Friday, August 31, 2012

Historic Walking Tour #14: Beach cottages

ABOVE: A cottage in downtown Huntington Beach. (Photo, M. Urashima, Aug. 30 2012) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

"The California bungalow could well be the most beloved house form in Southern California today...bungalows were designed a hundred years ago as active contributors to the character of some of America's greatest neighborhoods."
                                                                                                         Old House Journal

   A significant part of the quality of life of residential districts in Huntington Beach's historic downtown is the collection of eclectic beach cottages and bungalows on Main Street and the surrounding streets.  Try to look at a bungalow or cottage without smiling.

   Even our downtown police substation is in a historic bungalow (see #19 The Shank House at  It's worthwhile to take a stroll and explore.

Directions to Walking Tour stop #14:  Find the cottage at 415 6th Street, two blocks west of Main Street (this stretch of 6th Street runs parallel to Main Street).

ABOVE: Historic Downtown walking tour stop #14 at 415 6th Street, just up the street from the historic Beach Court (don't forget to say hello to the beach cat that guards Beach Court).  This early 20th Century cottage was moved from the oil fields in the 1930s to its present location.  (Photo, M. Urashima, Aug. 30 2012) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

ABOVE: Sea shells and starfish cover the mailbox of this cottage-style home in the downtown. (Photo, M. Urashima, Aug. 30 2012) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

   According to Graeme Butler, author of the California Bungalow in Australia (they love them there, too) the term bungalow actually traces its origins to the Indian province of Bengal, derived from the Hindi bangla or house in Bengali style.  Bungalows usually have a sloping roof, prominent eaves, dormers, porches, and feature simple craftsman details highlighting natural materials. 

ABOVE: Main Street Huntington Beach, a short distance from Triangle Park, Main Street Branch Library, and Art Center. (Photo, M. Urashima, Aug. 30 2012) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

   Bungalows were a bit of an architectural rebellion against the prior century's excess of Victorian ornamentation and gingerbread.  It also was a perfect fit for a Southern California beach town, an ideal climate for open architecture and year-round porches.

ABOVE: California Bungalow Homes: a book on bungalow and cottage building, circa 1911, acknowledged Californians' love for the "new" style.  The book details the variety of bungalows and their distinct features. (Image, Environmental Design Archives, University of California Berkeley)
ABOVE: Classic Craftsman style bungalow in Huntington Beach, circa 1935. (Photo, Pomona Public Library)

   The difference between a bungalow and a cottage?  A bit of a debate on that, as those of us who are architecturally challenged tend to use the terms interchangeably.  However, Surf City cottages are  simple in style without a wrap-around porch, small in scale, usually featuring wood siding.  They often represent Huntington Beach's oldest homes from the late 1800s to early 1900s.

ABOVE: Charming and neat-as-a-pin cottage on Lake Street (formerly known as Railroad Avenue), just a short walk up from the beach where the early 1900s Pacific Electric "red car" brought visitors. This is an example of one of our oldest cottages.  (Photo, M. Urashima, Aug. 30 2012) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

ABOVE: A classic white picket fence surrounds this adorable cottage on 7th Street. (Photo, M. Urashima, Aug. 30 2012) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

ABOVE: A Main Street bungalow with a porch perfect for lemonade and people watching. (Photo, M. Urashima, Aug. 30 2012) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

ABOVE: Early 1900s cottages on 6th Street.  Note the hand-painted floral mailbox. (Photo, M. Urashima, Aug. 30 2012) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

ABOVE: Back on Main Street, a restored 1918 cottage.  (Photo, M. Urashima, Aug. 30 2012) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

   Enchanted with beach cottages and bungalows?  We'll periodically post the favorites that can be found walking Historic Huntington Beach's neighborhoods.  

All rights reserved.  No part of the Historic Huntington Beach blog may be reproduced or duplicated without prior written permission from the author and publisher, M. Adams Urashima.   

Monday, August 27, 2012

Main Street Branch Library and Triangle Park

ABOVE: The Main Street Branch Library, a Mid Century Modern building seated on one of Huntington Beach's oldest parks.  It served as the main library from 1951 to 1975.

   Have you heard about the battle for Triangle Park?  This triangular pocket park represents some of Huntington Beach's earliest history and hosts the Mid-Century Modern Main Street Branch Library, once the town's only library.  

   Every now and then, someone proposes replacing the charming little library with some new-fangled idea and locals storm city hall to defend it.  Surf City may be a laid back beach town, but our politics are anything but dull.

Directions to Walking Tour stop #12 and #13: Walk northeast up Main Street toward the historic residential district of the downtown.   The Main Street Branch Library, 525 Main Street, and Triangle Park is located on the northwest side of Main Street between 6th Street and Acacia Avenue.

ABOVE: The City's first library was a used, roofless office building purchased for $50 and moved to the area of present day Walnut Avenue and Main Street in 1909. (Photo, City of Huntington Beach)

The first libraries
   A handful of local citizens and the Huntington Beach Women's Club (which lost their historic building to fire in 2011), called a meeting in February 1909 to form a library association.  It appears local residents were fully on board, as donations of books and items for the library prompted an immediate need for a building.  

  One of the library association's first board of trustees members put up the $50 for a used office building and a local property owner offered his land at the corner of Walnut Avenue and Main Street as a temporary site for a "nominal rent."  The building was moved in 1911 to Walnut and 3rd Street.

   At opening, it was recorded there were "338 volumes in the library, 228 were gifts while 110 had been bought new. The new library subscribed to twelve magazines and held hours of 10 a.m. to noon and 2:00 p.m. to 7 p.m."

ABOVE: The Huntington Beach Carnegie Library housed 2800 volumes, "700 of which were donated by residents of the city." (Image, Wiki Commons)

   As the library collection grew, plans developed to purchase a larger parcel of land and seek  a Carnegie Library grant.  The library association and the City jointly purchased land at Walnut and 8th Street and by 1913 had received $10,000 from the Carnegie Corporation for construction of a library on the site.

   The Huntington Beach Masonic Lodge was called upon for the cornerstone ceremony.  The Huntington Beach Public Library history records the items placed in the cornerstone included "the history of the city, the library, names of all those who had served on the Library Board, city trustees, pastors of the churches, members of the Board of Trade, names of those who had served on the library staff, the name of each child in the schools and a small American flag." 

  Surviving a significant earthquake in March 1933, the Carnegie Library held 42,000 volumes when its doors closed for good in 1951.  Although Huntington Beach city council minutes note the Masonic Lodge and Acacia Lodge attempted to purchase the library, the building was demolished by March 1969.  

   A December 1, 1972, letter on file in the City archives from the Huntington Beach Masonic Lodge No. 380 to the city council reports the Masons "retrieved the Carnegie Library cornerstone sealed strongbox and offers to lay the cornerstone at the new Central Library and new Civic Center."  

ABOVE: Rapid land sales in Huntington Beach meant there were more people arriving daily and not enough hotels or houses.  The tent cities of the early 1900s were a common solution to the problem.  (Photo circa 1906, courtesy Orange County Archives)

Cardboard Alley
   In 1917, while the first libraries were moving further up Walnut Avenue, the Huntington Beach Company officially deeded land blocks #405 and #505 to the City, specifying a public park.  

   A portion of Block 505--the future Triangle Park--was temporarily used for tents to house the constant flow of new residents to Huntington Beach.  Home builders could not keep up.  

   City of Huntington Beach Historical Notes (1975) report "on July 5, 1921, a lease contract was signed with R.E. Wright who constructed small beaverboard houses and rented them for $30 and $35 a month of which $8 a year went to the City.  Bungalet Court, more commonly known as 'Cardboard Alley' was located on the triangular piece of land." 

The Horseshoe Club
   By the mid 1920s, what was now being referred to as the "triangular park" was being seeded with grass, street lights were making their way up Main Street, and the City was planting trees.  By 1925, visitors to Huntington Beach increased with the opening of the Pacific Coast Highway.

   In February 1925, the board of trustees (city council) discussed "with considerable interest" a resident suggestion "advocating the use of Block 505 for a recreation park, suggesting tennis, croquet, and handball courts as being a very desirable form of amusement."   Triangle Park soon became a favorite spot in town, including checker boards, horseshoe courts, and a putting green.

ABOVE: Huntington Beach Horseshoe Club House, circa 1935.  The Club House was used by the Red Cross during World War II.  (Photo by Burton Frasher, Frasher Foto Postcard Collection, Pomona Public Library)

ABOVE: Huntington Beach Horseshoe Club at Triangle Park, circa 1935.  (Photo by Burton Frasher, Frasher Foto Postcard Collection, Pomona Public Library)

   City of Huntington Beach Historical Notes (1975) report the Horseshoe Club was constructed in 1931 "on the north east corner of Triangle Park, it was used by several clubs for meetings until 1942…During the war, the American Red Cross set up headquarters in the building where they gave first aid and volunteers rolled bandages.”

Where is the B-17?
   At the close of the WWII years, the City archives note an interesting discussion by the Huntington Beach city council regarding Triangle Park.  

   The May 20, 1946 city council minutes report, “Councilman Hawes recommended that the B-17 owned by the City be placed somewhere near the City airport instead of Triangle Park on account of the many difficulties in transporting the plane to the center of the City.  The matter was referred to the Streets and Parks Committee..."

   Please contact Historic Huntington Beach if you know where the B-17 is located today.  Really.

ABOVE: Main Street Branch Library, circa 2009. The library, designed by Los
Angeles architects McLellen, MacDonald and Marc, features a green marble entrance. (Photo, Chris Jepsen,

The Main Street Library at Triangle Park
   Delayed by WWII, construction began on the Main Street Library in 1949 and the doors opened in 1951, as the Carnegie Library closed.

   City of Huntington Beach Historical Notes (1975) remark, “When the current Main Street facility (library), consisting of 9,000 square feet, was completed in 1951, it was celebrated for its size and its design.  The Carnegie Library, 8th and Walnut Street, its predecessor, was half as big."  

   "The 1951 structure opened with 40,000 volumes with a budget of $40,000.  The marble fa├žade at the entrance was a real attraction.  The walls were pre-cast, reinforced concrete sections.  The ceiling was acoustical and the heating was provided by radiant pipes embedded in the floor." 

   "The large picture window at the north east end of the building displayed various artwork several times a year…The attractive park site remains a fine setting for the building.”

   Now approaching the century mark, Triangle Park was reaffirmed officially as a public park--retaining its historic name and purpose--in 2010.  

   The Main Street Branch Library, over 60 years old and a veteran of municipal budget wars and development ideas--still provides community library services, free Wi-Fi, and a green lawn on which to lie back and read a good old-fashioned book.  

All rights reserved.  No part of the Historic Huntington Beach blog may be reproduced or duplicated without prior written permission from the author and publisher, M. Adams Urashima.   

Sunday, August 26, 2012

National Register-listed M.E. Helme House Furnishing Company and Worthy House

ANTIQUES! The front window of the 1904 M.E. Helme House Furnishing Company antiques and collectibles store hints at the great finds inside.  This is one of Huntington Beach's National Register of Historic Places sites. (Photo, February 2014)

~Updated February 2014 ~

   If you love antiques, then this stop on the walking tour of Historic Downtown Huntington Beach is for you!  It's not only chock full of treasures, the buildings themselves are true gems of Huntington Beach history.
    Part of the Helme-Worthy legacy in Huntington Beach, the M.E. Helme House Furnishing Co. building and adjacent Helme-Worthy residence were listed on the National Historic Register (#86003668) in 1987 and are undergoing loving restoration.

HORSE AND BUGGY DAYS - M.E. Helme House Furnishing Company, circa 1907.  The Huntington Beach Historic Resources Board tells visitors to look for the rings used for hitching horses. (Photo courtesy of Orange County Archives)

HIDDEN HISTORY - Embedded in the sidewalk in front of the M.E. Helme House Furnishing Company are the hitching rings used in the horse and buggy days. (Photo, February 2014)

EVERYTHING A PIONEER NEEDS - Interior of the M.E. Helme House Furnishing Company, early 1900s, with the home furniture and decorative items, like birdcages, needed by those settling in Huntington Beach.  The proud proprietor, Mathew Helme, standing midway up the stairs. (Photo, City of Huntington Beach archives)

THE "ANTIQUE ANTIQUE STORE" - Interior of the M.E. Helme House Furnishing Company as it appears today, filled to the brim with antiques. (Photo, February 2014)

Directions to Walking Tour stop #6: Walk northeast up Main Street (away from the coast) and head left on Walnut Avenue.  Just a few steps down Walnut at Sixth Street sits the faded sky blue wooden, two-story commercial building of Huntington Beach's fourth mayor, Matthew Helme, and the goldenrod-colored Helme-Worthy house.  

GREY LADY GETTING A FACE LIFT - Undergoing restoration, but still in business, the M.E. Helme buildng recalls the days of country roads, horse and buggy.  (Photo, May 2012)

   Notes from the approved application to the National Historic Register (NHR) explain, "these two buildings retain their integrity of location, setting, design, workmanship, materials, feeling and association with Huntington Beach's early settlement period. Although the residence is simple in style, it is the oldest house in town. Both provide the only visual picture of early Huntington Beach and its settlement period."

  The M.E. Helme House Furnishing Company is "the only surviving commercial building with the original Western Falsefront architecture remaining in south and central Orange County."  Helme's furniture company sold practical and decorative furnishings for the growing frontier town.

      Constructed in 1904, the M.E. Helme House Furnishing Company building sits adjacent to the 1880s Helme-Worthy residence, also undergoing restoration.  The Helme-Worthy residence is well traveled, having been moved by mule team from the rural countryside between Santa Ana and Huntington Beach to its current location in 1903.  It is reported the house was previously owned by Charles Leatherman--who also shared ownership of the present day Longboard Restaurant & Pub at 217 Main Street (the oldest wooden building on Main Street).

REBIRTH OF A PIONEER - The Helme-Worthy residence undergoing restoration after over 120 years in existence and 109 years in downtown Huntington Beach.  The renovations are in keeping with the structures National Register status. (Photo, May 2012)

A WINDOW INTO THEIR STORY - Photographs thoughtfully posted by the family in the window of the Helme-Worthy residence document the original condition of the house in the early 1900s. (Photo, May 2012)

In the family
   One of the happiest aspects of the buildings' current restoration is the fact it is being conducted by the great granddaughter of Matthew Helme, Susie Worthy, and her husband, Guy Guzzardo.  They run the antique store and live at the residence, a true link to the past.

   Meet Susie Worthy and take a peak inside the "antique antique store" in this 2008 video,

FOUNDING FATHERS - Matthew Helme (center, front row) and the first Huntington Beach city council, then referred to as a board of trustees, circa 1909.  They appear to be keeping a close eye on someone out-of-view.  Left to right: David O. Steward, Ed Manning (Huntington Beach's first mayor), Helme, C.H. Howard, and Charles W. Warner.  (Photo, courtesy of Orange County Archives)

Matthew and Mary Josephine Helme
   Matthew Helme and his wife, Mary Josephine, were prominent citizens both for bringing the  seaside village's first furniture company and also for Matthew's role in the community's development.  

   The NHR application explains Helme "fought for incorporation, was elected to the town's first Board of Trustees (city council), worked to get that all-important commodity, water, functioning in a city system, helped to set up a modern fire department, helped set up the city manager system which still prevails, authored an ordinance setting up the sale of the city's first gas bonds, and introduced a substantial street paving and lighting program."

LAND BOOM DAYS - The attractions of Huntington Beach included a new $200,000 water system, oiled streets, and the annual Methodist conference.  In 1905, a lot went for $200 and up, and farm acreage anywhere from $100 to $500 an acre depending on the location.  (Image, Los Angeles Herald, May 21, 1905)

   Helme was elected to the first board of trustees in a hastily organized write-in ballot election.  By the time of the elections of 1912 and 1916, Huntington Beach had fancy printed ballots and Helme was the highest vote getter.  His fellow trustees made him mayor in 1916.  Due to his efforts, "gas street lights were placed along Main Street to the city limits. That stretch of street was paved, as was Ocean Avenue from First Street to Twenty-third Street.  This act recognized the change in methods of transportation from street car, train, and buggy to automobile."

   Helme's daughter, Amy, married Lawrence "Boots" Worthy in 1916, eventually making the Helme-Worthy house their home 1924.

STILL STANDING - The Helme-Worthy complex pre restoration efforts, corner of Walnut Avenue and Sixth Street.  The Worthy house is now a historically-accurate goldenrod color and nearing completion of its renovation as of 2014.  (Photo, courtesy of Wiki Commons)

TAKE A PEEK - A peek through the Helme-Worthy fence at the continuing preservation efforts on all sides of the structures. The Worthy family is carefully researching and matching the historical fixtures and paint colors used in the original structures. (Photo, February 2014)

AN EARLY ENTERPRISE - In between the M.E. Helme House Furnishing Company building and Worthy House is a structure with a stone facade, once a "tool making shop" (likely an early blacksmith). (Photo, February 2014)

   Another interesting historical note about Matthew Helme is his presidency of the Huntington Beach Tent City Company in 1914 (see the May 22, 2012, "Fire pits and tent camping" for a postcard image of the Huntington Beach Tent City).  

   The Tent City Company leased about 13 acres at the Methodist auditorium and grounds, Pecan and 12th Street, to host tent revivals, large groups and the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR, the Civil War veterans).

GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC - Huntington Beach organizers had to order 100 more tents to add to the existing 250 to accommodate Civil War veterans arriving at the annual encampment in 1910.  A group of 4,000 gathered in the Methodist auditorium to hear keynote speakers. (Image, Los Angeles Herald, August 20, 1910)

   No small campsite, the early 1900s civil war veteran gatherings brought thousands to Huntington Beach.  The Los Angeles Herald reported the Tent City hosted a dance floor, fire pits, veteran speakers on topics such as "Prison life at Andersonville," and "heated prisoners of war meetings."  The 1910 encampment also featured a "sunbonnet drill" by "the ladies from the 'fruit and flower' city (Pomona, California)."

   Bringing thousands of new visitors to camp at Huntington Beach, Helme both helped establish the makings of a town and continued to help put the young village on the map.

WORTHY OF A VISIT - The historic Helme-Worthy complex comprises 513-515-517-519 Walnut Street and 128 Sixth Street in downtown Huntington Beach.  Stop at the M.E. Helme House Furnishing Co. antique store at 517 Walnut Street and meet one of our pioneer families. (Photo, May 2012)

All rights reserved.  No part of the Historic Huntington Beach blog may be reproduced or duplicated without prior written permission from the author and publisher, M. Adams Urashima.