In the Pipeline: Many hands make library officially historic

Think of it as "The little library that could." That is, thanks to the help of some very dedicated people. If you haven't heard, the National Park Service recently listed the Huntington Beach Public Library on Triangle Park on the National Register of Historic Places. And that is a very big deal.

A group called the Huntington Beach Neighbors (HBN), which includes more than 2,200 local residents, sponsored the nomination, and they should be very proud.

As HBN's new president, Richard Plummer, explained to me, "HB Neighbors worked for three years to nominate and list the library building and Triangle Park as a National Register property. This effort was based on exhaustive research from nine public and university libraries and 325 distinct resources, including 52 published books, three graduate school manuscripts, 58 different public records, many periodicals, and multiple Internet sites and interviews."

As he also described, the biggest challenge was not just the amount of paperwork and red tape. "The biggest challenge was having to complete all of the nomination work within HB Neighbors, without assistance from the city of HB. All the research and writing for the nomination was done by HB Neighbors and our consultant, whose work was funded solely by HB Neighbors."

The group hired a historic preservation consultant, who wrote and submitted the nomination. She is Jennifer Mermilliod, of JM Research and Consulting. She told me her biggest challenge "was to weave a compelling historic narrative that conveyed clearly how those uses intersected in a significant way and represented both the city's early-20th century community planning and development efforts and distinctive mid-century architectural and engineering achievements."

And clearly she did.

As to other structures in Huntington Beach that she thinks deserves this same historic designation, she told me, "Huntington Beach has many important historic buildings, structures and sites. Some of the most interesting and deserving of national distinction include the historic Wintersburg farm site, which includes properties related to early Japanese Americans and agriculture in Orange County, and the Depression-era downtown Main Street Post Office constructed by the Works Progress Administration. "

Mermilliod also rightly pointed out, "Recognizing the Huntington Beach Library on Triangle Park, or any historic property, through the distinction of historic designation fosters community pride, promotes tourism and provides protection. Local residents are now more aware and proud of a historic treasure they may drive by every day, visiting consumers are drawn to cities rich in interesting history they can actually see and experience, and city staff and public leaders are better equipped in their fiduciary responsibility to make fully informed decisions about the future of the library.

Support letters for HBN's nomination came from a number of key groups and people including:

Mayor Connie Boardman, on behalf of the entire City Council.

Joan Flynn, city clerk, and Jerry Person, official city historian.

The Historic Resources Board (HRB).

The Friends of the Children's Library (FOTCL).

Huntington Beach Tomorrow.

Mary Adams Urashima.

Barbara Haynes, chair of the HRB.

Susan Worthy, an owner of Downtown's Helme-Worthy Store and Residence, listed on the National Register

Barbara Ann Milkovich, a former resident, the founding chair of the HRB, and a local historian and scholar. 

They are all to be applauded and thanked for their support. In putting together this column I also had the good fortune to hear from some locals who wanted to share their thoughts and memories. Some samples:

"I was raised in the Ocean View neighborhood of Warner Avenue and Beach Boulevard (known then as Highway 39).  My neighborhood was filled with lots of open fields and just a few homes sprinkled throughout those five streets. Coming to the "Big" library was a big to-do!  Remember in those days a lot of families only had one car, so only on Saturdays when my dad wasn't working, did we get to come to the library.  This was always something to look forward to, getting to come to town." — Gloria Alvarez

"The park's several, towering, ninety-year-old palms are especially striking to me. Triangle Park is beautiful and interestingly diverse from every angle, north and south on Main Street, coming north or east on Sixth Street, in both directions along Pecan Avenue's dogleg between Seventh and Main streets, and heading either east or west on Acacia Avenue. Especially at night, the library's accent lighting showcases the building's architectural simplicity and charm. These lights match the undulating rhythm of the Main Street facade's exposed, skeletal columns." — Richardson Gray

"It was about 18 years ago when I happened to notice the library clock wasn't running and asked Dennis, the librarian at that time, if I could try to start it. I assured him I would not do anything to make it worse! Dennis found the key in the locked cabinet and I opened the clock door. The two weights were all the way down, so I pulled the chains to raise them, opened the clock face to set the time, and soon the clock was running and chiming again! I have always loved clocks but I felt this one, built by the graduating class of 1915 and presented to the city of Huntington Beach, deserved to be working. In fact, several years ago when the clock had to be moved because of renovations, it became out of balance. I paid for the repairs myself. After all, I had been winding that clock every Tuesday for years!" — Bernard Schecter

"To mark our recent addition to the historic register, I have put up a little display at Main Street about our library history. I have also attached a couple of quick photos of some of the items in the display that I just took with my phone. A note of interest; one of our favorite patrons, Howard Kettler, was studying the historic registers in the display and found the signature of Agnes L. Smith in the 1928 library patron register!" — Robin Ott branch manager, Main Street Library

So take the time to visit our newest treasured landmark. Support it, savor it and help protect it. Because even with this designation, nothing is ever really guaranteed.


AQMD update

The AQMD will hold a public meeting about their proposed ban on the fire pits at 5:30 p.m. June 13 at the Newport Beach Hyatt Regency. Join us to voice your opinion!

CHRIS EPTING is the author of 19 books, including the new "Baseball in Orange County," from Arcadia Publishing. You can chat with him on Twitter @chrisepting or follow his column at

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