Library displays historic pictures to remind people of bygone era

Gone are the days when Huntington Beach residents could walk past the metal arches that once connected the four corners of Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway or sit in a Red Car trolley waiting as a cow strolled across the tracks.

But those moments are not lost forever. Visitors to the Main Street Library can get a glimpse of them through a recently installed exhibit.

"We want tourists to be able to come here and know that there's more than just the beach," said Gloria Alvarez, chairwoman of the city's Historic Resources Board, which organized the display. "We have a very long history of oil and farming."

Nine large black-and-white photos of Huntington Beach from the 1920s to the 1950s hang on the library's east wall. One image depicts a crammed downtown during the Fourth of July in 1935, while another shows the former Ocean Wave Hotel with a forest of oil derricks in the background.

"Look at the people's clothes and the cars," Alvarez said. "It tells you so much about that time."

The pictures came from various sources, including Historic Resources Board member Barbara Haynes, former city clerk and historian Alicia Wentworth and Huntington Beach residents who have submitted pieces to the board over the years, Alvarez said.

The photos were taken to local graphic design shop HB Digital, where owner Domenic Iorfino enlarged them and made prints.

Alvarez said the board plans to switch out the photos quarterly and noted that its next exhibit will include beach and surfing pictures to coincide with the U.S. Open of Surfing in July.

Main Street Library branch manager Robin Ott said people are stopping by fairly regularly to view the vintage photographs, which she said are a fitting addition to the branch library, which opened in 1951 and was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places.

She said the images offer a window into the character of Huntington Beach.

"A lot of the old [buildings] are gone," Ott said, as she looked at a photo of the Pavilion dance hall, which is now Duke's restaurant. "We tear them down around here. It seems like we're not too big on hanging on to them."

Natalie and Zack Smith strolled into the library Thursday while visiting one of the 27 surfboards displayed around town as part of the Surfboards on Parade exhibit.

As the mother and son from Fountain Valley made their way out of the building, they said they couldn't help but stop and look at the pictures on the wall.

"I've been in Orange County since I was 5, and I had no idea that [Huntington Beach] had such a rich oil history," said Natalie, 45. "That's the thing that stuck out. We were looking at all the oil rigs in the background, and I had no idea that was the city's history. That was kind of a shock."

Zack, 19, said he wasn't aware of the city's oil background either and appreciated the exposure to its history.

"I think it's a good idea to be able to show younger people what it used to look like," Natalie said.

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