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Historic Japanese church in Huntington Beach faces demolition

Orange County church facing demolition

The former Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church building in Huntington Beach, which dates to 1934, may soon face the wrecking ball. (Courtesy Chris Jepsen / Orange County Archives)

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that there is renewed activity from property owner Rainbow Disposal to dispose of the old church buildings on land it acquired back in 2004. The old Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church in Huntington Beach has since relocated its congregation to Santa Ana. But the historic buildings are still standing and preservationists — including from the Orange County Historical Society — are hoping that a way can be found to relocate and thus preserve the structures.

The church was first founded in 1902 to serve the needs of Japanese men who picked celery in the nearby fields. But it later became a community focal point, as houses of worship so often do, for the local Japanese community upon returning from internment in the prison camps set up for Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Carla Tengan, a former associate curator at the Japanese American National Museum who spoke on the panel, said the church served as a beacon of support for the county’s Japanese residents, many of whom were moved to relocation camps during World War II and had trouble finding work and housing when they returned.

“The church seems to be, in people’s recollections, the main social and religious gathering point,” Tengan said.

Chris Jepsen first blogged about this at O.C. History Roundup three and a half years ago.

Wintersburg is the most important historic Asian-American community in O.C. of which there is any remaining physical evidence. It would be more than just a crying shame to see these landmarks destroyed.

Rainbow Disposal appears to be open about their plans and supportive of moving the buildings elsewhere for preservation. They are not villains here. The only real villain is our obsessive need to erase history. I hope a way can be found to avoid that in this case.

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