Most of Orange County’s early Jewish pioneers settled in Anaheim and Santa Ana, but there were a few exceptions. One of the most notable was Max Mendelson, who was born in Poland in 1835 and lived in Mississippi and Anaheim before moving to San Juan Capistrano in the late 1870s. There he and his wife Clara opened the Mendelson Mission Inn, which served as a stop for stagecoaches travelling between Los Angeles and San Diego. It quickly became one of the most popular places in town to stay, and locals, who had a hard time pronouncing Max’s first name, renamed him Marcos.
Max was a prominent citizen of the town, serving as its postmaster for many years, and even had a story written about him in a 1930s children’s book. The inn, which later changed its name to the Mendelson Hotel, was located on El Camino Real near Yorba Street, and catered to many movie companies. Mendelson’s family continued to run the 10-room hotel until it was torn down in 1931; today there is a park where it once stood.
Dalia Taft is the archivist of the Orange County Jewish Historical Society of Jewish Federation Orange County and highlights images from the Society’s archives every month. For more information, please visit www.jewishorangecounty.org/historical. You can also contact Dalia at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (949) 435-3484.