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In the Pipeline: Saving Wintersburg, a page at a time

February 25, 2014|By Chris Epting
  • The book cover for "Historic Wintersburg in Huntington Beach" by Mary F. Adams Urashima.
The book cover for "Historic Wintersburg in Huntington… (HB Independent )

"I'm an accidental historic preservationist," Mary Urashima, a government and public affairs consultant, says with a laugh.

That may be the case, but she is also a published author and passionate advocate for the subject of her first book, "Historic Wintersburg in Huntington Beach."

It started back in the early 1980s, when she used to pass by the small farming property owned by the Furuta family on Warner Avenue near Gothard Street.

"Something about it called to me," she told me recently. "It was part of old California. I looked at the 1934 cornerstone on the old church, and it just did something to me. It became a touchstone."

Wintersburg, whose six historic buildings have been spared from demolition for now, was once the site of a Japanese American Presbyterian Church founded in the 1880s and related settlements.

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When Urashima heard years ago that the property was changing hands, she became an advocate for its preservation.

"There are places in this country known as sites of conscience, and this spot in Huntington Beach is one of them. And it has been right in front of all of us all of this time," she said. "Historic Wintersburg is iconic in American history, Japanese history and civil liberties history.

"When you look at the tragedy of what happened after Pearl Harbor, and then what happened afterward, it's inspirational. These remarkable people came back. And they contributed to our community."

Urashima went on to explain that while she never imagined taking a leadership position in an effort to preserve the site, she now finds herself as chairwoman of the Historic Wintersburg Task Force.

The property's owner, Rainbow Environmental Service, wants to develop the land. Preservationists have been given 18 months to either buy the property or raise money to move the buildings to create a heritage park in the area. Urashima's preference is to keep the compound where it is.

The group is in the process of establishing nonprofit status so it's easier to acquire funds and grants.

"And we're also close to acquiring more historic designations for this property," she said. "It's just such an important place. And it's a place that can keep on teaching everyone for years and years to come."

Urashima's informative blog, historicwintersburg.blogspot, is a good place for updates, as she and her group continue to come up with ways to protect and preserve the property.

As for this marvelous new book, here's a partial description from the publisher, History Press:

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