City of Irvine Historical Literature

Throughout the City's 50 years of incorporation, many publications have celebrated Irvine's history and uprising – documenting our small agricultural beginnings to what has become one of America's safest and most successful master-planned urban communities. 

Access the links below to learn more about each publication and to purchase your own copy. If you would like any literature to be added to this webpage, please email for your request to be considered. All requests must be approved by the City's Public Information office in following our City website policy. 

Irvine (Images of America) 
By Ellen Bell

The story of Irvine goes back more than 200 years, to a time when it was a vast, sprawling ranch extending from the brush-covered foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains to the dramatic bluffs of the Pacific coast. Since that time, the Irvine Ranch has experienced a revolutionary change from pastoral wide-open spaces to one of the most successful planned communities in the nation. All along the way, there were people whose vision shaped the transformation of Irvine. Among them were the members of the Irvine family, who for nearly a century were stewards of a ranch that amounted to more than one-fifth of modern-day Orange County. The Irvine of today owes its success to the ideals from its past: the determination to develop the immense potential of the land while still preserving its natural beauty.


In Transition El Toro: A Photographic Essay From Past to Present
By Great Park Conservancy

The area known now as El Toro is in Orange County, California and was once part of the Irvine Ranch. It later became a Marine Corps air base and was finally decommissioned by the Marines. 
This book is a photographic look at El Toro as it was as a military base and later after the Marines left. Illustrated with contemporary and historic photographs.



The Edge of Air: Photographs of the Final Days of the Marine Corps Air Station at El Toro
By the Legacy Project

The Edge of Air presents the photographs of The Legacy Project, which consists of six Southern California photographers: Jerry Burchfield, Mark Chamberlain, Jacques Garnier, Robert Johnson, Douglas McCulloh, and Clayton Spada. This extensive documentation project, which began in April 2002 and chronicles the controversial shuttered Marine Corps Air Station El Toro located in the heart of Orange County, California on the eve of its transformation into one of the nation's largest metropolitan parks, the Orange County Great Park. The book marks the end of an era and the beginning of a new phase for The Legacy Project, which is committed to continue photographing this extraordinary development in the history of Southern California over the next decade. 



Transforming the Irvine Ranch: Joan Irvine, William Pereira, Ray Watson, and THE BIG PLAN
By C. Michael Stockstill and H. Pike Oliver

From citrus trees to spring breakers, Transforming the Irvine Ranch tells the story of Orange County’s metamorphosis from 93,000 acres of farmland into an iconic Southern California landscape of beaches and modernist architecture. Drawing on decades of archival research and their own years at the famed Irvine Company, the authors bring a collection of colorful characters responsible for the transformation to life, including:

  • Ray Watson, whose nearly century-long life took him from an Oakland boarding house to the Irvine and Walt Disney Company boardrooms
  • Joan Irvine Smith, a much-married heiress who waged war against the US government and the Irvine Foundation's reactionary board and won
  • William Pereira, the visionary architect whose work became synonymous with the LA cityscape.

Spanning the history of modern California from its Gold Rush past to the late 1970s, Transforming the Irvine Ranch chronicles a storied family’s largely successful attempts to remake the vast Irvine Ranch in its own image.

UCI 50th Anniversary Book
Bright Past, Brilliant Future


Running through the history of UCI is an entrepreneurial attitude of mind which has propelled the university forward at considerable speed and very largely under its own steam. This book explores how UCI has transformed ‘from ranch to research institution’ in a mere half century. It examines the importance and the evolution of the relationship with Orange County and the City of Irvine, as symbolized by the Ray Watson Bridge, linking the city with the university.