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HUNTINGTON BEACH : New Life for Home Older Than City

Driving southbound on Beach Boulevard near Adams Street, motorists might be puzzled by a sign along the way.

A marker reads, “Point of Historical Interest,” with an arrow pointing toward a modern shopping center with a Burger King, a supermarket and a couple of banks.

But the sign refers to a two-story Victorian home that has been there decades longer than the strip center that was built around it. Longer, in fact, than Huntington Beach has existed.

The Newland House, built in 1898, is almost as anomalous to the city as it is to the shopping center named after it.

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In the past two decades, the city’s redevelopment plans have taken precedence over preserving relics of its long and storied past. Preservationists estimate that about two-thirds of the city’s oldest buildings have been bulldozed during that time, leaving fewer than a dozen of its historic structures intact.

The Newland House, restored during the mid-1970s and opened as a museum a decade later, is the jewel of Huntington Beach’s remaining history.

The nine-room hilltop home was built by William and Mary Newland, Illinois natives who settled here to take advantage of booming farming opportunities. The Newlands owned a rancho covering an area that today is bounded by Beach Boulevard, Magnolia Street and Yorktown and Atlanta avenues, where they grew vegetables and grain crops.

The couple raised 10 children there before William Newland’s death in 1933. Mary Newland ran the farm until the 1940s and lived in the home until she died in 1952.

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The house then was leased and eventually bought by the Signal Oil Co., which rented it to its employees for two decades before donating it to the city as parkland required for a nearby housing development.

The home remained vacant for two years and was deteriorating when the refurbishment began, said Jerry Person, a member of the Newland House Museum board of trustees.

The restoration project included plans for a sprawling garden similar to one Mary Newland maintained for years. But those plans were severely curtailed because of historic concerns predating the Newlands by thousands of years.

The home sits atop the site of an ancient American Indian village, from which scores of artifacts have been unearthed since the 1930s. Archeologists and American Indian leaders protested that unexcavated remains might be harmed by the garden project, so the garden was scaled back to a small rose bed in the home’s front yard.

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Today, the Newland House is a bright-white, immaculate replica of its original look, based on historic documentation. The original structure is intact, but the windows, fixtures and most amenities have been added.

Person and other historic preservationists for years have lobbied to create a village of historic buildings around the Newland House.

Behind the house, two prospects for the envisioned historic village--an old home and church--sit atop blocks surrounded by wire fence. But the structures are in disrepair, having been battered frequently by vandals.

City officials said they cannot afford the historic preservation project, and the plan is now “a dead issue,” Person said. He expects the two buildings may go the way of most of the city’s other historic structures.

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Tours of the Newland House are offered Wednesdays, Thursdays and weekends, for $2 .


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