Preservation noodles

In Chinese culture, unbroken noodles represent longevity.

I feel it’s time to revisit a column I wrote a few years ago. On Nov. 4, 2014, “Celebrating Kindred Spirits” was published here. It was an article of hope for community success, one of connections and positive engagement. An excerpt follows:

There is a woman I haven’t met but with whom I hope to share a celebratory meal in the near future, even if it is only in my mind’s eye. I had been reading The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s magazine, “Preservation,” and discovered another kindred spirit. Someone who loves historic places and recognized historic sites that have shaped the American identity. Someone who works to save and protect them.

In the mid-1980s in Huntington Beach, Mary Adams Urashima was drawn toward a small roadside building – the cornerstone read: “Japanese Presbyterian Church 1934.” Two decades later the church was sold. When she heard that the church and the remaining buildings faced the possibility of demolition by the current property owner, Urashima began her research on the site’s history.

What she discovered was the story of Japanese immigrants who settled in what was once the agricultural community of Wintersburg Village. In 1957, Wintersburg Village was annexed into Huntington Beach. The five-acre property includes the 1912 home of Charles and Yukiko Furuta, the Wintersburg Presbyterian Mission (circa 1909-1910) and its buildings, which include a bar (circa 1908-1912), the clergy member home (circa 1910), and the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church (circa 1934).

The structures depict the history of the early Japanese immigrant life in the West – from pioneer settlement and the 1913 California Alien Land Law, which denied Asian Americans the right to purchase land, through World War II and beyond. The U.S. National Parks Service and the National Trust for Historic Preservation noted that all of the structures are potentially eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Hanford’s China Alley received the designation in 2011, Winterburg’s Village is one of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places for 2014.

Determined to save Wintersburg, Urashima created a blog, “Historic Wintersburg” and her book, “Historic Wintersburg in Huntington Beach, was released earlier this year. She felt that by telling Wintersburg’s story to the public, it would put a face on the building and show the community that something historically significant occurred in those buildings and on that property.

Urashima continued her research and sharing Winterburg’s story. In “Preservation,” Urashima is quoted, “When you take on something like this, you never regret it. It’s a labor of love.”

Yes, Mary Adams Urashima, it certainly is.

End excerpt, fast forward to the present time. During the early evening of Friday, January 26, 2018, I received notification that Republic Services, Inc. (the waste management company that owns the Historic Wintersburg property) has made a deal to sell that property to Public Storage for the development of a self storage site. I wept as I read this news.

For a few of my family members, and for Steve and me, our labors of love place us in a community, in a village of individuals and groups dedicated to preserving and protecting historical sites of incalculable worth and grave vulnerability. Read the Historic Wintersburg blog (historicwintersburg.blogspot.com) to learn how our voices can save this historic place that tells a story of California Japanese American history. This place matters. Thinking of it turned into rows of storage units brings tears to my eyes again. I’ll do what I can, as will others, many of whom have multiple preservation priorities. The question of whether it will be enough rings in my ears.

So, what to cook after receiving news like this? I immediately wanted comfort food, which for me means a dish that involves either noodles or rice. I chose noodles because I wanted it to be symbolic. In Chinese culture the unbroken noodles represent longevity. I also wanted to acknowledge the passion we feel as preservationists and to feed our fire. But I also wanted a cooling note signifying unity and positive engagement. This savory, simple noodle dish is spicy, cooling, and comforting, the perfect dance to move positively into the future.

Arianne Wing is the co-author of “Noodles Through Escargots,” and co-owner of the L.T. Sue Tea Room and Emporium, benefiting the restoration and preservation of China Alley. She may be reached at ariannewing@gmail.com

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