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Man works to save Huntington Beach’s last historical sidewalk markings

Man works to save Huntington Beach’s last historical sidewalk markings
Mike Elliott stands at Ninth Street and Pecan Avenue in Huntington Beach, where the curb is embossed with "Magnolia Avenue," Pecan's former name. Elliott has asked the city to preserve its few remaining similar pieces of history. (Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

A few years ago, Mike Elliott recalls, two tourists walked by his home at Ninth Street and Orange Avenue in Huntington Beach with a quizzical look on their faces.

“Where’s Magnolia Street? We’re parked there,” they asked.

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A neighbor told the tourists it was several miles away. But then a light bulb went on in Elliott’s head.

“Oh my God, yes. It’s a block over,” Elliott told them.

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On the corner of Pecan Avenue and Ninth Street, just down from Elliott’s home, a sidewalk curb is embossed with the names of Magnolia Avenue and Ninth Street. It also has the initials “J.E.B.”

Magnolia is the former name of Pecan.

Street names were once carved into curbs as markers. Contractors also would stamp their names into the concrete.

Those pieces of history have slowly disappeared in Huntington Beach as many curbs have been replaced with ramps compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Street names like Walnut Avenue were once carved into Huntington Beach sidewalk curbs as markers.
Street names like Walnut Avenue were once carved into Huntington Beach sidewalk curbs as markers. (Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The city has four other curbs with street names embossed, according to Elliott, who recently rode his bicycle from Pecan Avenue to Lake Street and Goldenwest Street looking for more.

Elliott, who serves on the city’s Citizens Infrastructure Advisory Board, took photos of the curbs and urged officials at a City Council meeting this month to be mindful during construction projects.

His efforts appear to have made a mark.

Travis Hopkins, director of the city Public Works Department, said in an interview this week that his team is brainstorming a policy intended to preserve the markings. The department has saved other historical items, he said, but he wasn’t aware of the street-name stamps.

“It’s definitely worthwhile,” Hopkins said. “He made a good [choice] bringing that to our attention.”

This 1909 map shows Railroad Avenue alongside the railroad tracks in Huntington Beach. The avenue is now known as Lake Street.
This 1909 map shows Railroad Avenue alongside the railroad tracks in Huntington Beach. The avenue is now known as Lake Street. (Courtesy of Mike Elliott)

Elliott said that when he lived on Lake Street 10 years ago, he saw the names Magnolia Avenue and Railroad Avenue at the northwest corner of Pecan and Lake.

That piece of history can no longer be found, but he said it was cool to see the last fragment of Railroad Avenue, which ran alongside the railroad tracks. The road is now called Lake Street.

“It survived the 21st century but it didn’t survive the ADA … requirement,” he said.

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