Saturday, September 23, 2017

Newland House: Saving our pioneer history

ABOVE: The Newland House Museum after a rain. Once endangered and in disrepair, it was a decades-long community effort to save and restore the 1898 structure as part of the development agreement with the Newland Shopping Center.  As of 2017, the recent refurbishment of the Newland Shopping Center reflects design elements complementing the National Register of Historic Places-listed house museum. (Photograph, M. Urashima. October 24, 2016) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED     

   History takes a long time to make. And, a long time to save.  In the case of this local and national historical landmark, it took decades of community volunteer effort--and near loss to neglect, vandalism and disrepair--to save a historic site now considered a treasure.
   It was 1964 when local residents began voicing a concern about the Newland House, calling for it to be saved and restored to its former glory as the headquarters of the 1,000-acre Newland Rancho.  In the fast-paced, mid 20th-Century building boom, the community discussion is reminiscent of most historic preservation efforts: What is historic?  Why did the original owners sell it?  Should the Newland House be demolished to allow for the construction of a new shopping center?  Why should historic preservation be part of community planning?

   The Newland family--no longer farming or ranching--had already sold their property and, in 1964, it was owned by Signal Oil & Gas Company.  The Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce manager, William Gallienne, advocated moving the house to get it out of the way of progress.   

RIGHT: Mayor Don Shipley with Miss Huntington Beach Rosemary Southward, in front of the Newland House in 1964. Shipley advocated for its historic preservation.  (Los Angeles Times, August 3, 1964)

   Mayor Don Shipley--for whom the Shipley Nature Center is named--advocated working with the property owner and developer to save the Newland House and make it a centerpiece of a public park site.  Shipley acknowledged the challenges of restoration, preservation and ongoing stewardship, but advocated his vision for historic preservation.  

LEFT: The Newland House with its outbuildings and the original Newland barn in 1948.  The outbuildings included a bunk house for ranch labor and a sizable barn that almost dwarfed the house.  The barn on the property today is not original and was constructed to provide event space. (City of Huntington Beach archives, 1948)

   Shipley told the Los Angeles Times in 1964 that the Newland House "would make an excellent historical tie for the City".  Shipley's unflagging advocacy of the elements that are important to retain in community planning--history, open space, natural landscapes--led to him being honored in perpetuity at the Shipley Nature Center in 1974.  

   The Shipley Nature Center--off Goldenwest Street--explains on their website, "Dr. Shipley’s vision was to have a place which reflected what California was 100 years that children would be able to see what Huntington Beach may have been like before intense development began..."  The Shipley Nature Center is today a center for community and school educational programming, and a respite in an increasingly urban environment that has removed most of Huntington Beach's early history.

LEFT: Delbert "Bud" Higgins in front of the Newland House. Behind him, the exterior paint is peeling and windows are either open or boarded up. Higgins advocated for saving the community's pioneer history and the pre-history of California's indigenous people. (Los Angeles Times, April 27, 1976)

   Twelve years after the first article, the Los Angeles Times published another article about the grassroots historic preservation effort to save the Newland House.  It featured a photograph of Delbert "Bud" Higgins, a long-time local and community historian, standing in front of the Newland House again.  The Newland House looked more neglected, but those involved in the preservation effort refused to give up.  By then, community residents had formed the Huntington Beach Historical Society and began holding fundraising events to generate funds and friends.

   Higgins--who, with his brother, Gordie, began making the first redwood surfboards in Huntington Beach after watching Duke Kahanmoku and "the Hawaiians" surf Corona del Mar in the 1920s--had seen radical changes to the Huntington Beach historical and cultural landscape in his lifetime.  He talked about the pre-history of the indigenous people of California and the 19th-Century pioneer settlement history represented by the Newland House.

   "Indians lived on this mesa more than a thousand years ago," Higgins, who was Huntington Beach's first lifeguard and first fire chief, told the Los Angeles Times, after picking up a clam shell in the yard of the Newland House while taking the reporter on a tour. "They'd go down into the tidal basin mud flats below, gather clams and cook them."

RIGHT: An example of the Native Californian basketry that was part of the Newland family collection of Mary Juanita DeLapp Newland.  The majority of the collection is held by the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana.  The Works Progress Administration helped with an archaeological investigation of the Newland House property in the 1930s, resulting in "two wagon loads" of artifacts removed from the mesa and "housed in Santa Ana", according to local historian Bud Higgins.  Some artifacts were reported by the Times as dating to 5,000 B.C. In 1980, another archaeological investigation documented a native American burial on the property. (Image, Los Angeles Times, June 29, 1980) 

  A major breakthrough came to the historic preservation effort in April 1974, when Signal Landmark Homes donated the Newland House and land to the community for a historical public park, as mitigation for their housing development.  The original plans were to encircle the house with a retail center.  After community objections, Signal Landmark changed their plans and lowered an office buildng by ten feet to retain the Newland House's view  of the Pacific Ocean and promised that the retail center's architectural features would complement the historic structure.

LEFT: The Newland House in 1970, missing an exterior wall.  The old wooden garage structure--which no longer exists--can be seen in the yard. (Photograph, City of Huntington Beach archives, circa 1970)

   A dozen years after the historic preservation effort was initiated in 1964, the community was rallying behind the effort.  Students at three local junior high schools holding a bike-a-thon as a fundraiser.  Descendants of the Newland family offered support by donating a few artifacts, historical ephemera, and helping locate furnishings to re-create the dining room as they remembered it.  

   Very little of the original furnishings remained, as family members did not realize their home would be considered historic.  Community members scoured antique markets and asked for donations of period-appropriate items to furnish the house museum.

RIGHT: A table set for pioneer holidays inside the Newland House dining room.  The Huntington Beach Historical Society and Huntington Beach's Historic Wintersburg Preservation Task Force will roll the clock back 100 years again at their fourth annual "Holidays in Huntington Beach" at the Newland House on Friday, December 1.  This year, it will be 1917! (Photograph, M. Urashima, November 30, 2014) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED    

   Like most historic preservation efforts, the call to save the Newland House was initiated by people other than the family whose history it represents.  Historic preservationists took the larger view that the property's significance was important to the community and region, and that the community would undertake saving it.

   The Newland family had ten children, two of whom were born in the house.  The family had sold the property and had not lived in the home for more than 20 years.  The Los Angeles Times interviewed one of the descendants born in the house, Helen Newland Tarbox, in 1976.

LEFT: The Newland House, as it appeared prior to its stabilization and preservation, with barbed wire security fencing and in disrepair. (Photograph, City of Huntington Beach archives, October 15, 1976)

   Helen Newland Tarbox--then 75 years old and living in Newport Beach--remarked, "More power to the Historical Society! What they are doing is great. They've had a hard time of it with no city money. It's going to take time to do the restoration, but they are going to do it."

   Volunteers from Orange Coast College re-roofed the Newland House, while volunteer carpenters and electricians worked to restore the structure.  A crew from the Huntington Beach Fire Department installed a flagpole on the distinctive cupola.  The second floor of the Main Street Branch Library was used to store historical items, while the Newland House was undergoing stabilization and preservation work.  

   Higgins told the Los Angeles Times that the original estimated cost for the historic preservation effort was far less than projected, due to community volunteers and donations.  Once the historic preservation effort was permitted and the project had site control, everybody became a preservationist.  The effort to save local history brought residents together, rolling up their sleeves to help as a point of community pride and civic contribution.

RIGHT: By 1980, over fifteen years after the historic preservation effort began, the Los Angeles Times recounted the Newland House journey through neglect, blight, vandalism (which cannibalized historic fixtures), and the pressures of urbanization.  Members of the community persisted in their work to save the structure for future generations. (Los Angeles Times, June 29, 1980)

   Huntington Beach City Councilman Ted Bartlett told the Los Angeles Times in 1976, at the height of the country's bicentennial, "I'm 100% behind the society's restoration work.  I'm going to donate my money, just like the others."  

   Like Don Shipley, Ted Bartlett's leadership regarding the retention of historical places and open spaces in the city's planning and development prompted a grateful community to honor him in a permanent manner.  The natural wilderness area behind the Newland House--Bartlett Park--is named after Bartlett, who served five four-year terms on the city council.

LEFT: Alice Jumper, a member of the Huntington Beach Historical Society, inside the Newland dining room in 1980.  She is one of the many volunteers who donated countless hours to save the Newland House, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. She described seeing the house from Beach Boulevard and stopping to take a closer look.  By 1980, Jumper said she was "up to my ears" in her volunteer efforts to help restore the Newland House.  When asked why she cared so much for a place to which she had no familial connection--a question often asked of historic preservationists--she told the Los Angeles Times, "how do you describe love?"  (Los Angeles Times, June 29, 1980) 

   By 1982, the 19.5-acre Newland Shopping Center had opened and was 75-percent leased.   The City of Huntington Beach committed $400,000 for the stabilization and preservation of the Newland House, including associated infrastructure for water and power to the property.  Community members had contributed more in their volunteer labor and donations.

    In 1985, the then 87-year-old  Newland House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  

LEFT: A new addition to the Newland Shopping Center in 2017, Miguel's Homestyle Mexican Food includes an artful rendering of the National Register-listed Newland House as part of its architectural decor.  The rendering reminds of local residents and visitors of Huntington Beach's agricultural past.  Miguel's is located on ground once occupied by the chile pepper dehydrating warehouses of Masami Sasaki, who was known as the "chile pepper king" and one of the largest chile pepper processors in Southern California prior to World War II. (Photograph, M. Urashima. July 2017)  © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

    The City of Huntington Beach's financial commitment to the preservation effort led to the construction of a new barn on the Newland House property and the restoration of landscape for a cumulative bid of $272,733.  The barn was built to provide public event space to generate revenue to support the Newland House property.  Today, the "Newland Barn" is a popular site for weddings, birthday parties and other events, and is booked months in advance.  

   Currently, the barn--a single, 1,100-square foot structure with a "patio" area of 22 square feet--generates an average of $53,000 annually, per revenue records provided by the City of Huntington Beach for the years 2000 through 2014.  During those years alone--not including revenue for the mid 1980s through 1990s--the Newland Barn generated close to three-quarters of a million dollars for the City.   The City's Community Services department now holds a lottery to determine who gets reservations on available dates.

RIGHT: A view from Bartlett Park of the Newland House and the "Newland Barn", a new structure constructed in 1983 to provide event space a the Newland House Museum.  The 1,100 square-foot Newland Barn has generated well over a million dollars for the City since its opening. (Photograph, City of Huntington Beach, circa 1986) 

   The City of Huntington Beach's investment in the Newland House property has been repaid many times over.  The ongoing maintenance and continual improvement at the Newland House Museum is born by the Huntington Beach Historical Society, who also provide historical tours, train docents and provide events at the Museum.  The Society improved the property with the back yard gazebo and the reconstruction of the historic water tower, as well as restoration of the garden.  Each year, the Huntington Beach Historical Society awards a "Newland Rose" to community members who make contributions to the preservation of local history.

LEFT: The garden on the south side of the Newland House contains bricks rescued from the demolition of the Holly Sugar Factory, a 1911 sugar processing plant near the original Huntington Beach Township, once located off what is now Garfield Avenue and Holly Lane. Local residents had wanted to save the pioneer-era Holly Sugar Factory for adaptive reuse; it was demolished with little warning on a Saturday. (Photograph, Newland House garden, M. Urashima. November 30, 2014) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
   Eighty-one years after the incorporation of Huntington Beach, the City appointed Michael Mudd as the new cultural affairs director, following a historic resources survey in 1986.  Mudd told the Los Angeles Times that "cultural concerns and historic conservation haven't evolved in Huntington Beach."  He advocated devoting some City investment to organize the various historical organizations and create a long-term plan for preserving local history.  Alas, his position did not last.

   The Newland House rose garden was dedicated in 1987 and grew over the years through the work of volunteers.  The garden's present-day design was developed with input from the Pacific Coast Archaeological Society in order to avoid archaeological sensitivities on the grounds. 

RIGHT: Newland House trustee Virginia Whipple on the brick walkway of the rose garden in 1996. (Los Angeles Times, November 23, 1996) 

   In 1996, the garden was renovated by the Master Gardeners of Orange County as a volunteer contribution.  The garden has been used for master gardening classes and cooking demonstrations, and is in keeping with the 19th-Century intent of Mary Newland to be both useful as a kitchen garden and a beautiful spot to linger.

LEFT: Darrell Rivers, president of the Huntington Beach Historical Society,  in a photo frame at Holidays in Huntington Beach 1916, an annual joint event with the Historic Wintersburg Preservation Task Force.  The event recreates the community's holiday celebrations of 100 years ago.  It will be 1917 at this year's Holidays in Huntington Beach, on Friday, December 1. (Photograph, Darrell Rivers at the Newland House Museum. M. Urashima. December 2, 2016) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Present day 
   The Huntington Beach Historical Society--in addition to organizing the annual Civil War Days in Central Park, along with other events at the Newland House Museum--continues to provide the stewardship, ongoing maintenance and improvements for the Newland House and garden.  

   The lasting legacy of the Newland family--as well as the efforts of community volunteers who have worked over half a century to save, restore, and maintain this local gem--continue to provide a sense of place and heritage for Huntington Beach, as well as a place for local celebrations.  It is, as Don Shipley predicted in 1964, an "historical tie" that binds our community together.

ABOVE: One of the many cultural events at the Newland House reflecting local heritage, Dia los Muertos, in October 2014.  A group of event-goers, with Huntington Beach Historical Society president Darrell Rivers (far right in top hat) flashed a "W" for Historic Wintersburg, a present day historic preservation effort in Huntington Beach. (Photograph, Dia los Muertos at Newland House Museum. M. Urashima October 2014) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

The Newland House Museum is located at 19820 Beach Boulevard, in Huntington Beach, California, in the Newland Shopping Center, and is open to the public. Call 714-962-5777 for more information and hours.  The Newland House barn rental information through the City of Huntington Beach can be found at

© 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.

1 comment:

  1. Part of the history of this place, my father was the foreman of HB, and a carpenter for HB in the late 60s - he had the keys to every HB building (and keyed them), and it was his duty to check on the Newland house before and after work for many years - we lived across Yorktown on Harding Ln. a few house up. I got to go with him on several occasions when he would take me on outings to collect bricks from old home site foundations throughout HB. ALSO i often played there and about, swing on the rope swing and playing spin the bottle, etc in the tree house there. And lets not forget sliding down the grassy hills on cardboard! Great memories....


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