Thursday, July 12, 2012

Wintersburg: What will be lost?

   "...take a moment and think of something significant to you personally. Anything. You may think of your children, or your spouse, or your church, or god, or a favorite piece of art hanging in your living room, or your childhood home, or a personal accomplishment of some type. 

   Now take away your memory. Which of those things are now significant to you? None of them... Without memory nothing has significance, nothing has meaning, nothing has value.

   We acquire memories from a sound or a picture, or from a conversation, or from words in a book, or from the stories our grandmother told us. But how is the memory of a city conveyed? 

   Here’s what Italo Calvino writes, 'The city ... does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand, written in the corners of the streets, the gratings of the windows, the banisters of the steps, the antennae of the lightening rods, the poles of the flags, every segment marked in turn with scratches, indentations, scrolls.'

   The city tells it own past, transfers its own memory, largely through the fabric of the built environment. Historic buildings are the physical manifestation of memory and it is memory that makes places significant."

      Donovan Rypkema, Sustainability, Smart Growth and Historic Preservation (2007),  
author of The Economics of Historic Preservation: A Community Leader’s Guide 
(The National Trust for Historic Preservation, 1994)

Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission, circa 1911, built with the support of people from around Orange County, California.  Wintersburg (now Warner) Avenue is a dirt road leading from the east end of Wintersburg (adjacent to Talbert) into the peatlands and wetlands at the west end. (Photo courtesy of Wintersburg Presbyterian Church)
 Today, the whitewashed Mission is hidden from view behind the 1934 Church building. (Photo, 2012)

Yukiko and Charles Mitsuji Furuta in front of their newly constructed home, circa 1912.  (Photo courtesy of California State University - Fullerton, Center for Oral and Public History)

Furuta family home, circa 2007.  (Photo courtesy of Chris Jepsen,

Furuta family home, still retaining its red iron oxide paint. The Furuta barn also retains evidence of being painted with red iron oxide. (Photo, March 2012)

Reverend Junzo Nakamura and Sunday school group in front of Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission manse / social hall, circa 1924.  (Photo courtesy of California State University - Fullerton, Center for Oral and Public History)

Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission manse / social hall.  (Photo, September 2011)

Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church, December 9, 1934.  The original Mission building stands behind this Church building, at the intersection of Wintersburg Avenue and Nichols Lane.  Congregants set down planks to stand on because Wintersburg Avenue (now Warner) was an unpaved road.  Note there are a few women in kimonos and that the gathering includes members of both the Japanese and Caucasian community. (Photograph courtesy of Wintersburg Presbyterian Church)

Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church, circa 2007.  The widening of Warner Avenue left room only for a sidewalk in front of the doorway to the Church.  (Photo courtesy of Chris Jepsen,

The peatland celery fields of Orange County, California, early 1900s.  Agriculture was the economic engine that provided for the development of modern-day urban Orange County.

The Furuta family farmland behind the barn was once home to the family garden, goldfish ponds and a tennis court.  It is now planted with nopales (prickly pear cactus).  (Photo, June 2012)

   "What neither the supporters nor the critics of globalization understand is that there is not one globalization but two - economic globalization and cultural globalization...Economic globalization has widespread positive impacts; cultural globalization ultimately diminishes us all. 

   It is through the adaptive reuse of heritage buildings that a community can actively participate in the positive benefits of economic globalization while simultaneously mitigating the negative impacts of cultural globalization."    
                                                                                                                  Donovan Rypkema

Call to action
    The City of Huntington Beach city council will discuss the potential for demolition or preservation of Historic Wintersburg buildings at their 6 p.m., Monday, July 16, 2012 meeting.  Help preserve this important part of American history by sending an email to the city council requesting they:
  • Direct a complete California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) analysis of all historic preservation alternatives, including both preservation in situ (onsite) and relocation for preservation
  • Make the historic preservation of the century-old "Warner-Nichols" Wintersburg property a priority
  • Deny demolition of historically significant buildings  located on the Warner-Nichols property, including the Furuta family home and barn, and the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission, manse and Church
Emails should be sent by Saturday, July 14, 2012, to:

City of Huntington Beach City Council 
Public Communications  for July 16, 2012 city council meeting
Reference: Warner-Nichols (Wintersburg)
  •  Go to
  • Click on "Make a service request - Agenda & Public Hearing Comments"
  • Select request:  "Comment" 
  • Select: "City Council - Agenda & Public Hearing Comments" 
  • You may attach a letter/document, or, write your comments in the comment form
  • Your comments are automatically forwarded to all city council members, the city manager's office and the city clerk's office

Editor's note: Readers can find the full article, Economic Benefits of Preservation Session, “Sustainability and Historic Preservation by Donovan Rypkema posted on the website of the Preservation Action Council of San Jose at

All rights reserved.  No part of the Historic Wintersburg blog may be reproduced or duplicated without prior written permission from the author and publisher, M. Adams Urashima.   

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The Historic Wintersburg blog focuses on an overlooked history in Huntington Beach, Orange County, California, in the interest of saving a historic property from demolition. The author and publisher reserves the right not to publish comments. Please no promotional or political commentary. Zero tolerance for hate rhetoric. Comments with embedded commercial / advertising links or promoting other projects, books, or publications may not be published. If you have an interesting anecdote, question or comment about one of our features, it will be published.