ATI is honored to have worked with Orange County for the restoration and renovation of the Memorial Gardens Building into the Heroes Hall Veterans Museum. O.C. Fairgrounds’ Heroes Hall broke ground on March 16, 2016, and officially opened February 15, 2017, which coincided with the 75th anniversary of the Santa Ana Army Air Base. According to fairground officials, the Memorial Gardens Building was once used during World War II as Army barracks and possibly an infirmary as well. Within these walls is a rich tapestry of history that ATI sought to preserve through the renovation process.

Renovation and Restoration:

The O.C. Fairgrounds has deep roots in military history. During World War II, the O.C. Fairgrounds was part of the 1,300-acre Santa Ana Army Air Base that was used to train pilots, navigators, and bombardiers. The building was otherwise slated for demolition was it not for the financial contribution of the Orange County Board of Directors.

The Medal of Honor Plaza and Orange County Walk of Honor both pay tribute to the Orange County veterans who received the highest honors that the United States government grants for acts of heroism and valor.

The five-sided pillar at the entrance of the Medal of Honor Plaza has a plaque on each side to commemorate World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, and the Iraq War. The plaques were commissioned in 1988 by AMVETS (American Veterans), before moving to their place at the Veterans Museum.

The courtyard contains a large star modeled after the Congressional Medal of Honor – the highest and most prestigious personal military decoration awarded to U.S. military service members for acts of valor. Each point of the star represents a branch of the armed forces.

The Walk of Honor surrounds the plaza. Twenty-eight plaques honor and celebrate these veterans’ stories, eleven of which received the Medal of Honor and seventeen have received the Distinguished Service Cross, the Air Force Cross, and the Navy Cross.

The 4,800 square-foot Veterans Museum serves as the centerpiece of OC Fair’s history. ATI utilized the building’s original structure while ensuring it’s structurally sound and advance. The renovation design allows for plenty of natural lighting to take in the exhibits, as well as view the OC Fairgrounds from the museum.

Exhibitions and Events:

The museum hosts several exhibitions that also explore the life and history of veterans, specifically the lives of local Orange County veterans. The museum delves into the history of several eras, spanning across World War II, Vietnam, and the Iraq War, just to name a few.

The Things They Carried exhibition pays homage to Tim O’Brien’s novel with the same title and provides a look into personal experiences and accounts of war. The exhibit features the stories of Orange County veterans which are told through personal objects they carried with them. The exhibition consists of the objects that individual veterans carried with them as well as film, audio, photography, text, and art.

Heroes Hall features several events and exhibits that delve into the history and lives of military veterans. Voices: Veteran’s Storytelling Project is a unique project within the Veterans Initiative in the Arts and is presented by Arts Orange County in collaboration with Chance Theater and Heroes Hall Veterans Museum at OC Fair & Event Center. This program empowers veterans to use theater to talk about their experiences and help the community understand the life of a veteran. The stories featured in this project were based on life before military service, experiences during service, or experiences after service.

The SAAAB Story exhibition celebrates the history of the flight training center, its contribution to the war effort, the airmen that served in the area and its role in the development of the growth of Orange County through film, photographs, maps, oral histories, works of art, and ephemera.

ATI and Orange County Collaborations:

ATI not only worked with Orange County for Heroes Hall but have also completed many projects:

  • Design of the OC Fair and Event Center Administration Building, a single story, 15,000 sf structure that is used for day-to-day staff offices and also the hosting of public and private events.
  • Design of the Hangar Event Building, a spectacular 32,500 sf structure with a 180’ wide arch span. The building is utilized for large audience events, performances, and exhibits. The building includes a 45’ clear height main hall, a catering kitchen, meeting rooms and public restrooms.
  • The design of the Pacific Amphitheater which included new seating for 10,000 customers, new catered party pavilions, new dressing rooms and backstage administrative facilities, new entry/exit gate structures, enhanced acoustic control elements, new landscaping, and an additional permanent stage for minor performances.
  • Re-design of the Main Mall. The 2 acre outdoor, exhibit/assembly space enhances the ambiance created by the newly constructed and re-modeled surrounding event buildings.

We at ATI are honored to be a part of this project and the preservation of history. Photography credit for these incredible images goes to Justin Hesse and for more information regarding the events or exhibits at OC Fair click here.

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