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Graduate Students Aid Historic Preservation


Graduate Students Aid Historic Preservation

UCR public history students conduct research essential to city efforts to create thematic district recalling the history of Japanese Americans in Riverside.

(June 15, 2011)

Harada House as it appeared in 1978<br />
Courtesy of the Riverside Metropolitan Museum, Riverside, Calif.

Harada House as it appeared in 1978
Courtesy of the Riverside Metropolitan Museum, Riverside, Calif.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Research by UC Riverside graduate students will help the city complete an application to the National Register of Historic Places for a thematic district of sites significant in the history of Japanese Americans in Riverside.

Japanese Americans played important roles in Riverside’s early history, from laborers working in citrus groves to entrepreneurs who ran boarding houses and restaurants, and immigrants who challenged state exclusionary acts in the early 20th century.

Working with Riverside’s Community Development Department and the Riverside Metropolitan Museum, 15 students in the Ph.D. program in public history surveyed, researched and documented 28 properties related to the Harada family and its National Historic Landmark house on Lemon Street. A selection of these sites will comprise the proposed thematic district as well as a podcast and walking tour of that district.

The story of the Harada family “narrates the history of Japanese and Japanese Americans in the region,” said Catherine Gudis, director of the Public History Program at UCR. “Moreover, it illuminates historical events of the 20th century that helped construct the very categories of race, nation, and citizenship.”

Given the city’s limited resources, the students’ detailed reports provided tremendous assistance in preparing the application, Erin Gettis, Riverside historic preservation officer, said of the six-month research effort.

The city received a $25,000 grant from the State Office of Historic Preservation in October 2010 to fund work necessary to complete the application, which is due Sept. 3. The walking tour is expected to be completed by September.

A city consultant is writing the historic context statement that must accompany the historic district application, which is expected to include residences such as the home of Mine Okubo, the renowned artist whose 1946 publication of “Citizen 13660” was the first Japanese American account of wartime relocation and confinement; businesses such as the Golden State Hotel and Café, owned by Ulysses Shinsei Kaneko, one of the first Japanese residents of California to become a naturalized citizen; Olivewood Cemetery; buildings that previously or currently house government offices; the Peace Tower and Friendship Bridge on Mt. Rubidoux; and the First Congregational Church, which held the assets of the Japanese Union Church when Japanese residents were interned during World War II.

The Harada family arrived in Riverside early in the 20th century and established boarding houses and restaurants. When they moved to Lemon Street, they purchased a house in the names of their American-born minor children because the 1913 California Alien Land Law prevented all Asian immigrants from owning property.

“Neighbors objected to Japanese moving in and offered them money to move somewhere else,” Gudis said of the 1916-18 case that achieved national significance. The Haradas won their case and remained in the house until they were incarcerated at the Topaz Relocation Center in Utah, where Jukichi Harada and his wife, Ken, both died. A wall in the house contains this terse statement scrawled on a wall by one of the children – “Evacuated on May 23, 1942 Sat. 7 AM.”

Gudis said the collaboration between the university and city is unique among public history programs and reflects the strong partnerships UCR has established over the years with regional museums, archives, land conservancies, city planning organizations and heritage sites. The UCR program, founded in 1973, is one of the oldest and most established public history programs in the United States, offering both M.A. and Ph.D. degrees.

“You can’t go to a museum, library or historic preservation program in Southern California without finding a UCR graduate,” she said, noting that program alumni work across the country as museum directors and curators, cultural resource managers, archivists and documentary filmmakers. “This is a major strength of UCR – graduates who give back to students and the larger public.”

Steve Duncan, who is working on both a master’s and Ph.D. in public history, researched the history and architecture of a Park Avenue grocery store owned by George Hideo Sakoguchi in the 1930s and the Loring Building on Main Street. His research revealed that what was originally called the Loring Building also included the Loring Opera House, which held the City Hall, jail and police station, but was destroyed in a 1990 fire. The remaining building is significant to the story of Japanese Americans in Riverside because it housed executive offices of fruit packing and shipping companies that relied upon Japanese labor, as well as the offices of the attorneys involved in the Harada case, Purington and Adair.

Duncan said he was intrigued by the Sakoguchi property in the city’s Eastside neighborhood – now Tony’s Market – where “the history showed a high degree of integration among the ethnic/immigrant communities. Histories are often given as a history of one group or another, or a place is presented as the location for a particular ethnic group, but this research showed that the stories of these places were often stories of many different people and groups that created overlapping, interacting communities in Riverside's history. At least, this was true except when marred by the most exceptional cases of racism, such as the Japanese internment in WWII that simply plucked so many Japanese out of what had been very pluralistic communities.”
The Loring Building, shown in the this 1895 photo, once included the Loring Opera House, which was destroyed in a 1990 fire. The surviving portion previously housed executive offices of fruit packing and shipping companies that relied upon Japanese labor, as well as the offices of the attorneys involved in the Harada case, Purington and Adair. <br />
Photo courtesy of the Riverside Metropolitan Museum, Riverside, Calif.

The Loring Building, shown in the this 1895 photo, once included the Loring Opera House, which was destroyed in a 1990 fire. The surviving portion previously housed executive offices of fruit packing and shipping companies that relied upon Japanese labor, as well as the offices of the attorneys involved in the Harada case, Purington and Adair.
Photo courtesy of the Riverside Metropolitan Museum, Riverside, Calif.

The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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