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In the Pipeline: Time to mark the history of HB

June 03, 2013|By Chris Epting
  • A piece of the original municipal building on display in a public works parking lot off Gothard.
A piece of the original municipal building on display… (Courtesy Chris…)

The La Bolsa Tile Co. The Holly Sugar Factory. The Pacific Broom Co. The Pacific Oil Cloth and Linoleum Factory. And it goes on.

These are the ghosts of Huntington Beach.

But then there are the actual physical traces scattered all over the city. The bell at the Lake Fire Station, which is from the original firehouse once located off Main Street. The pieces of statuary saved from the old municipal building that are now on display off Gothard Street in the parking lot of a public works station. The last piece of the Northam Ranch. It stands right by City Hall.

While biking with my son near 17th Street the other day, down along the seawall we found a sign from the `80s stating that you had to get a permit to legally paint murals against those walls. So many clues that connect us to the past of the city.

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When you walk around downtown, have you ever noticed the initials J.E.B. imprinted in the sidewalk? Local cement contractor James E. Brunton put those there about 100 years ago.

For years I've thought that Huntington Beach needed a detailed and extensive historic marker program. Yes, on a tourism level I think it would be of value in educating people who visit our city. But far more important to me would be the education of those who live here.

It's hard to explain to a classroom of third-graders that giant sugar, broom-making and tile factories once stood where developed neighborhoods are today.

But put a marker in that exact place where they once stood and then you have a chance to really tell a story.

Recently, my son and I journeyed through downtown with our friend, historian Mary Urashima. We spent the morning exploring some little forgotten haunts like the small shack where surfboard maker Gordie Higgins plied his craft.

And what of all the other surfing landmarks? We visited Brewster's Ice and got a tour of the family quarters behind that venerable building, which once served as a meat locker on the beach during World War II.

We stood where the gorgeous Carnegie library was built just off of Main Street. Yes, there was a Carnegie library in Huntington Beach. We examined ruins and pushed through the tall grass and wildflowers in some vacant lots and tried to imagine the stories contained within these spaces.

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