Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Historic Wintersburg named one of Orange County's Most Endangered historic places

   Preserve Orange County was founded in 2016 by Orange County residents who identified a need for a central organization concerned with historic preservation in the County. As a nonprofit organization, their mission is to work through education and advocacy to promote conservation of Orange County’s architectural and cultural heritage. 

   Preserve Orange County believes that "historic resources are essential to maintaining and improving the livability, diversity, sustainability and economic vitality of our communities. Our goal is to strengthen the work of local activists and volunteers with county-wide support, and increase awareness throughout the county of our shared built heritage."   

LEFT: The Sexlinger Orchard and its 1914 bungalow in Santa Ana is considered "one of the region’s oldest unaltered orange groves" and is included with Historic Wintersburg as one of the County's Most Endangered.  The land was acquired by the Sexlinger family in 1913, three years after the Wintersburg Mission opened its doors.  Only a handful of the original 500 citrus trees on the five-acre parcel remain today, even though the property had received historic designation by the City and after the Old Orchard Conservancy offered to purchase the property for historic preservation.  Demolition occurred in May 2016, during national Historic Preservation Month.  The property--expected to retain only 16 citrus trees after residential development--remains endangered.  (Photograph courtesy of Los Angeles Times, Christina House, "One of O.C.'s last orange groves gets historic designation", June 6, 2012)

   "Orange County’s built environment is made up of historic resources (buildings and landscapes) that date from the late 1700s when Native American and European people made contact and permanent settlements were established," explains Preserve Orange County. "Each era since has left us with reminders of who lived here, and how they contributed to Orange County’s success. Early on there was Mission San Juan Capistrano, and Los Rios Street, the oldest continuously-occupied residential street in California."

RIGHT: The view from the 1794 Montanez Adobe in the Los Rios Historic District of San Juan Capistrano.  The Montanez Adobe was restored by the City of San Juan Capistrano and the County of Orange, and is now part of a historic park in the Los Rios neighborhood.  The San Juan Capistrano Historical Society is currently restoring the Silva Adobe nearby.  (Photograph, M. Urashima. February 13, 2016) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

   "The county has two National Landmarks considered to have significance for the entire nation, Arden- the Helena Modjeska House and Gardens- and the Richard M. Nixon Birthplace," notes Preserve Orange County.  "But these recognized sites are just the beginning: Orange County has been in continuous development for 240 years and has hundreds of historic places, most of which are not yet recognized or protected."  

    Historic Wintersburg has been included on the list of six historic places deemed by Preserve Orange County to be Orange County's Most Endangered.  Historic Wintersburg is the oldest on the list, representing well over a century of both Orange County history and significant American history.

   In 2013, the U.S. Department of the Interior National Park Service inspected Historic Wintersburg and followed up with a report stating the property is potentially eligible for the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion A, Japanese American Settlement of the American West.    

LEFT: The 1912 Furuta bungalow is one of six historic structure at Historic Wintersburg, the majority being over a century old. The property retains three structures for the Wintersburg Japanese Mission, founded in 1904, and three structures of the Furuta Gold Fish Farm. The Furuta barn is the last pioneer barn in Huntington Beach. (Photograph, M. Urashima. April 18, 2014) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

   The National Trust for Historic Preservation was formally established through an Act of Congress signed by President Harry S. Truman in 1949, directing the the Trust to acquire and preserve historic sites and objects of national significance and provide annual reports to Congress on its activities.  Congress furthered the importance of saving places important to American heritage by passing the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966.

RIGHT: Initials carved into the side of Pacific City Hall, 122 Main Street, the oldest wooden structure in the original township and the site of the founding of Huntington Beach. The majority of the structure was demolished in 2016. The Pacific City Hall building was moved to the Main Street location by or before 1903 by Phillip Stanton, prior to the involvement of Henry Huntington in 1904. Just prior to its demise, it was a gelatto shop.  The upstairs floor was remarkably untouched and retained its rustic pioneer quality. (Photograph, M. Urashima. April 8, 2015.) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 

   The eligibility of Historic Wintersburg for the National Register of Historic Places was confirmed by the City of Huntington Beach historic resources survey conducted by Galvin Preservation Associates and received by the Huntington Beach City Council in 2014,
LEFT: Gold glass from the 1934 Wintersburg Japanese Church was installed in windows flanking both sides of the structure during the Great Depression, a time when stained glass manufacturing dropped significantly in the United States due to cost.  Like the 1910 Mission, the local farming community raised funds to construct the Church building.  The gold color of the poured glass is thought to symbolize light or the presence of enlightenment. (Photograph, M. Urashima. October 24, 2016) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

   In June 2014, Historic Wintersburg was named one of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, based in Washington, D.C.,   It remains the first and only historic place in Orange County to make the list of America's 11 Most Endangered.

   In 2015, Historic Wintersburg was designated a National Treasure by the
National Trust for Historic Preservation, one of less than 100 National Treasures in the United States, Wintersburg remains the first and only historic place in Orange County deemed a National Treasure.

   Is the 21st Century the moment where Orange County begins to recognize and save more of its unique heritage? Once lost, the historic places that anchor us with a "sense of place", community memory, and civic pride can never be recreated.

   Learn more about Preserve Orange County and support their mission to help "promote the conservation of Orange County's architectural and cultural heritage" at

ABOVE: Tattered volumes inside the Orange County Archives in Santa Ana contain the statistics of the County's pioneers, each one of them representing a unique, mostly untold story. Very few sites remain where today's generation can visit the authentic places that share the history and contributions of Orange County's pioneers. (Photograph, M. Urashima. 2014) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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