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GARDEN GROVE : Japanese School’s Old Building Razed

Garden Grove has demolished the former building of what local historians say is one of the nation’s oldest Japanese-language schools to make way for a redevelopment project.

Judy Yamane, a member of the Garden Grove Historical Society board, said the long, whitewashed clapboard building was an official candidate for the National Register of Historic Places.

The historical society was trying to raise money to move and restore the building but ran out of time, she said.

All traces of the building were removed late last week, and the 13,861-square-foot lot is now bare.

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The city bought the property last April, and the school, which offers classes on Saturday mornings, moved to a new location in May.

Armando Morales, the city’s real property manager, said the city gave the historical society almost nine months to make arrangements to move and restore the building.

“Apparently, they were unable to take it, and we then felt that it should be demolished,” Morales said. “It had been unoccupied since May, and it had been broken into and vandalized.”

In addition, people were living under the building, which had a raised foundation, Morales said.

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Community development director Gregory Devereaux said the city is working with a major retail tenant who may open a store at the former school site and on surrounding property.

“The agreement is not signed at this date, so I can’t comment any further,” Devereaux said. The city has purchased about 18 acres in the area, southwest of Garden Grove Boulevard and Euclid Street, once a melange of salvage yards, milling operations and aging dwellings.

The Japanese school was built around 1915 and was the home of cultural and language classes for four generations of Japanese-Americans. Classes stopped in 1941, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and for a while after the war, the building was used as a shelter for homeless former internees. In 1957, classes were resumed.

“It’s a shame to see it go,” Yamane said.

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