The birth of a new incorporated city: Tustin

by Juanita Lovret
Reprinted courtesy of the Tustin News

City councilmen and city employees gathered in front of the Third Street city hall for this photo opportunity in 1968. Tony Coco, city councilman from 1964 to 1972 and mayor from 1968 to 1972, is fourth from the left in the front row.

Tustinís early residents voted to incorporate on Sept. 14, 1927, 59 years after Columbus Tustin bought the land that he would develop as Tustin City. Even then, no one seemed excited about turning the village into city with a mayor and a city council. Only 248 of the communityís 900 residents made the trip to the polls. Incorporation squeaked in with a vote of 138 to 110.

The first city council was elected on the same ballot which included the names Byron Asa Crawford, Charles Logan, William Huntley, Edmond Kiser, Fred L Schwendeman, Oscar Leihy, Henry H. Hannaford, W. R. Thompson and John A. Haskell. Crawford, better known as Barney, Schwendeman, Logan, Huntley and Kiser won the election.

Using the title Board of Trustees rather than city council, the group convened the next week and unanimously elected Crawford as president. They changed his title to mayor at the second meeting in the Knights of Pythias hall and later dropped Board of Trustees in favor of City Council. The first city hall was located in the Knights of Pythias building at the corner of Main and D (El Camino Real).

The newly elected councilmen started setting up an incorporated city, establishing police and fire departments. John L. ďBig JohnĒ Stanton was hired as the first and only policeman. The Chamber of Commerce donated equipment used by the volunteer fire department to the cityís newly formed fire department. This included a fire truck converted from Sam Tustinís 1915 Buick touring car, now a showpiece at the Tustin Area Museum. Despite the fire department being a part of the city, firemen continued to work as volunteers until 1962 when they became paid employees.

Mayor Crawford stayed in office for four years. Several of the councilmen elected with him in 1927 continued to serve many terms. Schwendeman stayed in office until 1937, Huntley, 1940, and Logan and Kiser, 1942.

When the city hall outgrew its offices in the Knights of Pythias building, offices were moved into quarters attached to the fire departmentís engine house on Third Street. Designed by Roy Russell, the building had been constructed in 1931. When this building was enlarged in 1950, the Orange County Branch Library, Tustin court and police department relocated to share quarters with the city and fire department. City council meetings were held in the courtroom.

By 1965, the five councilmen were finding it tough to keep up with the demands of supervising a city government which included police and fire departments, city administration, streets, parks and recreation. Harry Gill was hired as the first Tustin City Administrator following months of debate.

When the Tustin Post Office next door on the east relocated to a new building on First Street, the entire city staff moved into its old building. This was Tustinís City Hall until 1974 when the present city hall was built on Centennial Way as part of a civic center including the Tustin Library and a community room. City offices, council chambers and police department joined in this building which was remodeled in 1993 to keep up with the cityís growth.


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