Historical preservation advocates say the Historic Wintersburg property in Huntington Beach is falling apart because of the owner’s lack of maintenance but that they are willing to refurbish and maintain the site for free.
The 1912 home of Charles Mitsuji and Yukiko Furuta is coming undone and the 1934 Wintersburg Japanese Church looks like “someone took a hatchet to the front door,” according to Mary Urashima, chairwoman of the Historic Wintersburg Preservation Task Force.
The property owner, trash disposal company Republic Services, did not respond to requests for comment.
The recent heavy rain also contributed to the buildings’ “slow demolition,” she said.
Urashima said the task force sent Republic a document this month detailing the work needed to restore and preserve the area but hasn’t heard back.
“We’re offering to do this at no cost for Republic Services,” she said. “We would comply with all their requirements, release of liability, all those issues that present concern for them.”
Historic Wintersburg, which has ties to early-1900s Japanese American history, is at Warner Avenue and Nichols Lane. It consists of six structures, including a Depression-era Japanese Presbyterian mission.
The area is fenced and shielded from the public’s view. Only the church is exposed along Warner.
Huntington Beach Mayor Erik Peterson said he has driven past the site and said the church hasn’t changed but the buildings in the back are “getting worse.”
“You can see on the red house, [the roof] looks like it’s tilting,” he said.
Peterson said Republic has done weed abatement in the past but said he didn’t know whether it maintains the structures.
“It’s their property and they bought it,” he said. “I know people wanted the city to purchase it, but we have to keep up with our own parks.”
Rainbow Environmental Services, now called Republic Services, bought the property in 2004 from the Furuta family, who had owned it for nearly a century.
In 2015, Wintersburg was named a “national treasure” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The year before that, the nonprofit called the site one of America’s most endangered historic places.
According to the city, the property is a “rare, extant Japanese American pioneer settlement and is the sole remaining parcel in Huntington Beach owned by a Japanese immigrant family prior to the California Alien Land Law of 1913.” That law prohibited Asian immigrants, particularly Japanese, from owning agricultural land.