Friday, October 25, 2013

Decision: Before the City Council on November 4

The Furuta family on the steps of their 1912 bungalow in Wintersburg Village, circa 1923.  The Furuta farm and Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission complex is the sole remaining pre-Alien Land Law, Japanese-owned property in Huntington Beach and much of Orange County.  The Mission is the oldest Japanese church in Orange County, and most of Southern California. (Photo courtesy of the Furuta family) All rights reserved. ©

   The fate of Historic Wintersburg now goes before the Huntington Beach City Council on Monday, November 4 (6 p.m.).  The Council will review and discuss the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the "Warner-Nichols" project, which proposes rezoning the property to commercial / industrial and includes an application for demolition of all six historic structures on the property.

   Individuals and organizations representing thousands of concerned people from Huntington Beach, from throughout California, and from around the country have sent letters supporting the preservation of Historic Wintersburg (see support list at  

   The significance of an extant pre-Alien Land Law of 1913 property---when Japanese immigrants were prohibited from owning property and obtaining citizenship---has prompted expert assessment that the Furuta farm and Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission complex are potentially eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.  The 2011 City of Huntington Beach environmental assessment noted all six structures are potentially eligible for the National Register, the same assessment made over thirty years ago during an analysis for Caltrans in 1986.

   The most recent assessment was provided after an inspection by the U.S. National Park Service in May 2013, and again in October 2013 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  Both federal entities raised concerns about the environmental review and that preservation alternatives were not fully analyzed.  The National Historic Trust for Historic Preservation notes the 2013 initiative of the U.S. Department of the Interior and National Park Service to identify and find ways to preserve Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage sites as part of the national preservation goals, and offers assistance to the City.

Letter to Huntington Beach City Council from National Trust for Historic Preservation, recommending application for the National Register of Historic Places and assistance toward finding historic preservation alternatives.

Excerpt from U.S. National Park Service technical memorandum regarding inspection of Historic Wintersburg property.

    In addition to concerns about the historic significance of the property, the Ocean View School District has raised concerns about the Warner-Nichols project proposal to re-zone the majority of the land to industrial use.  The area proposed for industrial zoning is at the south end of the Furuta farm, adjacent to the Oak View Elementary School and the Oak View residential neighborhood.  

   An overview of the Ocean View School District's concerns was reported by the Huntington Beach Independent,,0,6898470.story

The congregation of the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission, March 8, 1910.  The manse was built immediately after the Mission was constructed. A glimpse of the Terahata house, which had been moved temporarily to the property, can be seen in the background. Founder Reverend Hisakichi Terasawa and future goldfish farmer Charles Furuta would be in the crowd, along with clergy from Westminster. (Photo courtesy of Wintersburg Presbyterian Church) All rights reserved. ©   

Historic places create connections to our heritage that help us understand our past, appreciate our triumphs, and learn from our mistakes. Historic places help define and distinguish our communities by building a strong sense of identity."
                                                                              National Trust for Historic Preservation

LAST CHANCE: Help save American heritage by being a voice for the preservation of Historic Wintersburg at the Huntington Beach City Council meeting.

Huntington Beach City Council
6 p.m., Monday, November 4*
City of Huntington Beach City Hall - City Council Chambers
2000 Main Street 
(Intersection of Main Street and Yorktown Avenue)

*Please arrive a few minutes early to fill out a speaker card for the "Warner-Nichols" project public hearing.  Provide the card to the city clerk inside the Council chambers.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

"Our American Family" features the Furuta family of Historic Wintersburg (VIDEO)

AMERICAN HISTORY: The Tennessee-based film crew for the Our American Family public television series, Michael Nolan (front left) and Bradford Van Demark (front right) join the Furuta family of Historic Wintersburg: (center, seated) Martha Furuta, (back row, left to right), Norman, Ken and Dave Furuta.

   Discussions began in January 2013 with the remarkable new public television series, Our American Family, about the history of the Furuta family of Historic Wintersburg.  The program producers were looking for a family whose story is iconic for Japanese Americans, from their earliest arrival in America through their path to the present day.

The Furuta family in 1922, (standing) Toshiko, Nobuko, Raymond, and Kazuko, (seated) Yukiko, baby Etsuko, and Charles. (Photo courtesy of the Furuta family) All rights reserved. ©

   The mission of Our American Family is "to document our American family heritage, one family at a time, and inspire viewers to capture their own family stories - before those voices are gone."  The producers talked about their own families and the lessons we can learn from those who came before: "Every day that passes is another day closer to a day when we will no longer be able to hear first-hand what it meant to be a family during this simpler time, before the world changed.  To hear first-hand what lessons were learned that we can apply today..."

Left: The Our American Family film crew near the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission and Church buildings on the Furuta farm. (Photo, September 27, 2013)
   In September 2013,  filming began to capture the story of Charles Mitsuji and Yukiko Yajima Furuta, and their descendants.  With the recorded oral history of the Issei-generation Yukiko Furuta---conducted thirty-one years ago in 1982---the stories and memories of five generations of the Furuta family will be heard.  

   The Nisei generation interviews include 91-year-old Etsuko Furuta, the daughter of Charles and Yukiko, born on the Furuta farm in Wintersburg Village, and Martha Furuta, wife of Charles and Yukiko's son, Raymond

Right: The century-old camera used by Charles Mitsuji Furuta to take many of the images shared on Historic Wintersburg.

The Sansei generation interviews include Norman, Dave and Ken Furuta, sons of Raymond and Martha, and the grandsons of Charles and Yukiko Furuta.  The Yonsei generation is represented by Michael Furuta, the great grandson of Charles and Yukiko.  The oral history interviews will include historic photographs and present-day images filmed on the Furuta farm.

    Historic Wintersburg is honored to be part of this effort, which shares more of the history of the Furuta family and their life in early Orange County.  Their story is iconic of Japanese American settlement in the American West.

FIRST CHANCE AT CITIZENSHIP - The document certifying Charles Mitsuji Furuta had passed his citizenship class, taken at Huntington Beach High School between mid 1952 to early 1953.  Congress passed the Immigration and Nationality Act in June 1952, making it possible for the first time for Japanese immigrants to become U.S. citizens.  Charles Furuta passed away in October 1953, before he could realize his dream to become a naturalized citizen. (Photo, September 27, 2013)

   Our American Family featuring the Furuta family will be aired in 2014 (date to be announced) on public television around the country.   For readers of Historic Wintersburg, a special preview from the program's producers.


Note: This excerpt starts in 1912, the year Charles Furuta married Yukiko Yajima.  Charles had lived in the United States for 12 years---arriving in 1900---and, had saved enough money to buy land and build a home in Wintersburg Village. He was the first Japanese baptized into Christianity in Orange County and donated land on his farm for the Wintersburg Mission.

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© 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. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Huntington Beach City Council decision on fate of Historic Wintersburg postponed to Nov. 4

ABOVE: Grace Furuta, Mrs. Noji and a very good-natured Reverend Noji, with friends at Huntington Beach, circa 1939.  Oil derricks line Ocean Boulevard, now Pacific Coast Highway, and a surfer can be seen carrying a board in the background.  (Photo courtesy of the Furuta family) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

   The Huntington Beach City Council review and decision on the Historic Wintersburg (Warner-Nichols) Environmental Impact Report and demolition application is re-scheduled to Monday, November 4.

Huntington Beach City Council
6 p.m., Monday, November 4
City of Huntington Beach City Hall - City Council Chambers
2000 Main Street
(Intersection of Main Street and Yorktown Avenue)
Meeting date postponed from October 7  and October 21 dates by the project applicant.

© 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.