Sunday, September 25, 2011

Full circle in Huntington Beach

I've told the tale many times of my first foray into local history, over 20 years ago. I had a project to do for my high school photography class and decided that old buildings in downtown Huntington Beach would be a good subject. Pretty soon, I found people were coming out of the old buildings to ask what I was doing, and then ended up telling me the histories of their homes or businesses. Eventually, somebody directed me to City Historian Alicia Wentworth, who told me all kinds of interesting stories about the town I grew up in. She had amassed a large collection of historic images of the city, and I gave her copies of mine to add to the collection.

That could have been the end of it, if she hadn't said what she said next: "There are lots of historic buildings and sites around town that I'd still love to have photos of before they disappear. But I'm not as spry as I  used to be. If I paid you, would you take my list of historic sites and go photograph them?"

Naturally, I said yes. For a few dollars out of her own pocket, Alicia got her photos, I got my first paying job, and I was drawn into local history for good. 
I tell this story again because I'm scouting around again for old photos of Huntington Beach. Barbara Haynes of DeGuelle Glass ("The Glassiest Place in Town") gave me a disc chock full of amazing Huntington Beach images -- and guess what I found among them? A few veeery familiar images.

I took all three of the images in today's post back in the late 1980s. The one at the top of today's post is the Charles Warner House (1907) at 403 Tenth St. Charles Warner was on the city's first Board of Trustees (City Council). Warner Avenue was named in his honor. His son, Willis Warner, was raised in this house and grew up to become an important elected official in his own right. Willis also lived in this house while he was serving as one of the most influential Orange County Supervisors ever.

Today, the house is owned by Joe Santiago, who has made the Warner house famous as "the house with another old house hovering over its garage." You see, Joe also purchased the historic but threatened Ed Manning House. But Joe couldn't afford more land to put the Manning House on. So he put it on top of the garage of the Warner House! He is now working to restore both homes. (Manning, by the way, was the first mayor of H.B. and an ancestor of Alicia Wentworth. Small world!)

The second image, immediately above, shows Huntington Auto Service (circa 1918). This building is now demolished. About all that remains of the downtown "Auto Row" anymore is the old Hudson/Rambler/Peugeot dealership building at 410 Main (now "The Electric Chair" punk fashions), and Jax Bicycles at 401 Main, which I believe also served various dealerships and garages over the decades.
I believe I rediscovered this last image once before and posted it to my blog. So this is a re-rediscovery. The Troop 1 Scout Cabin was completed in 1924 thanks to support, work and donations from all parts of the community. Huntington Beach should take a certain amount of pride in this building, which still stands in the middle of Lake Park.

Thanks for bearing with me and my walk down memory lane.


Doug said...

Treasured memories, great photos and a pretty cool story about your start into the world of OC History. Thanks.

Connie Moreno said...

WOW what a COOL story!!!!

Tony Koss said...

This is a great post. Every time I take a picture of an old house I pray someone will come out and tell me some history about it. Unfortunately they either don't come out at all, or they come out and tell me to get lost.

Anonymous said...

I never heard that story from you before! Very interesting; thanks for sharing it! - Daralee

Bob said...

I remember when that Manning house (which used to be on Delaware) was moved to its present location and put up on top of the garage. It was a great idea, although it seems like there has been no work on it for several years. Did you get a chance to talk to the present owner about his plans to complete the work?

Chris Jepsen said...

Thanks for the comments, my friends!

Alicia was a great one for enlisting people into causes she believed in. She used her amazing power of the "soft sell" for good.

Tony: Really? That's too bad. Folks aren't *all* like that. Don't give up.

Bob: Yes, I talk to Joe pretty frequently. I think he's just bitten off so much, preservation-wise, that it's taking him a LONG time to make much visible progress. He does, however, have at least part of the interior of the Manning House *livable* now. But it's still very much a "living in a contruction zone" sort of thing -- A situation anyone who's restored a historic home can relate to.

I wish the City would adopt the Mills Act to give folks like the Joe and the Worthys a bit of a tax break which they could put toward their respectivee (very worthwhile) projects. In the long run, it would benefit the whole city.

Mateo said...

I just found this blog and I love it.

Anonymous said...

There are many special things about this part of the state. Thanks so much Chris for your incredible story, your blog and for helping all of us see the significance of history.

- an HB kid in exile on the east coast

tom spalsbury said...

My girlfriend Rose lived in the Warner house.I've taken shower there.I've eaten in the sun porch right off the kitchen.I've been to partys there with old time piano playing.On a vintage piano.I've had sushi with Rose in the dinning room.Well i guess i could say I know how the Warners kinda lived.

Anonymous said...

On the Warner/Manning house...a LONG time to restore....really...we are going on 9 true visible signs of restoration....a veritable flop house for transient room rentals. Would be nice if there truly was a plan to create what was presented to the planning commission. You mention that Joe deserves a tax break.....really would that cover the costs or reasonably move his project...I doubt it. But would like to be shown how you think it would work.

Chris Jepsen said...

Anonymous: If you'd like to see the work go faster (and wouldn't we all like to see it fully restored?), I encourage you to write Joe a big check to help pay for the work.

*If* the Mills Act were enacted in H.B., Joe would still have to bring the Warner House up to a certain standard of preservation/restoration in order to conform and receive a tax break. I haven't talked to Joe in a while, nor have I been past his place recently, so I can't really speak to the situation there currently. I will say this for the Manning House: I would rather see a glacial restoration project than a bulldozed historic home (which was the other option, after all). Come to that, if Joe didn't own the Warner House, I expect some developer would have torn it down and replaced it with four five-story tall uglies already.

Joe's property is a rare island of history and character in a part of town that's otherwise increasingly homogenous and underwhelming.

I may have approached the project differently,.. But then, I wasn't brave enough to take on a project like that to begin with.