Huntington Beach

The historic house on the hill


By Wayne Sherwood

Any one who has ever shopped at Mother’s Market on Beach Boulevard, near Adams Avenue, has seen the beautiful Victorian house sitting on the bluff nearby. This splendid, Queen Ann-style house is the Newland House Museum, the oldest, still-standing house in Huntington Beach.

The Newland House gets its name from the original owners, William and Mary Newland, who built the house in 1898, shortly after moving into the area from northern California. At the time of its construction, it was the main house on the Newland farm.

When the house was built, much of the surrounding area was swampland, known then as “Gospel Swamp.” With the help of neighbors, William Newland was able to drain off the water giving access to the fertile land beneath. On the newly exposed ground, Newland planted celery, lima beans, chili peppers, and sugar beets.

In 1915, the Newlands added a sunroom onto the south side of the house. At the same time, they included a second-story addition, placing a summer sleeping room over the sunroom and next to the daughter’s upstairs bedroom. During the hot summer nights, the cool ocean breezes passing through the sleeping room gave the seven daughters the comfort they desired.

The octagonal turret at the front of the house was William’s office, where he conducted the farm’s business. The view from the turret gave him a splendid panorama from Long Beach to Saddleback. The office turret was William’s favorite room. He used it until he got older, and climbing the stair became too difficult. Mary and the daughters took it over and turned it into a sewing room.

Over the years the Newlands and their 10 children would occasionally find Native Indian artifacts around the grounds of the farm. The artifacts were from an ancient Indian village site that the house had been built on. In the 1930s the WPA (Works Progress Administration) did an archaeological dig of the area and removed many of the valuable artifacts. Subsequent digs have discovered items dating back 5,000 years.

In 1933, Mary took charge of running the house and the farm upon William’s death. She remained in the house until her own death in 1952.

After Mary’s death, the house was leased to the Signal Oil company who then leased it its employees. But in 1972, the city of Huntington Beach took possession of the house and remaining property. Unfortunately, the house was left vacant for two years and was rapidly deteriorating. But in 1974 the city allowed the Huntington Beach Historical Society to start restoring the house to its original glory.

As the years passed, the restoration progressed slowly. Materials used in the rebuilding were donated to the society and the members donated their time to do most of the actual construction. After four years of work, the restoration was completed.

Finally on October 14, 1985, the house was designated an authentic Orange County Historic Site and placed on the National Register of Historic Places. A large shopping center, Newland Center, was built around the historic structure.

A visitor to the museum will find the house furnished as it would have been when William and Mary resided there. This gives the visitor a sense of what life must have been like in the early part of the 20th century.

The museum is open to the public on Wednesday and Thursday from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. The tour is guided and takes about a half hour. Fees are $2 for adults and $1 for children. In the “Country Store,” patrons to the museum can purchase gift items. Funds raised by items sold at the gift shop are used to maintain the museum.

For more information, please call the museum at (714) 962-5777.

Karen Topol, Jerry Person and members of the Newland House Museum contributed information to this article. It appeared in a slightly different form in Huntington Beach magazine.

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