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Diptych of old building facade and new building facade
Grand Central in 1922 and present day.

The Grand Central building in downtown Santa Ana, now known as Grand Central Art Center (GCAC), was originally built in 1922 as the central market for the Orange County region. The building was a single story and contained stalls for independent grocers, produce vendors, butchers, etc. and was constructed mid-block between First and Second Streets, with openings facing both Broadway and Sycamore Street. Two years later, in 1924, a two-story addition was added to the building. The renovation provided the main entrance on the 2nd street promenade,  12 storefronts on the first floor, and 29 residential apartments on the second story.  The main entrance on Second Street provided additional access to the original market to the south. The Grand Central building served as the central market for Orange County up until the 1940s.

The construction of the building was initiated and funded by locals who had been inspired by the Grand Central Market located in downtown Los Angeles. The most notable contributors were Linn Shaw, pioneer resident, and former postmaster; Roy Russell, realtor; A. N. Zerman, H. Work, and Frank Purington. The architect of the 1922 building was W. W. Kays of Santa Ana; the architects for the 1924 addition were H. Newton Thornton of Santa Ana and F. L. Lindsay of Long Beach.

Beyond being a grocer market and residential venue, the complex also was home to a variety of retail concerns, including clothing and notions shops, a clock shop, cleaners, a flower shop, and a smoke shop. One establishment, the Radio Den, became home to Orange County’s first radio station, KFAW, which was licensed in 1922 and moved to the market in 1924 upon leaving its initial location at the Santa Ana Register.

Eventually, the City of Santa Ana purchased and refurbished the Grand Central Building as part of an initiative to revitalize the downtown areas. LA-based architect Steven Ehrlich did the original design for the remodel; Orange County-based Robbins, Jorgensen and Christopher was the executive architectural firm. In 1994, the city partnered with Santa Ana community activist and visionary Don Cribb and Cal State Fullerton Gallery Director Mike McGee to convert the old Grand Central building into Grand Central Art Center. GCAC quickly became the center for a ten-square block area in the heart of downtown which would be designated as the Artists Village.

Continuing to Serve the Community

GCAC’s mission of creating exhibitions and dialogue that serves the Santa Ana community parallels the buildings original purpose of providing essential services and acting as a social hub for the city of Santa Ana. Furthermore, in light of the center being founded by locals, GCAC is committed to including all parts of the Santa Ana community by creating free public programming.

Historic black and white photo of Fourth Street in Downtown Santa Ana
Historic Fourth Street in Downtown Santa Ana