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DISCOVERY

A Victorian Way to Tune Out Today

March 23, 1989|PATRICK MOTT | Patrick Mott is a regular contributor to Orange County Life

The view from the sunny sleeping porch of the Newland House in Huntington Beach is made for the imaginative, wandering mind. As you look out of the bluff-top window toward the ocean, your surroundings beg you to tune out the traffic noise of Beach Boulevard, to mentally eliminate the commercial buildings and the homes and the condominiums that now sit on the bottom land between the bluff and the waves.

In seconds, it is possible to go back more than 90 years, to the day when the graceful Victorian house was new and surrounded by nothing but open land, when the pioneering farmer and developer William Newland and his family could lean out the windows of the porch, gaze across the bottom land and hear the shore break of the ocean many hundreds of yards away.

Today the house is a museum, and the boggy land below it--not to mention the heights and the entire neighborhood surrounding it--has given way to modern development of every sort. But the house itself remains much as it was when the Newland family lived in it, restored to a gleaming brightness by the Huntington Beach Historical Society in 1974.

The landmark home was built by William Newland after his tenure as the foreman of Irvine Ranch, where he became known as the "barley king of Orange County." In 1897, he bought 500 acres of prime farmland on an open range inland from the ocean and hired carpenters at $2.50 a day--the going rate of the time--to build his family home.

After draining and clearing the bottom land, he grew celery, sugar beets, lima beans and chili peppers there. He also grew a crop of barley near the house on the mesa.

The nearest town of any size was Santa Ana, which prompted Newland and other local businessmen to push for settlement of a seaside town nearby. In 1904, the town was named after railroad baron Henry Huntington.

The Newlands also helped establish the first grammar school and high school in town, as well as the first local newspaper and bank.

Their Queen Anne-style house is a textbook example of late Victoriana. Visitors enter through the back porch door, as did callers in the Newlands' time, and move into the kitchen, where Mary Newland once cooked for up to 50 ranch hands on a single stove, which remains in a corner.

Next to the kitchen is a cheerful, bright, airy sun room facing the ocean. It was added to the house in 1915 at the behest of a local doctor who was treating one of the Newland daughters and prescribed a bright room for her.

The parlor and downstairs bedrooms contain examples of furniture, clothing and other items common in the early part of the century, including Indian rugs collected by Mary Newland. The front guest bedroom often served as a kind of hotel for visitors to the area before the town was established and was used by such names as Huntington, James Irvine and Mark Twain.

The best views, however, can be had from the second-floor tower rooms, one of which originally was Newland's office but was later converted to a sewing room.

Several photographs--many of them family portraits and local scenes--are displayed in the house. Perhaps the most intriguing of them is an old photo of one of the Newland children, Clint, standing in front of the house at the edge of the bluff and facing the ocean breezes, about to take flight while holding on to a two-winged contraption that looks like a truncated Wright Flyer. Docent Dorothy Rupp calls it "an old-time hang glider."

According to Rupp, Clint survived.

THE NEWLAND HOUSE AT A GLANCE

Where: 19820 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach.

Hours: 2 to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday (except holidays).

Admission: Adults, $1; children under 12, 50 cents.

Information and group tours: (714) 962-5777.

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