Pepito, Joanne, and Daniger’s Tea Room at the Santora Building in Santa Ana, California (2012)

July 7, 2012

On Saturday, July 7th, the Santora Arts Building celebrated 84 years with a 1920’s-inspired themed celebration which kicked off a month-long celebration highlighting the history of the building from 1928 to the present.  Showcased was a dazzling array of fine art, music, cars, film, and fashions of a bygone era, as well as a tour of old-time “speakeasys” like Proof, that still stand today.  Two large (12 foot) showcase windows in the lobby of the Santora featured displays of the building’s history, its unique architectural design, and the artists/celebrities that were part of its legacy,including Pepito and Joanne Perez of the Pepito & Joanne Academy of Dance.

“Famous Spanish clown PEPITO met DESI and LUCY while at RKO Studios.  After quitting show business, Pepito and his wife, JOANNE, bought and restores an old Victorian mansion on Ross Street in Santa Ana, California, and built a dance school in the rear of the house.  Many students from Pepito and Joanne’s Academy of Dance appear in a segment of the “I Love Lucy” episode “Little Ricky’s School Pageant.”  Desi, Pepito, Lucy, and Joanne became close friends and started to hang around Santa Ana, and the Santora Building, going to DANIGER”S TEA ROOM.  During World War II, onlu military and commercial fishing vessels were allowed into the open ocean, so Pepito got a commercial fishing license.  Throughout the war, he was the only fisherman in Southern California who could take guests out for deep sea fishing.  Many Hollywood sportsmen came down to Santa Ana to meet up with Pepito at Danigers….because they wanted to go fishing!  Thanks to Melani Carty at; and Sandra “Pocha” Pena, interview with Joanne Perez, before her death April 1, 2004.”

Wide view of the window display at the Santora Building during the Santa Ana ArtWalk, July 7, 2012.  A formal photo of Pepito and Joanne sits on the pedestal.  Photo courtesy of Ellen Seefeldt.

More about the Santora Building

One of the most beautiful and historic commercial buildings in Orange County, the Santora Building, located at 207 N. Broadway, at the corner of Broadway and Second Street in downtown Santa Ana, California, is on the National Register of Historic Places.  Groundbreaking took place July 7, 1928, and the grand opening was in 1929.  

The Santora’s architectural style is in the Churrigueresque variant of Spanish Colonial Revival design.  One of the most striking features of the Spanish-style structure is its second-story decoration, called Churrigueresque, made of elaborate ornamental cast concrete. The decoration also is accented by gargoyles on the top edge of the building.  The building was designed by Frank Lansdowne, one of the premier architects of the region.  The Santora cost $150,000 to build and originally was owned by the Santora Land Co. The building, which is listed with the National Register of Historic Places, was named Santora as a contraction of the cities “Santa Ana” and “Orange.”

The Santora Building once served as Santa Ana City Hall when City Hall was damaged in a 1933 earthquake. The city staff moved into the building until a new City Hall could be built two years later.  After a period of decline in Santa Ana’s downtown the Santora resurged as an arts complex where a number of different artists moved in including Joseph Musil and his Salon of the Art Deco Theaters. Musil was a set designer for the Walt Disney company and worked on the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood.  The Santora now houses art galleries, retail stores and restaurants.  The Santora is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and its record number is 386426.

The Santora Building, corner of Broadway and Second Street, Santa Ana, California, circa 1930.

More about Daniger’s Tea Room

The Santora Building’s main claim to fame and most well known tenant was Danigers Tea Room, one of the most popular restaurants in Southern California from 1934 to 1944.  Daniger’s Tea Room was located on the second floor, southwest corner of the Santora Building.  Daniger’s Tea Room was famous for its home-cooked meals, delicious tea, cakes and pie, and pleasant atmosphere.  The Tearoom was known for the best home-cooked meals in Santa Ana , and received mention in the June 1938 issue of Westways Magazine in a feature article titled “Fine Food in California.”  Daniger’s Tea Room was an under-the-radar hot spot for Hollywood movie stars.  All the top celebrities of the time enjoyed the fine foods created by Joe and Irene Daniger, and their clientele included Hollywood celebrities Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Barbara Stanwyk, Andy Devine, Billie Burke, Charles Ruggles, Connie Haines, Lucille Ball, Gracie Allen, George Burns, Joan Davis, Rosalind Russell, Robert Young, William Holden and Alan Ladd, all of whom signed the guest book.  Local stargazers were known to keep a close eye on the Tearoom’s front door to catch glimpses of celebrities.


Irene Daniger: her recollections, as told to Elynore Barton and Maureen Rischard.,0,

Irene Daniger: her recollections, as told to Elynore Barton and Maureen Rischard.