In 1916, the orange groves were so bountiful on the Irvine Ranch that a 48,000 square foot packing house was built to process the fruit. The facility was located on the Santa Fe Railroad’s Venta Spur at Shop Road ( now Yale Ave.)
It was named the Frances Packing House to honor James H. Irvine’s late wife, Frances Anita Plum Irvine, who had died seven years earlier.
This cooperative packing house processed the fruit grown by the Frances Citrus Association, a group of local growers.
In 1923, the California Fruit Grower’s Exchange became the Sunkist Growers, Inc.
The prize-winning Valencia oranges of the Irvine Ranch were cleaned and labeled at the Frances Packing House and then shipped around the world.
While the exterior of the packing house was simple, the interior displayed superior architectural design. The high ceilings and numerous windows gave the workplace a feeling of open space and light. The design was honored years later, when the Frances Packing House was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Unfortunately, this historic designation couldn’t save the Frances Packing House from the wrecking ball. After the packing house was closed in 1971, it was demolished to make room for a new housing development.
Today, the Santa Fe Venta Spur has been converted into a walking trail.
Looking north on Yale Avenue towards Irvine Blvd.
The Frances Packing House was located next to the Santa Fe Venta Spur. Today, the site is part of the residential Village of Northwood.
Fortunately, all was not lost when the Frances Packing House was torn down in the late 1970’s. The “sunkist wall” was preserved and moved to the Irvine Savings Bank Building on Culver Avenue.
Today, you can still see part of the historic Frances Packing House in the lobby of First Bank at 14376 Culver Drive in Irvine.