Thursday, June 19, 2008

Newland House (1898), Huntington Beach

[This is my first entry for the National Trust for Historic Preservation's "This Place Matters" program. I started with the Newland House (19820 Beach Blvd) simply because it was close to home. Thanks again to Diann Marsh for making my life easier with her wonderful book, Huntington Beach: The Gem of the South Coast.]
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When William T. and Mary Juanita Newland built this house in 1898, there were no other homes in the area. Few thought this coastal region’s marshy peatlands would support agriculture. But the Newlands found ways to drain the excess water and uproot the willow trees that covered the rich soil. Soon, they had a successful 520-acre ranch. Celery and sugar beets were key crops for the Newlands, although they also grew chili peppers and lima beans. Their success opened the door to many other farmers who chose to settle in what would soon be known as the Huntington Beach area.
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This two-story, nine-room, redwood-framed Victorian house was built Dawes & Kuechel of Santa Ana. It stands on a bluff overlooking the Santa Ana River delta, and has views of both the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ana Mountains. Because there were originally no roads in the area, Mr. Newland hauled the lumber along the beach all the way from McFadden’s Wharf in Newport Beach with a horse-drawn wagon. The cement foundation is made of gravel that he hauled up from the beach.
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Already a local pioneer, William Newland went on to play a critical role in the founding of the City of Huntington Beach. He was a stockholder in the West Coast Land & Water Co., which organized Pacific City (the original name of Huntington Beach) and sold the first lots. He also helped establish the town’s first newspaper, the First National Bank, the Methodist Church, and the Huntington Beach Canning Company. He also served on the South Coast Improvement District, the Board of Trade, and the School Board. Mary Newland also served on the School Board and founded the town’s first P.T.A.
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The Newlands also made a major contribution in lobbying railroad magnate Henry Huntington to bring his Pacific Electric Railroad “red cars” to the area – a move that launched the local tourism industry and put Huntington Beach on the map.
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William Newland died in 1933. Mary continued to live in their home until her death in 1952. Ten Newland children had been raised in the house, but none chose to live there after their mother’s death. For the following two decades, employees of the Signal Oil Co. lived in the house.
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In 1972, the Huntington Beach Historical Society was re-activated by the H.B. Junior Women’s Club for the purpose of restoring and preserving the badly-neglected Newland House. Over 200 city residents volunteered their time and talents to return the city’s oldest house from the brink. Today, the house is available to the public as a museum, depicting life in the earliest years of our community. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.

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