Historic Wintersburg Named One of “Most Endangered Historic Places” in USA

Historic Wintersburg in Huntington Beach, California, has been selected as one of the 2014 America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Historic Wintersburg, which currently contains six extant pioneer structures and open farmland, is one of the only surviving Japanese-owned properties acquired in California before the passage of anti-Japanese “alien land laws” in 1913 and 1920. The structures, and the three-generation narrative of the Furata family that they trce, provide a testament to the resilience of Japanese immigrants to the United States in the early 20th century, in spite of the hardships and discriminatoin that they faced, as well as rare insights into Japanese American daily community life and spirituality in the era before World War II.

Priscilla Ouchida, Executive Director of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), stated, “Wintersburg is an unique resource that captures the story of the everyday lives of Asian immigrants. Because of the impact of the Alien Land Act, the loss of property during the forced imprisonment of Japanese Americans during World War II, and redevelopment projects, there are very few physical structures that represent early Asian American history. Wintersburg is an irreplaceable national treasure which offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity to preserve an important part of the American story.”

The property is currently owned by Rainbow Environmental Services (Rainbow), a waste transfer company. Although the JACL and other community organizations opposed a petition by the company to raze the site, the Huntington Beach City Council voted 4-3 in November 2013 to certify an Environmental Impact Report (EIR), wihch rezones the property from residential to commercial/industrial. The Council also approved a Statement of Overriding Consideration – the action which allows demolition of all six structures. Although Rainbow agreed to provide preservationists until mid-2015 to find solutions to save the historic property, demolition of the site remains a possibility.

The America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list spotlights important examples of the nation’s architectural, cultural, and natural heritage that are at risk of destruction or irreplaceable damage. More than 250 sites have been on the list over its 27-year history, and in that time, only a handful of listed sites have been lost.

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