Tuesday, April 30, 2013

It's historic! Main Street Library and Triangle Park listed on National Register

   We're 104-years-old and getting older everyday.  And now, one of our treasured local landmarks has been recognized for its contributions and place in the history of Huntington Beach.

   On April 16, 2013, the U.S. Department of the Interior National Park Service announced the Huntington Beach Public Library on Triangle Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

   Within days of the City's incorporation "some local organizations and the Huntington Beach Women's Club called a mass meeting on February 15, 1909, to form a library association."  There weren't many paved streets, we were still trying to install lighting and telephone service, but at the top of the agenda for the community was the establishment of a public library. And so it began in a borrowed wooden building, with a rocking chair, a few lamps and the community's first collection of books.

   The Huntington Beach Public Library on Triangle Park became the City's sole library in 1951, sitting atop one of our oldest parks--once the site of early 1900s baseball games, horseshoe tournaments and checkerboard chats.   It is spot #12 and #13 on the historic downtown Walking Tour.

   Since the opening of our Main Street Library, our nation has witnessed the Civil Rights Movement, the Korean War, the release of the Beatles and Billy Holiday's first LPs, man walking on the moon, the Vietnam War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, eleven presidents, the birth of Rock and Roll, the birth of Rap, the invention of the Internet, Facebook, Youtube, texting, WiFi, and Twitter.  Our little library was there for the introduction of Marshmallow Peeps, Tang, old Coketurducken, Watergate salad, New Coke, California rolls, Classic Coke, TofurkeySmart Water, kale everything, deep fried Twinkies, the demise of the Twinkie, and Kogi BBQ.

   Through all the cultural and social changes, it's always been about the books, the open sharing of information, "...the one secular institution which encourages self development as an aim." (Josiah P. Quincy, 1875)

   Congratulations little library!  Well done.

Read more about the history of the Main Street Library and Triangle Park, Historic Walking Tour #12 and #13: Main Street Library and Triangle Parkhttp://www.historichuntingtonbeach.blogspot.com/2012/08/historic-walking-tour-12-and-13-main.html and Saving History: The Main Street Library and Triangle Park, http://historichuntingtonbeach.blogspot.com/2012/12/saving-history-main-street-library-and.html

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A clean sweep: the broom factories

In a "housewives' manual," the San Francisco Call advised  sweeping carpets with "plenty of salt in the fight against moths."  Gearing up to sweep the house was a major chore.  (Image, San Francisco Call, October 15, 1905)

An advertisement from the 1926 Orange County, California, Directory, touts the "superior brooms" being made in Huntington Beach, one of the City's early businesses. (Image, Fullerton Public Library)

   "Hezekiah Thompson was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1864, and while a youth he learned the trade of broom maker."     ~History of Henry County, Missouri, 1919

   We may not give much thought to brooms today.  However at turn-of-the-century Huntington Beach pioneers were setting up homes, contending with dirt roads and Santa Ana winds.  Men like Hezekiah Thompson saw an opportunity and the business of brooms  became part of Huntington Beach's early manufacturing economy.

Brooms were a serious item in every household, as noted in this letter-to-the-editor complaining about broom prices.  (Image, Los Angeles Herald, April 20, 1910) 
The La Bolsa Station for the Southern Pacific and Pacific Electric rail lines, near the broom factories outside the Huntington Beach downtown. (Photo, City of Huntington Beach archives).

   Hezekiah Thompson was running a thriving broom factory in Missouri, when he decided to sell his holdings and move west.  Hezekiah's sons--Walter and Benjamin Thompson had followed him in the broom trade but remained behind in Missouri--continuing to operate a successful family manufacturing business.

   Setting up house in Long Beach, Hezekiah took advantage of available industrial land offered by the Huntington Beach Company, near the Holly Sugar Company, Pierce Home Cannery, and Pacific Oil Cloth and Linoleum factory.  A key advantage for the Beach Broom Co. and the other businesses in the area was the proximity to the La Bolsa Station of the Southern Pacific Railroad.

     Nearby, the proprietors of the Pacific Broom Company---J.A. Van Winkle and William C. O'Connor---set up shop.  The Southern California Panama Expositions Commission reported in 1914, the Huntington Beach broom factory employed fourteen people with an annual production of $180,000.   

   Van Winkle and O'Connor planted four acres of broom corn (sorghum) near their factory to see if it would grow in Huntington Beach, to save shipping it from the east.  In New York, broom corn was selling for as much as $280 per ton, also prompting Northern California farmers to try their hand at growing broom corn.

Left: One of the Rube Goldberg binding and sewing contraptions that helped automate broom making, circa 1917.  With this equipment, it was possible to turn out 50 to 100 brooms per day.  (Image, Brooms, Brushes & Handles, Vol. 20, 1917)

   By 1917, 53-year-old Hezekiah Thompson retired from the broom business; his partner H.A. Bowman bought out his interests and continued to run the broom factory.   

   Reviewing an industry magazine that same year, Brooms,Brushes & Handles (1917), there are reports on broom production in various parts of the country, and countless advertisements for broom handles--from bamboo to maple--broom machinery, and broom corn for shipment.  Manufacturers worried about broom corn shortages and labor shortages due to World War I.

   Also by this time, portable vacuums were becoming more widely available.  The earlier versions of the vacuum were large machines, carted on wagons and parked outside a house, with vacuum hoses running into the home's windows from the street.  Cleaning the house was an event that required planning.

An early newspaper feature, The Woman Behind the Broom, advises ladies how to protect their health and beauty while sweeping.  The first prototype of the portable vacuum was issued a patent in 1908, but it wouldn't be until 1919 that portable Hoover vacuums were found in more homes.  (Image, San Francisco Call, February 27, 1910)

   Early Orange County historian Samuel Armor reports in his 1921 History of Orange County that the Beach Broom Factory in Huntington Beach was producing $40,000 worth of product, the equivalent of over half a million dollars today.

A Huntington Beach broom factory near present-day Garfield Avenue, circa 1910.  Fire was always a concern with dry broom corn.  On February 4, 1918, the Huntington Beach Board of Trustees approved a resolution for the fire department to answer calls outside city limits, directing staff to send a copy of the resolution to the Pacific Broom Company.  (Photo, City of Huntington Beach archives)

Tips for broom salesmen from Brooms, Brushes & Handles, Vol. 20, provided rules for physical, mental, moral, financial and social health. (Image, Brooms, Brushes & Handles, Vol. 20, 1917)

   The number of broom factories peaked nationwide around 1919 and their number continued to decline through the 1930s.  By the 1960s---when Huntington Beach lost its broom factory in a fire---the domestic broom business was declining due to synthetic broom bristles, imported brooms, and the vacuum.

In the early 1960s, Huntington Beach still enjoyed a good broom, the local Lions Club selling them as a fundraiser. Lions Clubs around the country continue the tradition of broom sales today. (Source: City of Huntington Beach archives, City Council minutes, April 15, 1963)

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.   

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A little humor from the founding fathers

An unpaved Third Street, circa 1905, with horse and buggy teams up the street and a formidable housewife watching the photographer.  (Photo, City of Huntington Beach archives)

   Every now and then, historical records leave a hint about the humor or intensity of discussion not reflected in the usually formal minutes of city leaders.  In August, 1921, there was an apparently enthusiastic conversation about the condition of Third Street.

The Huntington Beach board of trustees minutes for August 1, 1921, include the notation, "No joke," regarding the rough condition of Third Street.  (Source, City of Huntington Beach archives)

   The early years of the new town's Board of Trustees---predecessor to the City Council---are filled with the activity of setting up a growing city, grading streets and blocks via horse team, installing ornamental lights, seeding parks, planting trees, and establishing telephone service.  The dirt streets were "oiled" after grading, but had to be regularly maintained due to divots and ruts left by horses and wagon wheels, as well as new-fangled automobiles.

One of the older cottages remaining on Third Street, beautifully restored. (April 10, 2013)

 A well-paved Third Street as it looks today, no joke. (April 10, 2013)

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.   

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Hidden History: Huntington Beach's "Old Civic Center" and Memorial Hall

ABOVE: American eagles, the California State Seal and an early Huntington Beach seal, were saved from demolition at the City's Old Civic Center.   (Photo, M. Urashima, April 2013) © All rights reserved.

   Hidden away in the public works yard parking lot are survivors of Huntington Beach's Old Civic Center, once located between 5th and 6th streets in the historic downtown.  Previously the site of one of the first grammar schools, the original Civic Center was situated next to present-day Triangle Park, home of the Main Street Library. 

ABOVE: After washing away the dust, a small metal plaque reveals the history of the monument to early Huntington Beach, re-dedicated in the public works yard over thirty years ago. Note the date of 1930, should be 1923, the year the city hall at the Old Civic Center opened. (Photo, M. Urashima, April 2013) © All rights reserved.
ABOVE: The eagles originally were not painted and matched the stonework on the building.  Today, the pair of eagles have landed near the public works administration offices. (Photo, M. Urashima, April 2013) © All rights reserved.  

ABOVE: Close up of painting detail on eagle. (Photo, M. Urashima, April 2013) © All rights reserved.

   In a Civic Center history published by the City in 1974, the firm of Walker and Eisen is reported as the architects of the city hall and auditorium.
   Based in Los Angeles, Walker and Eisen also designed the twelve-story Fine Arts Building on 7th Street in Los Angeles, which was designated as a Historic Cultural Monument in 1974 and is featured in the film, 500 (Days of Summer).  Walker and Eisen's other buildings include the Hotel Normandie and the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.
ABOVE: Under construction - From a different angle, the solid brick "new city hall" under construction circa 1922.  The original Pacfic City city hall--predating the 1909 incorporation of Huntington Beach--operated out of a building at 122 Main Street.  (Photo, City of Huntington Beach Archives, circa 1922)

   The Old Civic Center opened its doors in 1923 and served as Huntington Beach's official seat of government for 51 years.  The impressive stairway led to the second floor where main city government offices were located.

   The Civic Center history notes, "Many notable decisions were made by the board of trustees (city council) during this time, one of which awarded the contract for the installation of the ornamental street lights along Main Street from Mansion (Yorktown) Avenue to the ocean."

ABOVE: A City of Huntington Beach seal from the Old Civic Center features ocean waves and Catalina Island across the sea.  Also noted is the City's birthday, February 17, 1909, (we're Aquarius, a water sign, naturally).  (Photo, M. Urashima, April 2013) © All rights reserved.

ABOVE: The State Seal,  simplified version not featuring the official seal's golden bear and ships in the harbor, but including the Greek phrase, "Eureka," meaning "I have found it."  The wheat sheaf symbolism typically means prosperity, the harvest of one's hopes, and is a nod to Huntington Beach's agricultural roots.  The axe symbolizes patriotism and military duty.  (Photo, M. Urashima, April 2013) © All rights reserved.

   The 1933 earthquake damaged the city hall building, causing city staff to move into tents around the civic center for a short period.  The municipal tent city was a reminder of the temporary shelters in Huntington Beach's earliest years when housing construction could not keep pace.  This included the Bungalette Court, known by locals as "Cardboard Alley," allowed for a short time on a portion of Block 505 (Triangle Park) until directed to vacate by the city council in July, 1923.

ABOVE: This 1930s photograph of the art deco Memorial Hall at the Civic Center locates the stone eagles on pedestals flanking the main entrance.  The Memorial Hall was dedicated in 1931.  (Photo, City of Huntington Beach archives)

ABOVE: The finished city hall building, reveals the City and State seal plaques above arched niches at the entrance.  (Photo, City of Huntington Beach archives)

    When fully established, the Old Civic Center included the city hall, Memorial Hall (of which the second floor was managed by the American Legion), fire and police departments, chamber of commerce, and the Horseshoe Clubhouse with recreational activities and a ballpark on present-day Triangle Park.
   The Horseshoe Clubhouse was constructed at the civic center in 1931 and put into use by community groups.  See photos of the Horseshoe Club at http://www.historichuntingtonbeach.blogspot.com/2012/08/historic-walking-tour-12-and-13-main.html  

   During World War II, the Clubhouse was occupied by the Red Cross until they were asked to vacate after the war in 1950.  In the late 1960s, key city departments relocated to the Clubhouse when they outgrew city hall.

ABOVE: Inside the Memorial Hall auditorium, circa 1940, which was managed by the American Legion. The little boy at front, center, does not appear happy to be in the adult crowd. The couple in the lower right seem to be having a better time.  (Photo, City of Huntington Beach archives)

ABOVE: A war memorial was installed in 1949 on the 5th Street side of the civic center.   During World War II, a watchtower was stationed on the roof of Memorial Hall.  (Photo, City of Huntington Beach archives)

  By the early 1970s,  the City departments were spread out into multiple buildings and planning began for the new Civic Center at Main Street and Yorktown Avenue where it remains today.  A decision was made to demolish the old civic center and redevelop the land as housing.

ABOVE: Demolition of the Old Civic Center, circa 1974, with apparent brick salvage.  (Photo, City of Huntington Beach archives)

ABOVE: Memorial Hall demolition, circa 1974, the eagles saved by some unknown hero.  Its unknown if someone saved the wings above the entrance.  (Photo, City of Huntington Beach archives)

   From 1945 to 1972, the City of Huntington Beach grew from its original 3.57 square miles to almost 28 square miles.  The City's population boomed from 11,000 in 1960 to 150,000 in 1974.  In a little over a decade, Huntington Beach had become the fastest growing city in the United States.

ABOVE: Civic Center construction at present-day Main Street and Yorktown, across from Huntington Beach High School, circa 1974.  (Photo, City of Huntington Beach archives)

   By 1968, the City purchased the new civic center site at Main Street and Mansion (Yorktown) Avenue, across from Huntington Beach High School.  The new city hall--designed by architect Kurt Meyer, who designed a number bank buildings in Los Angeles--opened its doors in 1974.  

   The dedication event featured bands from Huntington Beach and Marina high schools, the Edison High School drill team, and hostesses from the Orange Coast College stewardess trainees.  The dedication address was made by Robert H. Finch, Counselor to President Richard Nixon, with a presentation of keys to the building by the architect.

   Six years later, the paired eagles and plaques from the Old Civic Center quietly found their new home in the public works yard.

ABOVE: An aerial of the Old Civic Center, circa 1950, shows the building placement.  The city hall and Memorial Hall site is now condominiums.  The Triangle Park site is retained with the 1951 Main Street Library.  (Photo, City of Huntington Beach archives).

Location: The monument to the Old Civic Center is located in the parking lot of the City of Huntington Beach public works corporation yard, 17371 Gothard Street, between Slater and Warner avenues.  It can be viewed during the days and hours the public works offices are open.

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.