TAP into History - ULI Technical Assistance Panel on Historic Wintersburg

On June 3-4 2015, Robert Chattel participated in an Urban Land Institute (ULI) Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) to provide recommendations on the reuse of Historic Wintersburg, a former Japanese community located in Huntington Beach, California.  The goal of ULI’s TAP program is to provide pro bono planning and development assistance to public officials, local stakeholders and nonprofit organizations who have requested assistance in addressing unique land use challenges. This TAP was sponsored by the National Trust of Historic Preservation in collaboration with the Historic Wintersburg Preservation Task Force.

The Historic Wintersburg TAP consisted of nine panelists, each of whom specialized in a development-related profession. Robert Chattel provided input on identification of the essential historic features to be retained in order for the rehabilitation program to conform with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation, while allowing for adaptive reuse and supportive new development. 

 Furuta family at home circa 1923 (Furuta Family collection)

Furuta family at home circa 1923 (Furuta Family collection)

The property was originally purchased and developed as agricultural land in 1908 by Charles Furuta and Reverend Hisakichi Terasawa, founder of the Wintersburg Mission. The original mission was constructed in 1910 and a subsequent church was built in 1934 and the property quickly transformed into a community gathering space for the growing first and second generation Japanese populations. In the 1920s, Furuta established a goldfish farm, which soon became the main goldfish distributor for the West Coast. Although the entire Wintersburg community was forcibly removed during World War II, the property remained largely intact and after the war, the original Japanese community returned. The property was sold to Rainbow Environmental Services/Republic in 2004; the property is currently unused and closed off to the public.

In 2014, representatives of the National Park Service visited the property, evaluated it and found it in a preliminary assessment to be eligible for listing for the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion A: Japanese American Settlement of the American West. Six historic features were identified including the 1910 mission, the 1934 church, the pastor’s house, the 1912 and 1947 homes of the Furuta family, and the circa 1910 pioneer barn, all within agrarian setting. The National Trust for Historic Preservation identified Historic Wintersburg as one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places of 2014. 

 Furuta home (Chattel, 2015)

Furuta home (Chattel, 2015)

The TAP identified seven scenarios for adaptive reuse of the property and recommended a preferred scenario that maximized economic return, community use, and preservation of essential historic features. As described in the preferred scenario, the TAP recommended preservation of three of the historic structures within a landscaped setting, and compatible new construction with shared parking, public gathering area and open space. To read the TAP report, click here.