Wintersburg Japanese Mission at Historic Wintersburg
The Wintersburg Japanese Mission complex is comprised of three buildings: the 1909-1910 Mission, the 1910 Manse (parsonage), and the 1934 Wintersburg Japanese Church. The Wintersburg Japanese Mission complex is on the Furuta farm at Historic Wintersburg, and was named one of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in 2014 and designated a National Treasure historic place in 2015 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This is an endangered historic place and is not currently open to the public.
Backstory and Context
The property was purchased by Reverend Barnabus Terasawa and Charles Mitsuji Furuta in 1908, with the first Mission building constructed in 1909. The property was deeded to Charles Mitsuji Furuta in 1912 and he continued to dedicate a portion of his farm to the Wintersburg Japanese Mission. The Mission originally began as an interfaith effort, including founders associated with the Buddhist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian and Methodist faiths.
The Wintersburg Japanese Mission was the center of activity for the early 20th Century Japanese pioneer community in Orange County. It is one of the oldest Japanese missions of any denomination in Southern California. During World War II, the Mission buildings were boarded up and the clergy followed their congregation into confinement. The majority of those associated with the Wintersburg Japanese Mission were incarcerated at the Colorado River Relocation Center, also known as Poston, near Parker, Arizona. In 1945, the clergy and congregation of the Wintersburg Japanese Mission returned to Orange County to rebuild their lives.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation, Washington, D.C., named Historic Wintersburg a National Treasure in October 2015, stating that the Wintersburg Japanese Mission complex on the Furuta farm is "among the only surviving Japanese-American properties acquired before California passed anti-immigrant land laws in 1913 and 1920. Further, as the entire Wintersburg community was incarcerated during World War II, the site is iconic of our nation’s civil rights history and a reminder of the struggle for social justice that many immigrant communities continue to face today."
Preservationists have been working with the current property owner with a goal of historic preservation as a permanent heritage site with public park uses. The property is an endangered historic place and is currently not open to the public.
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