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San Juan Capistrano in Orange County, California — The American West (Pacific Coastal)
 

Judge Richard Egan House

"Harmony Hall"

 
 
Judge Richard Egan House Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Adam Margolis, August 19, 2017
1. Judge Richard Egan House Marker
Inscription.  The Judge Richard Egan House was built in 1883 for one of San Juan Capistrano' most prominent citizens. Judge Egan was born in Waterford County, Ireland, in 1842, educated in New York and arrived in California in about 1866 following a trip to Paris. Accompanied by a man named McCowen, whom he met in Paris, Egan traveled south from Los Angles by stage to search for desirable land to purchase. The trip took nine hours and the fare was $14. On arrival in San Juan Capistrano, Egan learned that the Mission was inhabited by over 2,000 Mexicans and Indians, only 3 of whom spoke English.

Judge Egan bought over 600 acres of land for the price of $1.25 per acre. He settled into the area and embarked on a multifaceted career that would touch the lives of citizens for generations to come. Egan was elected as Justice of the Peace in 1870 and while he was not an official judge, legend survives that the local populace named him "juez de Plano" or judge of the plains. Judge Egan was also called "the alcalde mayor of San Juan Capistrano by his friend Charles Lummis who founded the Southwest Museum in Los Angels.

Professionally, Judge
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Egan wore many hats: Los Angeles County Supervisor for over 5 years; school board trustee for 32 years; Capistrano's first telegraph operator; Orange County Road Commissioner in 1910, with joint responsibility for disbursement of $1,270,000 in bond issue funds for the early highway system. In 1895, he oversaw and assisted with the restoration of the Mission. He performed weddings and other duties as Justice of the Peace, but always donated his fees to the poor. He was also an engineer.

Most historians feel that Judge Egan's major achievement was surveying and securing the rights of way for the Santa Fe Railway. In 1840 in America, there were only 3,000 miles of railroad lines; by 1900 there were over 100,000 miles linking American cities. In this significant way, Judge Egan helped bring the Industrial Revolution, heralded by the train's arrival, to Orange County and all of Southern California.

Life in Capistrano in the Gay Nineties was not always focused on such serious pursuits. The home was known as "Harmony Hall" and was the setting for festive parties and recitals. The famous Polish actress, Madame Helena Modjeska, was a frequent guest: she nicknamed Judge Egan "the king of Capistrano". In 1894 a group of local men, including Egan, formed the Tansy Club of collectors of Indian artifacts. The items were exhibited in Harmony Hall.

The architectural
Judge Richard Egan House Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Adam Margolis, November 28, 2013
2. Judge Richard Egan House Marker
Marker can be seen near the left side of house.
style of the Egan House, is Italianate Victorian, characterized by the arched windows, hipped roof and millwork detailing. It is built in the same type of bricks used for the Forster Family mansion, Casa Grande which Judge Egan designed. A fire at Harmony Hal destroyed much of the home's second floor in 1897; it remains as the only surviving red brick structure of the period. Richard Egan remained here until his death on February 9, 1923."

"Victorian edifices offer tangible evidence of our roots. They tell us our heritage and of the individuals who helped to tame and beautify a wild and harsh land. They are the legacy of many an American dream" -- From Victorian Bonanza by Scott & Beth Warren.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Notable Buildings. A significant historical date for this entry is February 9, 1923.
 
Location. 33° 29.97′ N, 117° 39.74′ W. Marker is in San Juan Capistrano, California, in Orange County. Marker is on Camino Capistrano north of Del Obispo Street, on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 31892 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano CA 92675, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Judge Egan House (a few steps from this marker); Egan House (a few steps from this marker); "El Adobe de Capistrano" (within shouting distance of this marker); Domingo Yorba Adobe
Judge Richard Egan House Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Adam Margolis, August 13, 2020
3. Judge Richard Egan House Marker
(within shouting distance of this marker); Esslinger Building (within shouting distance of this marker); Provincial Building (within shouting distance of this marker); Garcia Adobe (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Manuel Garcia Adobe (about 300 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in San Juan Capistrano.
 
National Register of Historic Places image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Adam Margolis, August 19, 2017
4. National Register of Historic Places
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on August 25, 2022. It was originally submitted on April 7, 2022, by Adam Margolis of Mission Viejo, California. This page has been viewed 156 times since then and 14 times this year. Last updated on August 17, 2022. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on April 7, 2022, by Adam Margolis of Mission Viejo, California. • Syd Whittle was the editor who published this page.

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Feb. 26, 2024