Preservationist, historians and community activists are fighting the sale of an historic site of special significance to the Japanese American community.
The land in the Southern California town of Wintersburg in Hungtington Beach is the location of six buildings from the earliest days of Japanese settlement in Orange County during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.
Republic Services, which owns the land, is in the process of selling it to Public Storage despite its designation as a national treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, reports the OC Weekly.
The Historic Wintersburg Preservation Task Force had been in talks to purchase the land from Republic Services, but that apparently has abruptly ended.
Mary Urashima, chairwoman of the Task Force, said that they “had been working with them in good faith. We had been offering to purchase the property at face value from them.” She said Republic suddenly stopped returning all communications.
Charles Mitsuji Furuta was among the early Japanese and Chinese laborers who tended the land where the buildings are now located. Furuta later joined four other Japanese Americans to run their own farm. The others left when the farm flopped, but Furuta stayed on to continue his efforts.
Furuta would later help Reverend Barnabus Terasawa to purchase five acres of land, the same plot now being sold.
Terasawa opened the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission in 1904 out of a barn.
According to the Weekly, the land in question today is the last remaining “vestige of pre-Alien Land Law Japanese-owned land in the county.”
The blog Historic Wintersburg reports several letters have been sent to the Huntington Beach City Council urging the council to help preserve the property. This is not the first time owners have tried to sell the land. An effort in 2013 by previous owners Rainbow Environmental was stopped when the Ocean View School District sued both Rainbow and the city.
Rainbow Environmental was bought by Republic Services in 2015.
Under a settlement agreement reached in 2016, the school district has the right of first refusal to buy the land. Also the land must go through an environmental review before it can be sold.
All six buildings on the historic sites are individually eligible for state and national historic registries.
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