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Huntington's Historic Japanese Community is Most Endangered

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation's annual "most endangered" list has proven an effective tool for saving historic buildings that are in danger of destruction from anything from new development to general neglect. (The Port of LA's Terminal Island made the list in 2012 and got a new set of preservation guidelines in 2013.) This year's list featured only one West Coast location: Historic Wintersburg in Huntington Beach. According to the NTHP, Wintersburg preserves a multi-generational picture of Japanese-American life spanning from the late Nineteenth Century into the post-World-War-II return from internment camps, but its owners have already received approval to clear-cut the site.

Historic Wintersburg is home to farmland and six buildings—among them, the 1910 Japanese Presbyterian Mission and the home of the Furuta family, who ran flower and goldfish farms on the land for nearly a century, according to Rafu Shimpo. Four of the buildings pre-date the 1913 Alien Land Law that made it illegal for Japanese immigrants to own land. "Historic Wintersburg is a unique cultural site that tells the important story of early Japanese immigrants as they sought to make a new life and build a community in Southern California," says Christina Morris, the director of the NTHP's LA field office.

The property's owners, waste collection company Rainbow Environmental Services, bought the property in 2004 and received approval in 2013 to demolish the buildings on the site. Since then, they have been in communication with preservationists, offering to sell them the property if they can come up with enough money to make a viable offer (at least $5 million) by mid-2015. According to the OC Register, only $10,000 has been collected to date, but that's why the timing of this preservation list is so important. "We're hopeful that this next phase will bring partners who will help us acquire the property and restore the historical features in creative ways," said Mary Adams Urashima, chair of the Historic Wintersburg Preservation Task Force.
· Mapping the Country's 10 Most Imperiled Historic Buildings [CN]
· Historic Wintersburg [NTHP]