The Leisure Wood Globe Story - Orange County History
Updated: Jan 23
This article was written by Barbara Letter, Digital Archivist of the Laguna Woods History Center. Full credit goes to her and the Laguna Woods Historical Committee
1960s – Ross Cortese, the visionary builder of Leisure World, sees and admires the 120-foot diameter stainless steel Unisphere, the official symbol of the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair. The Unisphere is a space-age update of the 180-foot diameter Perisphere from the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair on the same location. Cortese’s Rossmoor Corp. adapts the Unisphere concept as a corporate symbol. Rossmoor Corp. contracts with Q.R.S. Corp. in Los Angeles to build seven, 32-foot diameter carbon steel-and-fiberglass versions to promote each of its Leisure World developments, including the one in Laguna Hills. Commonly called The Globe, Laguna Hills’ version was first situated on a parcel of land facing El Toro Road in what is now the parking lot of the Laguna Hills Civic Center.
Complete with colored lights and a fountain, it revolved slowly on El Toro Road near El Camino Real (later San Diego Freeway or Interstate 5) and was lit at night. For seven years, The Globe was usually the first site early residents saw when they entered the community.
1973 – Some years later, it was decided to move The Globe. The original location was now surrounded with model homes and the area was considered too cramped to adequately display the majestic symbol. The construction of a new regional shopping center (later known as Laguna Woods Mall) also affected the location of The Globe. It was decided that the underpass which circled The Globe needed to be removed and a wider El Toro Road be constructed to facilitate the expected traffic growth. The Globe was removed from its axis by crane and stored, awaiting plans and funds to refurbish, relocate and landscape it nearby on Avenida de la Carlota, behind St. George’s Episcopal Church.
After being refurbished and landscaped, The Globe was an impressive sight as seen from Interstate 5 and the El Toro Road exit. Unfortunately, the gears that caused the globe to rotate stopped working after only one day.
1980s – When Leisure World was nearly built out in the early 80s, Rossmoor offered The Globe to the Historical Society. The president at the time thought it should be a state monument. The state, however, didn’t think it was old enough to qualify for historical-site status, so The Globe was donated to the County of Orange and was designated a “Point of Interest”.
1996 – Ownership and maintenance of The Globe and underlying land is transferred from Orange County to the City of Laguna Hills.
1999 – In 1999, Leisure World Laguna Hills became the City of Laguna Woods and the gated community became known as “Laguna Woods Village”. The city was incorporated as Orange County’s 32nd municipality.
2001 – The City of Laguna Hills was no longer interested in maintaining The Globe and offered to give it away to get it relocated; otherwise the city would scrap it.
2002 – The Leisure World Historical Society of Laguna Hills (now Laguna Woods History Center) assumes ownership and puts up $50,000 and raises another $21,000 from corporate and individual donations. Some residents gave as little as $1, $5, or $10, the best that some of the more elderly people in Laguna Woods could afford. The Globe is then moved adjacent to Clubhouse 7 off Moulton Parkway.
2005 – After Ross Cortese died, Laguna Woods Village was in litigation with his heirs (RRLH) since 1999 over trademark infringement of the name Leisure World and its corporate symbol, The Globe. A lawsuit between the Rossmoor Corporation and Laguna Woods Village required that Laguna Woods remove The Globe and any reference to Rossmoor Leisure World.
2007 – Protracted legal disputes over copyrights and royalties are finally settled in court. As a result, The Globe is dismantled and turned into scrap in May 2007. Residents were both sad and angry to see this beloved symbol removed.
Note: A small section of the original Globe was saved by a resident and donated to the Leisure World History Center
BayBrook Realty is a brokerage located in Orange County, California. As a resident since 1977, and I've seen Orange County change and blossom into an amazing county. It's always fun to travel back in time and remember some of the sights of my youth. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do. Follow my social media for more posts on Real Estate, Orange County History, and other fun things that pop into my head. - Brandon Brown - Broker / Owner