The unused and dilapidated Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church in Huntington Seaside, California, on March 31. (RNS picture by Alejandra Molina)
The words “Jesus Lives” are emblazoned across a dilapidated, unoccupied structure in Orange County. The building’s home windows are boarded up. Various shades of white and unmatched paint cover graffiti and spotlight cracks in the property’s exterior.
This is the historic Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church which sits on a 4.5-acre landscape that, in accordance to the Countrywide Have confidence in for Historic Preservation, is among the the only surviving Japanese American qualities acquired in advance of California enacted the Alien Land Regulation in 1913, which barred Asian immigrants from owning land.
The initially known Japanese immigrants arrived in Orange County in 1900, and just 4 several years afterwards, religious leaders—Episcopalians, Buddhists, Presbyterians, and Methodists among them—founded the Wintersburg Japanese Mission, the Countrywide Have faith in reported. Charles Furuta and Barnabus Hisayoshi Terasawa bought the land in 1908, and the first structures went up in 1910. The mission was officially recognized by the Presbyterian Church (United states) in 1930. A larger church for the increasing congregation was constructed in 1934.
Regional advocates and historians have for decades sought to maintain the historic property—now owned by Republic Expert services, a squander management company—that several refer to as a sacred position.
Most lately, the community has reignited their endeavours to shield this piece of land following a February 25 fireplace destroyed two of the 6 properties on the assets, like a 112-year-old manse.
On March 19, Asian American companies held a rally outdoors Historic Wintersburg to desire an impartial investigation into the fire, chanting, “Don’t trash our history, we are worthy of the fact!” Some held symptoms declaring, “Save the church! Preserve our history!”
“It established absolutely everyone into stress method, simply because there in fact was a loss,” explained Jamie Hiber, government director of the Heritage Museum of Orange County. “It allowed a system for this to when yet again appear to the forefront.”
Area historian Mary Adams Urashima, who has written extensively about the heritage of Wintersburg, mentioned she extensive feared the residence would catch fireplace and that the buildings’ reduction was “demolition by neglect.” Weeds and brush posed a fire risk, and vandalism had degraded the problem of the structures. Urashima and others hope the Heritage Museum of Orange County could eventually obtain the land for a park and museum the public can take pleasure in.
Neither Republic Solutions nor the metropolis of Huntington Seashore returned a request for comment, but interim city manager Sean Joyce recently explained to the Los Angeles Periods that he had “held exploratory discussions with Republic about the standing of the residence, including a possible buy by the metropolis.”
The assets encapsulates three generations of Japanese Americans’ religion and public life. Urashima said Japanese immigrants took English language classes and reviewed money scheduling, even as they continued Japanese traditions these kinds of as celebrating the emperor’s birthday. It is also wherever Furuta grew to become the 1st Japanese man or woman baptized as Christian in Orange County, she reported.
To Urashima, this position is “consecrated ground and a non secular location for so lots of.”
“I feel that makes the floor sacred,” she included.
Urashima stated the assets could offer you Americans the prospect to study about Japanese American life outside of the Entire world War II–era internment camps and see that Japanese American heritage is not “one dimensional.”
“When you get rid of these factors from the landscape that explain to other sights, other chapters of American historical past, folks reduce that connection, and they really don’t generally take into account them section of American background,” Urashima said. “It fades absent.”
The Wintersburg community was incarcerated through Earth War II, and Furuta was taken to the Tuna Canyon Detention Middle in Los Angeles. Family members returned soon after the war. The church, which had been shuttered, reopened and continued to improve right until it moved to nearby Santa Ana, the place it remains a predominantly Japanese American congregation.
The Historic Wintersburg house is regarded one particular of America’s most endangered historic spots and in 2015 was specified a Countrywide Treasure by the Countrywide Belief for Historic Preservation.
Hiber said the Heritage Museum of Orange County has a vision for the room as a museum and a vacation spot for regional learners for lectures.
“Even right after the fire, it is a spiritual spot. It is by now a vacation spot of pilgrimage for not just Japanese People in america, but the Japanese folks in common,” Hiber said.
“The household arrived back again immediately after [internment] to occupy that house and developed it into something new and applicable to their experience soon after the war and coming back from the internment camp,” she explained. “Just strolling the perimeter . . . you experience it you sense the record.” —Religion News Service
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