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)

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  1. Very nice I can actually look at this site and 'go back in time' Guy and Susie take great effort to not only dodge the bullets of redevelopment but to preserve precisely the landmark...hats off and I hope susie has full recovery from her recent assult/robbery

  2. Huntington Beach sends its love and best wishes to Susie, as she recovers, and to Guy for watching out for her.

  3. UPDATE: The M.E. Helme Company antiques and collectibles store is open, and all is well! Stop by and support this Huntington Beach family as they preserve and maintain this historical icon.


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