Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Support for preservation of Historic Wintersburg from Huntington Beach Historic Resources Board

ABOVE: Toshiko Furuta holds her sister, Grace, with Kazuko and Etsuko Furuta, near the Wintersburg Avenue frontage of the Gold Fish Farm, circa 1928.  The children are east of the barn, behind the Furuta's 1912 bungalow, A glimpse of an automobile just inside the barn.  Yukiko Furuta recalled in her 1982 oral history interview when her husband, Charles Mitsuji Furuta, bought their first automobile, a Chevy, after their second child, Toshiko, was born in 1916.  She shared that she was "scared to ride in it. The street was not well paved, and they could drive only twenty to twenty-five miles an hour." The Furuta barn is the last extant pioneer barn in Huntington Beach. Historic Wintersburg is one of the the last remaining Japanese-owned properties purchased before California's Alien Land Law of 1913.  (Photograph courtesy of the Furuta family) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

   The City of Huntington Beach Historic Resources Board transmitted a letter to the Huntington Beach City Council, following the Board's February 8 special meeting, to convey their support for the preservation of Historic Wintersburg "in the strongest possible terms."  The Board requests the City Council "facilitate discussion between the property owner and those capable of purchasing and protecting Historic Wintersburg."

LEFT: Letter sent from the City of Huntington Beach Historic Resources Board to the City Council after the Board's February 8 special meeting. The Board acts in an advisory capacity, with a mission "to encourage and promote programs and activities that enhance public awareness of historic resources (and) as a liaison to Council for local, state and federal groups and agencies whose interest involves historic issues.

   The Historic Resources Board previously  supported the preservation of Historic Wintersburg, in a 2014 letter to the Orange County Historical Commission, an advisory body to the Orange County Board of Supervisors. The letter noted that then-owner Rainbow Environmental Services stated they would work with the community to preserve the historic goldfish farm and mission property.  The Historic Wintersburg Preservation Task Force ultimately funded the analysis cited in the letter through community donations.

   The Orange County Historical Commission transmitted a letter to the Huntington Beach Planning Commission in 2013, during public hearings regarding the possible rezoning  to commericial / industrial and proposed demolition of all six historic structures, by the previous owner of the property, Rainbow Environmental Services. This letter was included in the subsequent review by the Huntington Beach City Council.

RIGHT: Letter from  the City of Huntington Beach Historic Resources Board to the Orange County Historical Commission in 2013. Both the City board and the County commission advocated for the preservation of Historic Wintersburg.

   Although the Huntington Beach City Council in a split vote certified the Environmental Impact Report for the rezoning and demolition in November 2013, this action was halted when the Ocean View School District filed two separate lawsuits, against the City and against Rainbow Environmental.  After the School District's settlement with the City and Republic Services in November 2016 (Republic bought Rainbow Environmental Services at the end of 2015), the property reverted to its prior residential zoning. 
ABOVE: Grading in 1908 for the construction of Huntington Beach High School's first permanent buildings, near what is today Main Street and Yorktown Avenue. At the same time in 1908, Charles Furuta and Reverend Terasawa purchased the land that is known today as Historic Wintersburg. (Photograph, City of Huntington Beach archives, 1908)

   As part of the settlement agreement between the School District and Republic Services, the District retained "first right of refusal" should Republic consider selling Historic Wintersburg.  Development of the property for self storage (the current project proposed by Republic Services notice of their plan to sell to Public Storage) would require another environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  

   All six structures on Historic Wintersburg are each classified as individually eligible for the state and national historic registries, with documentation regarding this in the City of Huntington Beach General Plan's Historic and Cultural Element.  The property is considered significant per state guidelines, which state a resource identified as significant in an historical resource survey which meets the requirements of the California Public Resources Code, shall be presumed to be historically or culturally significant unless the preponderance of evidence demonstrates that it is not.  Historic Wintersburg is noted as historically and culturally significant and is one of 100 National Treasure historic places in the United States, the first and only National Treasure in Orange County.

LEFT: A July 2013 letter from the Orange County Historical Commission advocating for the preservation of Historic Wintersburg.  The Commission is a 15-member citizen advisory group appointed from each of the five Supervisory Districts in Orange County. Their public mission is to "promote the preservation and use of buildings, sites, structures, objects, and districts of importance in Orange County, stimulate and encourage financial and partnership support for projects in the public and private sectors."  Among their accomplishments are the "acquisition and planning of Orange County historical parks, including: Heritage Hill, Irvine Ranch Headquarters, Key Ranch, Modjeska House and Gardens, Peralta Adobe, and Yorba Cemetery."

ABOVE: Orange County history from 1863 to 1908.  A glimpse inside the 1891 St. George's Episcopal Mission at Orange County's Heritage Hill Historical Park prior to a 2016 presentation about Historic Wintersburg for the Saddleback Area Historical Society.  Although the St. George's mission has slightly taller ceilings, it is similar in size to the 1909-1910 Wintersburg Japanese Mission. Heritage Hill Historical Park also is similar in size to the Historic Wintersburg property.  The Park's 4.1 acres includes four restored historic buildings that span the early history of the Saddleback Valley and El Toro area from the Mexican Rancho era (Serrano Adobe, circa 1863), to the founding of the town of El Toro (El Toro Grammar School, 1890; St. George's Episcopal Mission, 1891), ending with the citrus farming days of the early twentieth century (Harvey Bennett Ranch House, 1908).  Heritage Hill is open to the public, Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Photo, M. Urashima, January 23, 2016) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

   Purchased for the Furuta goldfish farm and Wintersburg Japanese Mission in 1908, Historic Wintersburg can continue the history of Orange County exactly where Heritage Hill Historical Park leaves off, if preserved as a historical park for future generations.

© 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.