As readers of this column know, most of the early Jewish pioneers of Orange County lived in Anaheim and Santa Ana. The Mendelsons were one of the few exceptions: they lived farther south in San Juan Capistrano and were the only Jewish family for miles around. Polish immigrants Max and his wife Clara settled in the tiny mission town in 1874 with their growing family; four of their seven children had been born in Mississippi and Missouri and the remaining three would be born in Capistrano. A year later, Max purchased a small inn and the land it was built on from Manuel and Paula Garcia; he and Clara fixed up the place and opened the Mendelson House shortly after (today, it is the site of the city’s Historic Town Center Park). The hotel was a big success, being the only real place to stop between north Orange County and San Diego. When the opportunity to own another place of business presented itself in 1892, Max and his two oldest sons, Louis and Ed, grabbed it. Louis, who was a lawyer, did the paperwork, Max provided the funds, and Ed ran the place. In the photo, Ed and his baby brother Clarence (standing on a bench) are shown with a few members of the “Trampers’ Annex,” a local biking club. The family owned the saloon until 1897, when for reasons unknown their license was not renewed. We don’t know what happened to business after that, but it does make for a great story!
Dalia Taft, archivist of the Orange County Jewish Historical Society, highlights images from the archives every month. For more information, please visit https://www.jccoc.org/pages/oc-jewish-historical-society. You can also contact Dalia at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (949) 435-3400, ext. 360. The Orange County Jewish Historical Society is a program of the Merage Jewish Community Center and is funded by the Jewish Community Foundation Orange County.