The Raymond L. Watson Papers (MS-R120) add significantly to our already very strong collections pertaining to planning for UCI and the City of Irvine, as well as environmental and conservation efforts in Orange County, and urban planning generally. The collection has been recently processed and a finding aid is now available via the Online Archive of California. The collection comprises the extant files of Raymond L. Watson, former president and CEO of the Irvine Company. Included in the collection are Watson’s speeches, correspondence, and writings; Irvine company records, publications, and reports; topical files relating to the Irvine Company, the Irvine Ranch, the City of Irvine, The University of California, Irvine, and Orange County (including Upper Newport Bay); and professional files on topics such as urban planning, housing, and new towns. Of particular interest are Watson’s own writings on community development and the City of Irvine.
Raymond Watson, former president of The Irvine Company, began his career with The Irvine Company in September 1960. With the exception of the years 1977 to 1983, Watson has been involved continuously with the company in various capacities. With landholdings encompassing over 90,000 acres, The Irvine Company’s origins date to 1864, when James Irvine I established the Irvine Ranch upon acquiring 185 square miles of Mexican and Spanish land grants. His son, James Irvine II, incorporated the holdings in 1894, founding The Irvine Company. Born in Seattle, Washington, on October 4, 1926, Raymond Watson was raised in Oakland, CA, and attended UC Berkeley, where he received a B.A. in Architecture in 1951 and a M.A. in Architecture in 1953. Stan Ott, planning director of the City of Stockton, CA, gave Watson his first job, planning a civic center for the City. In 1960, Ott, who then worked at The Irvine Company, hired Watson to be the first manager of planning. In that role, Watson was instrumental in the early years of development of the Irvine Ranch and the City of Irvine. Under his guidance, the City of Irvine became a model planned community, with award-winning housing developments such as Woodbridge and Westpark, complemented by the city’s many parks, trails, open spaces and commercial developments.
Watson moved up the ranks through various vice president positions, and in 1973 was named president and CEO, positions he held until his resignation in 1977. From 1983 to 2004, Watson was a member of the board at Walt Disney Company, serving as its chairman from 1983 to 1984. In September 1986, he rejoined The Irvine Company as vice chairman until his retirement in 2003. As of 2006, he remains a member of the board. As a tribute to Watson’s many years of service to the City of Irvine, the bridge connecting the UC Irvine campus to the University Center across Campus Drive was named the “Raymond L. Watson Bridge” in October 2005.
The spring 2011 exhibit in Langson Library, “Irvine: the Vision, the Plan, the Promise,” will include materials from the Raymond L. Watson Papers (MS-R120). During the opening program on May 11, there will be a special tribute to Mr. Watson to honor his generous gift to establish the Raymond L. Watson Library Fund in support of the preservation and growth of the Libraries’ collections on the planning and development of the City of Irvine, the UCI campus, and surrounding communities in Orange County. The exhibit curator is Yvonne Wilson, UCI Research Librarian for California and Orange County Government Information. Assisting her is Erit Maor, graduate student in the UCI School of Social Ecology’s Department of Planning, Policy and Design.
[MS-R120. Raymond L. Watson Papers. Special Collections and Archives. The UC Irvine Libraries. Irvine, California.]