've always thought of it as a peculiarly Orange County thing, and it doesn't seem isolated to any one town. Even now that I've been gone 25 years, when I visit Orange County and drive by these houses it feels like going home.

  6. Hello

    I grew up in west Anaheim - Magnolia and Orange. Our home was built in the late 50's around the time of Disneyland. The houses in the track were called "Cinderella Homes" and featured Disneyland like details. The shutters on the windows had shields Camelot like. The garage doors had " jousting poles". The master shower had Cinderella tiles featuring the carriage and glass slipper as accent tiles. We had a fountain in our backyard that was constructed by the same company who created the Matterhorn at Disneyland.

    It was an exciting time to be in Anaheim when Disneyland was just getting started the entire community was affected.

  7. These style of homes are called Cinderellas. They also can be found in Orange and Tustin. My father sold real estate in Anaheim during the '60's and '70's for Seymour Reality. John Seymour later became an Anaheim City Councilman and then a state senator. I had a number of friends who lived in these tract homes. They predated Disneyland and were whimsical in design to offer post WWII buyers a "fairy tale" dream of home ownership.
    Anaheim is a German appellation meaning "home by the Santa Ana River." Disney did offer to rebuild/redesign downtown Anaheim with a Bavarian theme but his offer was rejected.
    Anaheim was always considered a "bedroom" community because it was predominated by homes and strawberry fields. I could "smell" nearby Cypress because of the proliferation of Dutch dairy farms. Land in Anaheim was incredibly fertile because of years of frequent flooding. After the original German grape crops ran their course, strawberries and oranges were introduced. The Boysenberry was developed at nearby Knott's Berry Farm and named after Dr. Boysen, its creator.

  8. This is for ori, who asked about the Swiss/German home styles in OC. This is anecdotal, of mom always said it was quite the style in the 50's for developers to imitate architechural styles and adapt them to suburbia. There are a few half-timbered,Tudor style homes dotted around....and a couple Asian inspired homes with moon gate enries. By far the best seller was the Alpine bungalow that had an influence on home styles here.
    If you drive down Harbor Blvd in Anaheim (an old German colony) you can see a dozen motels near Disneyland that look to house Heidi and her grasndfather.

    1. I remember my parents bought a new home in a housing tract in Huntington Beach called Dutch Haven. Now that you mention it, this is all very interesting to me now. That was in the late sixties.

  9. I have your answer Lori. My Grandmother and Grandftaher bought one of these houses new and I grew up in it and live in it now. These German/Dutch style houses were built in 1955- thru 1959, by a contractor company called Cinderella Homes. The median price for one of these houses new was 30,000.00 They bid on contracts to build tract housing in many suburbs all over southern california, not just Orange County. They were mostly bought from people coming back from WWII, from all over the country. My grandfather bought the house after coming back from WWII, working for Hughes Aircraft in Venice and being sent to Hughes in Irvine, moved to Costa Mesa, 1957. I believe that Cinderella Homes, did, in fact, build off of the Disneyland thing, but it didn't just have to do with the Matterhorn, but more rather Original Disneyland itself. - James Hambly, College Park, Costa Mesa ( just off of Harbor Blvd. and Fair)

  10. And then Joesph brought us Old World !!!
    AND Oktoberfest !!! WUNDER-BAR

  11. Many of the homes you describe are or were "inspired" by the "Cinderella" series of homes designed & pioneered by Jean (Jene) Vandruff & developed by the Vandruff brothers or franchised to other builders such as Roven & Spiegel Construction and other developers. Mr J V Vandruff is now 90 years young & still going strong. He built at least 2 developments in the OC, Anaheim (Vandruff) & Costa Mesa (R&S). There are many other "Cinderella" tracts throughout SoCal & the western states. I own a home in one in Canoga Park, CA (San Fernando Valley) & am in process of restoring it to it's original mid-century glory. I also provide a consulting service for like-minded owners who would like to do the same. You can do a search on Mr Vandruff and read his autobiography page online -- a very fascinating man...

  12. You can read all about these homes at the link below. Many were built in the west San Fernando Valley also

  13. Remember all those orange trees you used to see in anaheim in groves were originally german farmers groves

  14. Kitty almost understands that his well known Great Moggy toaster is big
    an adequate amount of to take the lustrous slices along with make yet bagels (while
    you usually make your Hola Pet cat mark on the these kind
    of!) an essay you apply against each other, the whole lot is plainly purr-fect.

    Reheating and also comes in suitable by working with simple understand assistance, which
    are often completed with the main microwave oven, pot, or maybe on any
    stove-top. extensively clean the edges inside the
    car door precisely. As far as having a meal utensils, the goods that can many times open within
    go end up being spoons, forks, cuisines and as a result meals knives.
    Outlet hangings may add in the direction of house theme gear.

    Also visit my homepage - copper toasters


  16. I lived in one of these homes as a kid. 722 wasco road. I believe we paid $29k with a pool. we were 2nd owners. they definitely were called cinderella homes. I have seen the same builder homes where I live in the san fernando valley. all homes were 3 bedroom and 1 3/4 bath. nice homes. orange groves down the street and Japanese growers sold tomatoes by the lug and strawberries down the street. knott's berry farm close. we went there a lot for the chicken dinner and boysenberry snow cones before the theme park was created. we could see disneyland fireworks from our backyard at 9 pm every night. all houses had a fruiting orange tree in their backyard.

  17. Cinderella homes can also be found in parts of Placentia. I live in one which was built in '61. Almost all of the exterior features in my neighborhood remain unchanged.


Custom Search